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NIGHT STALKER (2009)
Published by David Carter on 2009/11/4 (862 reads)
Directed by Ulli Lommel
Review by David Carter
Released by North American Motion Pictures
Running Time: 77 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 2.0 Stereo English
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen
16:9 Enhanced: No
Special Features: None on screener copy
Trailer Online: No
Short Version: Lommel continues his American serial killer biopic series
German director Ulli Lommel has one of the more bizarre bodies of work in film today. Trained by the legendary Rainer Fassbinder, Lommel first rose to prominence as a collaborator with his mentor and for his work with Andy Warhol. He found little success in mainstream American cinema, however, and became most well known for the video nasty THE BOOGEYMAN. Recently the director has worked almost exclusively in direct-to-DVD biopics of American serial killers. Lommel frequently takes great liberties with the “true stories” he presents and his latest, NIGHT STALKER, is no exception.
Richard roams the streets of San Francisco aimlessly, reminiscing about the gory secrets shown to him by his uncle Mike and constantly sucking on a lollipop. He rarely speaks, so we learn about his contempt for society through voice-over narration. He meets his “dark queen” while walking in the park one day and she introduces him to cocaine and Satanism and Richard takes to both immediately with a voracious appetite. He begins sneaking into homes at night, first to steal things but eventually working up to murder. Soon, Richard has become what the newspapers call “The Night Stalker,” a remorseless killer murdering at random.
The plot of NIGHT STALKER incorporates a few details of the Richard Ramirez case but to even call the film “based on true events” would be a bit of a stretch. Serial killer aficionados will easily see multiple flaws with the storyline and, unfortunately for Lommel, those same experts will likely be the only people interested in seeing the film. Many details that the film spends a great deal of time on are fictional, like Richard’s love of lollipops and being introduced to Satanism through a random encounter in the park. Most notable, however, is the complete lack of a sexual component to the film. Odd, given that it was such a large aspect of the crimes.
I often find it hard to fault low budget films for flaws that are due to budgetary limitations but many of the mistakes in NIGHT STALKER seem more like a lack of effort rather than money. The film, like the crimes it is based on, takes place in the mid-eighties. Despite the dates appearing as on screen titles, no effort was made to make anything look like the 1980s at all, up to and including an extended sequence where Richard’s face is partially obscured by a George Foreman Grill, a device that was still a decade away from being invented. This laziness carries over into the choice of lead actor. No fault can be found for not finding an actor that looked more like the menacing Ramirez but choosing someone with their own last name tattooed in six-inch letters on their back and then having extended scenes with the tattoo clearly visible seems careless and lazy.
Lommel’s problem is self-sabotage. There are several elements present that, if expanded upon, could have made for a more interesting film despite the budget or time constraints. NIGHT STALKER, like his other serial killer films, just seems rushed and half-finished; something that brings added disappointment because he has proven himself to be capable of much better. This feels like a Jess Franco film without the manic charm. Given the frequency of Lommel’s releases in the past decade, NIGHT STALKER feels like the rushed, assembly-line product that it is.
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