As a person who has seen a great many serial killer films, I appreciate that this has great acting, dialogue, and doesn’t look like crap. The casting was very well done, especially in looks and matching the different aged actors with their counterparts. With that said, I do think it relies on sitting in a room and talking too heavily especially when the female protagonist is a fictional character and the film is based on the real Richard Ramirez. The balance between truth and fiction feels unsettling here. As a “what if” situation, it almost works, but I would liked to have seen more personal touches and heart in the film considering many of the people involved grew up in the area at the time. As it is, it feels like an extended interview with random flashbacks.
The filmmakers said in a Q&A that they didn’t want to just follow Ramirez around and watch him kill people, which is fine and there are many films in the genre that do that, but I feel this one in particular is lacking in action (the chase scene from the community is phenomenal, though) and needs some more oomph that doesn’t just come from flashbacks to drive it home. Otherwise, it’s largely a movie of talking heads. Storytelling in filmmaking can come from the slightest visuals without needing to recreate interviews or making massive dialogue scenes…
When the filmmakers said that they didn’t want to glorify Ramirez, but bring humanity to the story, I can see the effort there, but I can’t help listening to his monologues and nodding my head along with him. When you make a serial killer talk, he always says great things that will glorify him. I’m not sure there is a way that you can not glorify a serial killer with this method of filmmaking, especially when the dialogue repeats some version of, “We all have evil in us.”
The film makes him more human and relatable, for sure, but in his humanization, you lose the monster you fear. So what is the goal here? To make us not fear or hate him anymore, despite what he’s done, or is it to make us fear him? I can’t tell. If it’s understanding, the film doesn’t work either.
An exploration of his mindset and possibilities that way may have worked better than a hypothetical asking of the question. You never fully understand anyone just by asking questions. Ramirez’s head is never explored aside from restating what we already know. The more I think about this, the more disappointed I am. While it is better than many films in the genre, it still doesn’t set itself apart in terms of content.