The documentary series "The Nightstalker: Manhunt in California", available on Netflix, questions its production choices. What are the limits not to be crossed when it comes to crimes as vicious as those of Richard Ramirez?
After Ted Bundy, Luka Rocco Magnotta or even Henry Lee Lucas, Netflix plunges its viewers into the head of a new serial killer: that of Richard Ramirez. Since January 13, 2021 is available The Nightstalker: California Manhunt, documentary miniseries in four parts. The man sowed the most total terror in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the 1980s. Nicknamed by the press "The night stalker" (in French, the "Tracker of the night"), Richard Ramirez raped, killed or left for dead many victims. Inspectors at the time recorded 13 assassinations, 5 attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries. Richard Ramirez is also said to be involved in other unsolved cases.
It wasn't until August 31, 1985, that residents of a Los Angeles neighborhood spotted him when he attempted to steal cars. A chase is then launched, until a local police officer intercepts it. The murderer was eventually sentenced to death and sent to San Quentin Prison in November 1989. Following 24 years of detention on death row, Richard Ramirez died on June 7, 2013 of lymphoma.
An achievement that poses a problem
Netflix is a mastodon when it comes to "true crime", these very popular docuses devoted to various facts. And the platform has understood what is the magic recipe to hook the crowds: distressing music, archive images, interviews without language of wood of the various protagonists and a montage worthy of a suspense film. A few seconds are enough for us to find ourselves immersed in a murky and captivating universe.
But behind these choices of direction, let us not forget that Netflix relates facts which really took place, with real victims of attacks, even of barbaric murders. What respect for them when photographs of crime scenes are shared? And what documentary interest, apart from satisfying our morbid curiosity? Not to mention the bloody reconstructions, like, for example, this close-up of a knife sinking into a body and blood dripping down. "Watching the new series 'Night Stalker' on Netflix, I found that it was not necessary to include photos of the crime scene showing the victim, nor slow motion pictures of blood ", wrote a dismayed spectator on Twitter.
Netflix, too fan of criminals?
On social media, other people spoke of difficult viewing. Even early-stage fans found Netflix going too far in its monstration of Richard Ramirez's crimes. We are indeed spared nothing when it comes to the most sordid details. In the gratuitous accumulation of his actions is there hiding a form of glorification of rapes and murders? We sometimes ask ourselves the question before "The stalker of the night".
By dint of wanting to stand out from the competition and in the race for audiences, Netflix would not have lost itself in a murky one-upmanship? Here, the victims unfortunately take a back seat and in short, only the criminal methods are highlighted. There is even question, in one of the episodes, of the groupies of Richard Ramirez, who sent him love letters and sexy pictures in prison out of pure fascination. A metaphor for how Netflix produced this miniseries? One thing is certain: in a good documentary, and the platform knows how to do it, sensationalism is not the best approach to telling a court case and honoring the victims.