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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NIGHT STALKER -- DVD review by porfle

A specialist in serial killer films as of late, prolific director Ulli Lommel adds to his screen bios of Son of Sam, the D.C. Sniper, the B.T.K. Killer, the Zodiac Killer, and others with 2007's NIGHTSTALKER, which is being given a new DVD release on Sept. 8 by North American Motion Pictures (under the slightly different title NIGHT STALKER). This weak and ponderous effort makes the recent serial killer films of director Michael Feifer look like "Masterpiece Theater" by comparison.

After a brief flashback of Richard Ramirez as a child witnessing his crazy war-veteran uncle shooting his crabby aunt in the head, the film is virtually plotless. Just about the only other thing that doesn't involve Ramirez skulking around the streets of Los Angeles looking for his next victim is the part where he follows an attractive young woman to a party and is introduced to drugs and Satan worshipping. Her supposed influence on him is manifested by several flashbacks during the murder scenes, consisting of quick closeups of her eyes as she chants "Hail Satan!"

Ramirez hates women, we're told early on, and is intent on putting them in their place. Thus, several of his victims in the movie are bitchy women in the process of bawling out some mousey guy, which seems to set off his "stalker sense" and lead him straight to the scene where he starts blasting away. This is repeated several times ad nauseum during the movie--scenes of couples arguing intercut with shots of Ramirez shuffling down the sidewalk sucking on his ever-present Charms Blow Pop until he arrives on the scene. Bad acting ensues, squibs go off, and star Adolph Cortez is directed to play around with the fake blood that's all over the place while director Lommel fiddles with artsy camera angles and editing.

I've always considered Richard Ramirez to be one of the scariest and most menacing of the famous serial killers, but Cortez plays him like a weaselly high-school dropout looking to score some weed for the big Phish concert. He does a voiceover with a lot of talk about evil and "darkness" and all that stuff, and keeps telling us "God is dead", etc., but there's no real connection between these ominous words and the smirking Richard Grieco wannabe who skulks around endlessly sucking on Blow Pops. Cortez goes through so many bags of Blow Pops during the course of this movie that his stomach lining must have developed an impenetrable candy shell.

Unfortunately, this is just about the only unique trait the character has, so Cortez works those damn things like he was doing a softcore porn tease. Besides that, all the script gives him to do is one walking-around sequence after another topped by yet another splattery bang-bang. After awhile the film becomes mainly a showcase for some decent head-shot squib effects.

NIGHT STALKER has that shot-on-video look and a wildly-inappropriate synth score that often works against the desired effect. The DVD image is 16 x 9 anamorphic widescreen with 2.0 stereo sound. I watched a screener with no extras, but the DVD release is supposed to include a stills gallery and closed captioning.

The film rambles along until the boredom finally ends with Ramirez' capture, which is depicted in a cursory but somewhat accurate manner. Then we're shown the following actual quote: "You don't understand me. You are not expected to. You are not capable of it. I am beyond your experience. I am beyond good and evil." These words are more chilling than anything depicted in NIGHT STALKER. Painting a convincing portrait of Richard Ramirez and giving us an inkling of what it must have been like to live in Los Angeles during his reign of terror or to experience one of his attacks are beyond this film.

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