Growing up in El Paso, Texas means you hear a lot about the Night Stalker. Since Richard Ramirez was born and went to school there, everyone has a story regarding him. It also means the many documentaries about the infamous serial killer begin to sound repetitive. The new Netflix true crime docu-series Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is one of the most fascinating shows about Ramirez. Director Tiller Russell differentiates his show by not having it be solely about the Night Stalker. Instead, he makes the show about the detectives who are after him.
This brings a whole new dynamic to the true crime genre. The series never feels like a docu-drama while also coming off as more than a standard documentary. The Hunt for a Serial Killer almost gives character development to the two lead detectives. Obviously, the detectives are easy to root for, but they are also interesting and likeable. There is also an engaging narrative to follow.
Those who know little or nothing about Ramirez and his horrific crimes will be enthralled by The Hunter for a Serial Killer. Each episode pieces togethers clues and chronicles how the detectives keep getting closer to solving the case. The whole thing plays out like a mystery unraveling before the viewer. This adds an unexpected layer to the show.
As with any documentary there are interviews throughout the four episodes. Detectives Frank Salerno and Gil Carillo are interviewed extensively and there is plenty of archival footage and tapes of Ramirez. The most shocking and powerful moments of The Hunt for a Serial Killer are the words of the survivors of the attacks. They are brutal, graphic, and stomach churning.
The Hunt for a Serial Killer takes its audiences to a particular time and place. The neon title card and music gives the series a mid-1980s Los Angeles vibe. This is not to make things more aesthetically pleasing. It is to give those watching a sense of the times. It makes the documentary more frightening as it engulfs viewers with a sense of complete hopelessness.
There are many films about Richard Ramirez and the awful crimes he committed. People are simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by him. Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is one of the best ones about him. Instead of focusing on the serial killer and circus that surrounded him, it is about the race to capture him and how he brought a community together.
Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer premiers on Netflix on January 13
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