Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer

night stalker the hunt for a serial killer poster
8.0 Overall Score

Good outline of the police procedure

Could have used more background despite being about the capture and not the killer

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He is one sick man…

A series of crimes begin occurring in and around Los Angeles with brutal attacks.  Unprovoked shootings, rapes by an unknown assailant, kidnapping of children, and violent home invasions…the police search for suspects in the crime but Detective Frank Salerno and Detective Gil Carrillo begin to realize that they aren’t looking for a group of people, but one man who doesn’t seem to have any boundaries on who he will victimize or where.  With random attacks, the police cannot predict where he’ll strike next and creating a profile of the killer while collecting evidence could be the only hope.  As the attacks continue to increase, a name surfaces…Richard Ramirez is the Night Stalker.

Night Stalker:  The Hunt for a Serial Killer is a Netflix Original true-crime documentary series about the capture of Richard Ramirez (February 29, 1960-June 7, 2013) who was commonly known as the Night Stalker.  The series premiered on Netflix on January 13, 2021.

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So apparently Ramirez looks like he fell out of a Daniel Clowes graphic novel

I don’t know a lot about Richard Ramirez.  I know the name, and I remember a lot of talk about him when I was young as a killer in California.  While Night Stalker:  The Hunt for a Serial Killer doesn’t provide many answers about Ramirez, and what motivated his actions, it shows how law enforcement went about catching a serial killer in the time before computer identification, cameras everywhere, and cellphones.

The choice to avoid Ramirez’s background for the most part (there is some background provided in the fourth episode) is a choice that makers of these type of documentaries must make.  They must decide if they are going to avoid the sensationalized killer and his crimes or dive into the mental background that potentially led to Ramirez’s actions.  Night Stalker kind of hedges its bets.  It interviews a lot of victims and tells their stories, but it also does provide some grizzly details, and the sensationalism that surrounded Ramirez with groupies after his capture.  They do justify some of it by trying to show what it does to victims and officers, but sometimes the crime scene photos and Ramirez fans are a bit too much.

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Why wouldn’t a girl fall for a nice serial killer like this?

The series is a very standard true crime series.  It is made up of interviews, photos of evidence, and footage from the time of the investigation.  With so much coverage of the Night Stalker search, it might have been interesting to see more news footage from before the events were labeled a “serial killer”…and how the news was covered.  Were the victims treated fairly or was there suspicion and blame placed on them before the truth was revealed?

An interesting aspect of the series is the internal war that begins around cases like this.  The police butt heads with the media over proprietary evidence they don’t want released…but then that evidence is blown by another police department.  You have San Francisco battling with LA over how to approach the case (which includes what we’d consider by today’s standards as police brutality to learn Ramirez’s identity).  The documentary shows countless times that the police “messed up” due to the multiple departments and budget constraints…and these mistakes were mistakes that can’t be written off as “my bad” when lives are at stake.

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You’re a real big man now, Richard…

What is most shocking about the Night Stalker was his eventual capture.  Ramirez’s face was everywhere and he didn’t realize it until it was too late.  Like a scene from a movie, people realized who he was and went after him when he attempted to steal a car.  Despite all the police work and evidence, the Night Stalker’s final “capture” came down to street justice by people like he killed…which was fitting.  For a guy who claimed to be more than good or evil, being taken down by bats and pipes does not seem all that powerful.

Night Stalker:  The Hunt for a Serial Killer isn’t the longest of these “true crime” series that have become popular and can be watched rather quickly.  One of the benefits of this format versus something like a Dateline is that they don’t spend as much time repeating themselves as set-up for commercial breaks, etc.  The trick is finding the right length that gives enough information without being boring while providing enough information to tell the story.  It feels like Night Stalker is a little on the slim side at points, but overall it hits its mark.

Night Stalker:  The Hunt for a Serial Killer Complete Episode Guide:

night stalker the hunt for a serial killer episode 1 devil in the city of angels victims

“Devil in the City of Angels”

Episode 1        Devil in the City of Angels Release Date:  01/13/21

A series of unrelated violent crimes including kidnapping, rapes, and murders begin popping up all over Los Angeles and the surrounding suburbs.  While police think there are multiple criminals, Detective Gil Carrillo suspects otherwise.  When he finds himself teamed with Hillside Stranger veteran Detective Frank Salerno, they discover that Carrillo’s suspicions could be right…and the hunt is on!

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“Anyone Could Be Next”

Episode 2        Anyone Could Be Next Release Date:  01/13/21

Detectives Gil Carrillo and Frank Salerno find themselves pulled deeper into the investigation as more crimes pop-up.  With evidence of a specific shoeprint linking the crimes, Carrillo and Salerno learn that their advantage could be lost when the media learns about it.  The near arrest of the killer leads to a missed opportunity, but a second chance to find him.

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“Lock. Your. Doors.”

Episode 3        Lock.  Your.  Doors.  Release Date:  01/13/21

With lead after lead falling through to error and bad timing, Carrillo and Salerno find the media taking a bigger interest in the killer now dubbed the Night Stalker.  When a murder occurs up near San Francisco, the police’s secret weapon to linking the crimes is accidentally exposed…but the crime could create one of the biggest leads as the detective get more evidence and a potential name.

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Episode 4        Manhunt Release Date:  01/13/21

Richard Ramirez has been identified as the Night Stalker, and the hunt is on!  Ramirez faces street justice as he tries to avoid police, but the prospects of a trial turn into a circus as victims, mourning family members, and even fans show up to see what will happen.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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