Netflix has produced numerous documentaries and docuseries based off of true crime cases, but its latest docuseries, based off the hunt for serial killer Richard Ramirez, may have gone too dark.
“Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer,” released in January 2021, follows the investigation of the infamous case of the “Night Stalker,” later found to be Ramirez. The main focus of this docuseries is two head detectives who worked the case in 1985, Frank Salerno and Gil Carrillo. Other interviews included are from victims who survived Ramirez’s attacks and family members of those who didn’t.
Since the show is based off of a real series of murders in California, it goes without saying that this show’s sensitive content is not for the faint of heart. Real crime scene photos and reenactments of what happened are shown without hesitation. However, I would argue that there are some scenes that did not need to be added, such as the slow-motion dropping of a bloody hammer and a knife slowly piercing skin, causing blood to gush out.
The crimes that Ramirez committed are the focus of the series rather than Ramirez himself. Because of this, Ramirez wasn’t introduced until the third episode. This late introduction allowed the viewers to see the investigation through the detectives’ eyes instead of the killer’s. This is why the majority of the trial and Ramirez’s history and motives were minimal, and the lives of victims and detectives were the main focus.
Tiller Russell, the director, stated in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that early on in the making of this series, they decided not to “glamorize” Ramirez but instead focus on how he impacted people’s lives. All victims of these crimes were not nameless and characterized by the crimes, but rather, you learned about them as mothers, fathers, grandmothers and children.
If the investigation process interests you — and you can manage the horrifying photos — then this series is for you. The purpose of the docuseries was not to glamorize the murderer but rather throw the audience into the investigation. As a true crime fanatic, I wish they would have spent more time talking about Ramirez’s history because I find it interesting to know more about the perpetrator’s history and how that can be a factor for their crimes later in life.
Even though Ramirez’s life was not the focus of this series, the audience does get an inside look at how truly horrible he was. That being said, after watching, be prepared to double check you’ve locked your windows and doors at night.