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Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer – Review

The docu-series; Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer, is Netflix’s new addition to their catalogue of serial killer documentaries. The series is completely binge-worthy and drips with nostalgia. It reflects on 1980s Los Angeles; a time of roller skates on the beach, the Olympics, and the clearest highways LA has ever seen. Suddenly, everything becomes demented -scenes of blood, murder, and Satan flood the screen. As a viewer I’m given the problem LA faces: on one side of town celebrities are partying and celebrating their wealth -while gruesome murders are traumatizing the average civilian. 


The directors James Carroll and Tiller Russell tell the story in four 47-minute long segments. If you are like my friends and I, we finished the whole series in a night. It would’ve been harder to leave two of the episodes for another night -especially since they all end in cliffhangers. The directors know that most people will watch this in a night if given just the smallest incentive to. Binging TV shows has been a selling point for Netflix -and the Carroll/Russell team profits off of this. 

Carroll/Russell break up the episodes with a combination of found footage, interviews, and reenactments. Viewers are greeted with a montage of LA -then shortly after we are introduced to our players. 

There’s Detective Gil Carrillo -the protagonist, our final girl, Detective Frank Salerno -the HBIC, he’s got the reputation that strikes fear in even murderers, Tony Valdez -a reporter at KTTV News, Laurel Erickson -the Gale Weathers of our crew, and Paul Skolnick -a knight in our game of chess, and a producer at KNBC News.

This isn’t Richard Ramirez’s story (although he is the namesake) -this is the story of how the players tried to solve the Night Stalker case. Interview snippets showcase each of our player’s trajectory and how they reacted to the events of the case. Carroll/Russell focus heavily on Det. Gil Carrillo -the young and eager detective. There are segments where he discusses how he was affected throughout the process. His wife, Pearl, gives details about how hard it is to be married to a cop. Det. Salerno is painted as a big shot by peers. Then in interviews he provides anecdotes about he jumped on to the Night Stalker case. The media -Valdez, Erickson, and Skolnick, give their thought process throughout the case. Their ambition to get the story acts as another obstacle for the detectives. 

The multiple perspectives, coupled with the visually striking reenactments of events, and found footage make the 47-minute episodes feel like they last only a moment. At least, this is what I told myself after finishing the series in one night. 


All of the interviewees recount their memories from the time of the Night Stalker murders. It feels like having your grandpa bring out old photographs of when he was a kid. These events were real, but you can only imagine what it must’ve felt like to be there. 

It always felt like our cast was hindered by the lack of advanced technology. I kept asking my friends “how have they not caught this guy?” There were no cell phones and less communication. Things were run much differently that I can’t even begin to comprehend. 

Things were really put into perspective during Anastasia Hronas’ interview. Hronas was six years old when she was attacked by the Night Stalker. She stood before the camera, now a 41-year old woman, and told us her experience about the terrible things that were done to her. Seeing the physical difference in time is what made the feeling of nostalgia ever more present. 

Old photos of the crime scenes and our cast show that these people have been living with this story for decades. Back in the 80s, the story was told on news stations. But now we are able to hear the same story in merely 4 episodes. 

Carroll/Tiller combine nostalgia with the content demand of today’s age. They summarize the killings from the 80s in only 189 minutes, giving viewers the craving they need for retro horror. As fun as Night Stalker is to watch -the gruesome killings make it even harder to look away.


The nature of Ramirez’s killings were always violent and brutal. He raped his victims repeatedly, he almost always robbed them, and he even took one of his victims eyes. If the photos weren’t enough to convince you of Ramirez’s evil nature -often times the survivors were able to recount his villainous acts to officers. An interesting observation about the victims of these attacks was that there was no correlation between them. The victims ranged in age, ethnicity, and sex -making anyone a possible target. 

Ramirez was depicted in sketches with big brown eyes, a sunken face, rotted teeth, and having a rancid odor. He embodied death -he was obsessed with it. This became clear when a pentagram was written with lipstick on a wall and one of his victims legs -Richard Ramirez was a satanist. 

Ramirez is the guy we see in horror movies -the one that stalks babysitters or creeps into teenager’s dreams. He’s the reason some of us double check that our doors and windows are locked. Ramirez spread terror throughout LA -the city where fame lives. 


With Ramirez’s iconic description and the terror of his killings spreading throughout California, he became famous. So famous that he could be recognized on the street. A group of neighbors recognized Ramirez as he was cutting through neighborhoods trying to evade the cops. 

Posted from @ZachVilla Twitter

Ramirez cut a deal with fame. In return for notoriety, Ramirez had to deal with the consequences of it -and he got what he paid for. But even in jail, his fame escalated. This newfound fame wasn’t a product of fear  -it rose because of love. Groupies came out to support Ramirez and his killings. They fell in love with him and supported him during his trial. 

Just like Michael Myers and Freddy Kreuger, The Night Stalker became the iconic villain of California in 1985. This led to adaptations of The Night Stalker in projects like Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story 1984, where the killer is played by Zach Villa. The fascination (or love) of The Night Stalker and his killings continues to grow as we look back to the 1980s and exorcise a story that has been dead for decades. 


The series is a balancing act between two forces: The nostalgia for a previous time versus the instant gratification of bingeing, fame and wealth versus murder and decay -and then synthesizes these forces.

We supply our nostalgia for the past with the power of technology. We can binge any iconic 80s movie anytime we want -as long as we have a decent internet connection and a Netflix subscription. The Night Stalker became so famous for his killings he attracted women and other groupies while he was in jail. These two themes also parallel themselves.

Although The Night Stalker is dead, his fame continues to grow with the constant adaptations of his crimes. We see this happening with other serial killers such as Ted Bundy and the Hernandez Brothers -who also have Netflix adaptations and continue to accumulate fame.  

So why do we continue to rewrite these stories? Why do we continue to give these dangerous and violent killers notoriety? Is it to look back at a time where these closer-to-fiction events could happen? Or possibly because this is the deal these killers make when signing a deal with fame?

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