Photo: ‘Night Stalker’/Netflix
To start 2021 off, Netflix released a new limited series that focuses on Richard Ramirez aka the “Night Stalker”. Convicted serial killer, rapist, and kidnapper, Ramirez has had 14 victims connected to him and many more that have yet to be officially proven. During the 1980s, he terrorized the greater Los Angeles area as well as San Francisco and committed a series of murders, rapes, and robberies within a short amount of time. Netflix’s newest documentary symbolizes a big change from its usual format of true crime documentaries, instead of focusing on the serial killer, they focused on the detectives and the victims.
Related article: ‘City on a Hill’: No Rest for the Wicked in Boston Crime Drama
The ‘Night Stalker’ documentary uses a mixture of photographic evidence, dramatic scene recreations, and old video footage in order to tell the story of Ramirez. At the time, Los Angeles was plagued by serial killers. Less than a decade after the “Hillside Strangler” committed his crimes and was arrested, Ramirez struck in Los Angeles. Unlike the “Hillside Strangler”, Ramirez consistently switched up his weapons and his crimes, making him much harder to track down. Eventually, Ramirez was caught but the consequences of his actions are felt years later.
A Haunting Tale
More of a character study than anything else, Netflix’s ‘Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer’ focuses on the detectives and victims of the “Night Stalker”. It’s extremely humanizing and hammers home the reality of just how many lives Ramirez managed to mess with, whether he meant to or not. Unlike many other Netflix shows, ‘Night Stalker’ keeps the focus on civilians instead of trying to make the viewer empathize with the serial killer. In fact, Ramirez’s face isn’t even shown until the final episode. There are facial composites of him, sure, but there isn’t a distinct face attached to the case to the very end. It rings true the whole point of this series, Ramirez isn’t the focal point of this story, his crimes are. Ramirez is given anonymity throughout the series until the final episode. The series only really delves into the horrors of his crimes, not his life story. The show doesn’t try to make us empathize with him and instead makes it clear from the start that he’s the antagonist.
At the very heart of this story is Gil Carrillo, the true protagonist of the story. A troublesome teenager turned detective, Carrillo represents duality in this series. He’s both sides of the coin, both a seemingly fearless cop as well as a fearful citizen. He is human, he is vulnerable and earnestly honest about his upbringing as well as his part in the “Night Stalker” case – a perfect protagonist for such a terrifying show. As well as dictating the “Night Stalker” story, Carrillo serves as comic relief multiple times in the series. With a show as heavy as this, it’s necessary to have light moments that help alleviate the weight.
Along with an ensemble cast that includes a crime scene technician as well as other detectives, Carrillo relays his experiences with the “Night Stalker” in horrific detail. Ramirez was so dangerous and frightening that at the height of the “Night Stalker” case, there were over 200 detectives working on the case from Carrillo’s department alone. His crimes spanned many different neighborhoods in Los Angeles and never carried a predictable pattern, which was what made him so fearsome and why his actions affected so many people.
Click here to read more on Hollywood Insider’s vision, values and mission statement here – Media has the responsibility to better our world – Hollywood Insider fully focuses on substance and meaningful entertainment, against gossip and scandal, by combining entertainment, education, and philanthropy.
‘Night Stalker’ – The Toll
Throughout ‘Night Stalker’, the series delves into the personal lives of the victims and detectives. For Carrillo, this was more than a case, he invested himself physically and emotionally. Taking on such a dangerous and active case created tension in Carrillo’s life and led him to pull away from his wife and their family. As well as that, his emotions were often tied to the case. When evidence blunders occurred or the detectives made mistakes, it would lead to big blow ups from Carrillo. Ramirez’s murders took a major toll on the professionals working the case as well as the victims.
Even years later, Ramirez’s actions still have effects on the people who lived in Los Angeles. In episode three, Judith Kneiding Arnold recounts the day she found out her parents were murdered by Ramirez. Arnold describes how “her entire world was changed” and how even years later she still has nightmares about that day. Although Arnold never formally met Ramirez, his actions traumatized her and many others.
‘Night Stalker: The Hunt For a Serial Killer’ utilizes a variety of film techniques in order to showcase both the city’s fear as well as the fear of individual victims. For example in the second episode ‘Anyone Could Be Next’, the people being interviewed are often filmed with a slow, rotating camera as they talk. It only adds to the sense of unease as this rotating camera is intercut with close-ups of the interviewees. Very rarely does the camera stop moving, which only furthers the intensity of the rare shots where the camera is still. For instance, at the beginning of the episode, the camera stops as Frank Salerno, one of the biggest homicide detectives at the time, describes the killer as a “sick individual”.
While each interviewed individual has a distinct background, the lighting is always dark and moody. Paired with this lighting are large, sprawling landscape shots of Los Angeles that perfectly capture how massive this killer’s impact was. Many of the shots are also voyeurist in nature, filmed from behind corners or from outside of a house looking through a window. This combination of techniques is used to create the same feeling of tension and fear that the people of Los Angeles felt at the time. No matter how many years have passed, Los Angeles will never be the same and it’s all because of Richard Ramirez.
Cast: Gil Carrillo, Laurel Erickson, Frank Salerno, Judith Kneiding Arnold, Tony Valdez
By Jordan Qin
An excerpt from the love letter: Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of Black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all Black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard. Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”
More Interesting Stories From Hollywood Insider
– Do you know the hidden messages in ‘Call Me By Your Name’? Find out behind the scenes facts in the full commentary and In-depth analysis of the cinematic masterpiece
– A Tribute To The Academy Awards: All Best Actor/Actress Speeches From The Beginning Of Oscars 1929-2019 | From Rami Malek, Leonardo DiCaprio To Marlon Brando & Beyond | From Olivia Colman, Meryl Streep To Bette Davis & Beyond
– Why Queen Elizabeth II Is One Of The Greatest Monarchs | Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of United Queendom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland
– Compilation: All James Bond 007 Opening Sequences From 1962 Sean Connery to Daniel Craig
– In the 32nd Year Of His Career, Keanu Reeves’ Face Continues To Reign After Launching Movies Earning Over $4.3 Billion In Total – “John Wick”, “Toy Story 4”, “Matrix”, And Many More
– Want GUARANTEED SUCCESS? Remove these ten words from your vocabulary| Transform your life INSTANTLY
Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker, Night Stalker
Jordan Qin is a writer-director who’s currently pursuing a BA in Film and Media Arts at Temple University. She believes in quality over quantity and is dedicated to highlighting diversity and innovation in the film industry. As a part of the Hollywood Insider team, she strives to create conversational pieces that help bring positive changes in the entertainment industry.