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Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer review

Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer review

Netflix's latest "true-crime" documentary focuses on the Night Stalker, who terrorized Los Angeles County in the 1980s. Is it good? Or does it fall short of offering the full story?

Joshua Hawkins

Growing up watching shows like America’s Most Wanted, Cops, and other shows of that sort, I’ve always found myself drawn to shows and movies that explore that kind of stuff in a more realistic way. So, when I saw that Netflix had dropped a new serial killer documentary, I was intrigued to see what it was all about.

Comprised of 4 episodes that run roughly 46-48 minutes apiece, Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer focuses on the story of Richard Ramirez, one of the most terrifying serial killers in American history. Unlike most serial killers, who usually follow a pattern, the violence the Night Stalker inflicted upon Los Angeles County in 1984 and 1985 was random and made it more difficult for investigators to connect the dots.

Eventually convicted of 13 counts of murder, 5 counts of attempted murder, 11 counts of sexual assault, and 14 counts of burglary (this doesn’t include several other criminal charges he was linked to, or even ones that investigators didn’t know about), the Night Stalker was a perfect storm of violence unleashed upon the west coast.

 At its core, Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is an intriguing series. However, it does take some interesting turns with how it portrays the sequence of events, often throwing in scenes of bloody knives, hammers, and other gruesome content as if to shove it in your face. It works, I guess, and it’s important not to downplay the violence that Ramirez brought to the people of the west coast, but ultimately it feels out of place as the video shifts to interviews with the real-life victims and investigators involved in the case.

Night Stalker begins with an opening message from the video that Detective Gil Carrillo recorded and sent out to the masses during the investigation, painting a quick picture of just how violent the Night Stalker was. This quickly shifts to a montage of Los Angeles, painting the city in colors of promise and vibrance, while also making a heavy note of the darkness that lies underneath the rose-tinted glasses that the city hides itself behind. It’s a stark reminder that no matter how “golden” a place may seem, there is always a dark side to it.

Detectives Gil Carrillo and Frank Salerno—a legend in the Los Angeles investigation scene—are the beating heart of the series, as it explores Carrillo’s rise as an unexperienced investigator to one of the figures spearheading the hunt for the Night Stalker. It does a really great job of humanizing the men and showcasing the effects that hunting this criminal had on their lives, including Carrillo having to send his family away to keep them safe.

It’s these true parts of the show that do the most to really show how dark of a person Ramirez was, and how his actions affected so many. Interviews with the real-life victims play way between the investigative bits, and while a deeper dive into how the investigation was pushed would have been intriguing, the interviews with the victims help to draw your attention away from the overly exploity true-crime transitions of dripping blood and bloody tools.

Altogether, I really enjoyed Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer. It was haunting and most of the presentation was well done. The transitions between interviews seem out of place and offer no real tone to the content that follows them, but this is easy to ignore as the series dives deeper into the investigators and victims who have had to live with the memories of what happened to them.


Does a good job of interview real-life victims and people affected by the killer

Humanizes investigators

Showcases how the media/journalists can help cases when utilized


Exploity transitions of blood and bloody tools that feel out of place with the rest of the show

From The Chatty
  • reply
    January 29, 2021 12:51 PM

    Netflix's Night Stalker: Hunt for a Serial Killer is a solid limited series, though it does make a few mistakes along the way.

    Read more: Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer review

    • reply
      January 29, 2021 12:56 PM

      In a similar vein, I really enjoyed Netflix Criminal UK. Was just a solid show.

      I just wish Mindhunter wasn’t on indefinite hiatus. Man I loved that show.

      • reply
        January 29, 2021 7:57 PM

        Been eyeing the Criminal shows they have, never pulled the trigger though. Might have to check out the UK one now, though.

        Seconded on Mindhunter. Really sad we can't expect anything more from it anytime soon.

    • reply
      January 29, 2021 4:12 PM

      I enjoyed this series. The two detectives were like something out a buddy cop movie.

      • reply
        January 29, 2021 5:17 PM

        I’ve seen it accused of being coppaganda and after watching the first couple episodes, I don’t think I disagree.

    • reply
      January 29, 2021 4:16 PM

      is this a dramatic show or a straight doc?

      • reply
        January 29, 2021 6:52 PM

        Mostly the latter. There is some recreations and props and odd photogrammetry work, but mainly it's modern day interviews and period footage.

    • reply
      January 29, 2021 6:58 PM

      My friends and I were just talking about watching this. I keep hearing that it's super gorey/over-the-top

      • reply
        January 29, 2021 7:56 PM

        I wouldn't say super gorey. There are some transitions that feel really like more of something you'd see in an ID show trying to capitalize on ex wife being psychos and killing their husbands, but yeah.

      • reply
        January 29, 2021 8:14 PM

        True crime shows usually doesn't shy away from the details right down to the gory bits with crime scene photos. If you can get past it it's pretty fascinating.

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