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Film Review: NightStalker (2002)

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An evil serial killer dubbed the Nightstalker has the city of Los Angeles on its knees during the summer of 1985, and Los Angeles police detective Gabriella Martinez (Roselyn Sanchez) has made it her mission to do whatever it takes to catch him. But when she discovers the Nightstalker has her in his sights, she girds herself for a ferocious battle.


Written by: Chris Fisher
Directed by: Chris Fisher
Starring: Bret Roberts, Joseph McKelheer, Roselyn Sanchez and Danny Trejo

Hell-o, True Crime Buffs. This review is for the film NightStalker. Before I get on to the review, here are a bit of facts for all who are in the dark on this Serial Killer… He was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. He was a loner as a child growing up with four siblings. At the age of two, a dresser fell and hit him in the head, causing confusion and slight seizure activity. By the age of ten, Richard started to spend night after night in local cemeteries. At age twelve, he began to spend time with his cousin, who showed him polaroid pictures from the Vietnam war. The two drove around and smoked reefer. His cousin then taught him how to cut and shoot others for “maximum effect.”

His cousin killed his wife in front of Richard. Afterwards, he started to smoke more pot and started sniffing glue by the seventh grade. He then started to steal. Richard was arrested twice during high school for the possession of controlled substances. A little while later, Richard took a Greyhound bus to Los Angeles. There, he was arrested twice in Pasadena and Los Angeles. He started experimenting with heavier drugs, such as crack and cocaine. Soon after, the killing began. Richard killed several victims in the Los Angeles area, forcing citizens into a state of fear. He was later tracked down by a mob of angry citizens and almost beaten to death. The police actually saved him from being beaten to death himself.

Richard was also a foot fetishist and fan of Heavy Metal music. AC/DC was one of his favorite hard rock acts. He left an AC/DC cap at one of his crime scenes. Soon afterwards, the band was the subject of law suits by one of the victims’ families. A certain song by the group called Night Prowler was said to inspire the killings. In fact, Night Prowler had nothing to do with murder. It was later discovered that Richard worshiped Satan. He drew pentagrams on his body and thought he heard voices telling him to kill.

Now that you know a little of who Richard Ramirez is, onto the review of the film, NightStalker. For the most part, I enjoyed the film itself. This is one of the few films that, in my opinion, can pull off a score of Death Metal, besides Traces of Death, without being cheesy. The murders of the film are not too graphic, but disturbing and chaotically shot/ edited all the same.

The story of NightStalker itself is actually based on the character of the woman police officer, Gabriella Martinez. The viewer follows her through most of the film, instead of being focused on Richard Ramirez… The NightStalker. When it does get to the story if Richard, it gets ultra intense. Some parts were shot at three to six frames per minute. Add Death Metal (of the band, Defile) and you have the assault of every kill scene or Satanic Panic throughout the film. It adds to the intensity and brutality of each kill, but more in the viewer’s mind rather than on-screen.

Not only does this film portray the demons in Richard Ramirez’s head, but the heads of many. This includes the police force. This wanted to portray the realism of the reputation that the LAPD once had around this period of time. Also, Spanish is heavily used to add to the realism of East Los Angeles. It shows the demons in many heads, but primarily Richard’s. In the long run, they all have demons.

The crimes and most of the facts of the film are based on the actual case… Yet some beg to differ. If anything, that, to me is the only drawback and slight downfall of the film. I like True Crime films that stick to the facts. This one, for the most part does as far as the victims and Method of Operation (M.O.) go. One true aspect is that it was filmed on location under a tunnel lined with the foul stench of human feces and urination. The film also followed the fact of Richard’s foot fetish, which I thought was a plus. Stick to the facts. About the furthest leap and bound from the actual truth was at the end of the film, which of course I will not give away. Other than that, I overall enjoyed the film.

The acting was awesome. The woman cop that the story revolved around was extremely hot (which you can hear the writer rave about through most of the commentary). Danny Trejo always does a nice job with every character he portrays, this time it’s a police officer. The opposite side of the law in which he usually portrays. Still, he portrays the character well. The gore score is pretty low, but that does not take anything away from the kill scenes. They come across just as savage without the use of gore. The camera effects(for once and one of the only time you’ll hear me say this) are good as well. Quick flashes of light and jumpy editing, some in reverse add a unique aspect to the viewing experience. It was also used in a subtle way that was not too flashy. Excellent use of time lapse photography is demonstrated as well. The view in some scenes are influenced by Jaws, when Richard’s presence is near.

I think I see what Fisher is going for in his films. This can almost be comparable to his film The Rampage: Hillside Strangler. In this film, the story is mostly from the right side of the law as well. If Chris would just stick to more of the facts of the story, I would like to see him produce more True Crime/ Serial Killer films in the future. His film making is promising in my opinion… but Chris,”stick to the facts.” For the most part, he did.

The DVD extras include A commentary with the Writer/ Director, Chris Fisher, the Editor and the Cinematographer of the film. There are also deleted scenes. Overall, I’d say check this film out at least once. It is probably the only (or one of the few) films that I think can get away without telling the total and absolute truth. The presentation is entertaining in itself. The one fact that was left out and altered was a big one, but it did not kill the entertainment value. With that being said… I give this film, NightStalker, FOUR HORNS UP.

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