The Night Stalker full movie review - Chilling and Sad
Richard Ramirez, the Satan worshiping "Night Stalker", was someone whose crimes and life I was required to study years ago, one of other serial killers for a criminal justice class.
He stood out at one of the more understandable, among the many I researched both from personal and academic interest, because of his background: traumatized in several ways from an early age. Ultimately, however, his crimes were horrendous, extreme and effectively should end any sympathetic tendencies towards him as a convicted criminal who confessed to many of his crimes.
Engrossing, chilling and brilliantly acted by Phillips, Ramirez was "Brought to life" with all his cold intelligence and vulnerabilities in place. The subtle expressions, or at times lack thereof, the shift of eyes, the sudden violence. I felt his performance wasn't quite matched by Bellamy Young, but she was entirely believable. She played the lawyer Katherine "Kit", trying to get a confession from him about a crime another was wrongly accused of. The film revolves around the conflict between the two, as she seeks to gain his trust to draw more details of his crimes, which he astutely ascertained, and he to gain something from her he was denied in prison: a female victim he could exploit for his own needs. He sensed vulnerabilities beneath her cool self-assured facade, and sought them out, whether from simple curiosity or true malignancy is for the viewer to decide.
Ramirez' history, his background and the traumas and events directly influencing what he became were shown through flashbacks, a wise choice considering Phillips age, and since he was portraying the killer shortly before his death. The young Ramirez' performance was okay, and the vaguely seen crimes and his eventual capture were understated but at the same time dramatic.
Though many details were left out about the crimes, and the most atmospheric part of the events: the intensity of the hot weather when most occurred was mostly absent, just references or dialogue. I felt that should have played more of a factor in filming, but overall "The Night Stalker" was well done. Rewatchable at least once, to catch nuances one may miss, a quick scene or glance from the characters eyes, I feel most viewers may be left with the truth of the matter. That it was a tragedy all around, absolutely for the victims, but also for Ramirez as a child and young teen. Sympathy for the terrorizing adult, a cruel rapist and murderer? No way.