Nightstalker (2002)
By: Devon B. on October 7, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Sony (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0, French DD 2.0 English, Spanish, French Subtitles. 97 minutes
The Movie
Director: Chris Fisher Starring: Roselyn Sanchez, Bret Roberts, Derek Hamilton, Evan Dexter Parke, Danny Trejo Screenplay: Chris Fisher
Country: USA
Richard Ramirez is the one serial killer that freaked me out. Others may have been crazier, others may have killed more people, others may even have done more disturbing things, but Ramirez gets under my skin like rabid scabies. It would stand to reason then that a good movie based on Ramirez would put Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer to shame. While Nightstalker is not entirely incompetent, the only thing it puts to shame is me for having rented it.

Nightstalker is kind of about Ramirez, but most of it focuses on a fictional, female cop (Roselyn Sanchez, the Latino answer to Sandra Bullock) tracking him. She attempts to figure out Ramirez's identity while also proving herself to the rest of the homicide department she recently transferred to. She's presented like she's supposed to be a good cop, but when there's a lead on Ramirez's immediate whereabouts, she decides to be "compassionate" to the recently knifed victim and not interrogate her immediately. Because the movie focuses on banal crap often found in police movies, it is unfortunately dragged into the realm of routine, leaving Nightstalker a bit slow and overlong.

The film features many almost competent performances by thespians trying to bring the 2D (if that) characters to life. It's always good to see that cool MexiCAN, Danny Trejo, but even he can't elevate the commonplace feel of Nightstalker.

Not that everything is boring in the film. The stuff around Ramirez is actually pretty well done. Representing him with quick cuts; jerky movements; and sped up, frantic, jolting imagery, when there's actually nightstalking going on, the movie's got style. The scenes play somewhat like an extended Marilyn Manson video, and I really like the representation of Ramirez's disjointed personality, best visualized in a section with Ramirez walking up to a house and flashing about different areas of the screen. Tagging along with Ramirez is a creepy demon that's visible in mirrors, which also provides some nice imagery, especially in the scene where it abandons Ramirez. Ultimately, the film probably owes a lot of its fractured representation to the superior Schramm, and the only bit that involved Ramirez that was well done AND original was a front porch assault after some would-be victims try to leave their house. The last worthwhile element (aside from Trejo and Ramirez's visuals) is the linking of stalker-like behaviour to other people around Sanchez, with various people displaying the sped up ferocity of Ramirez's insanity. End result after all of these things? Ten minutes of good footage.

Despite the good visual representation of Ramirez, I don't think this movie should've used him. There've been complaints that basing an entirely fictional cop drama around Ramirez exploits his real life victims, and I'd agree with that. There's no real reason that this killer needed to be Ramirez; any cranked up home invader would work. There's virtually no connection to fact, so the whole use of Ramirez seems like nothing more than a cheap attempt to play off an established fear.
The DVD presents the film at approximately 1.78:1 in a 16x9-enhanced print. The transfer is okay, but not great. Images can be too dark, sometimes even to the point of not being able to tell what is actually happening. A few minor specks appear, but otherwise the print is pretty clean.
The audio is presented in English in Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0, and in French in Dolby Digital 2.0. The 5.1 audio track is certainly used to enhance the scenes involving Ramirez, with swirling demonic phrases and heavy metal pounding. But the scenes not involving Ramirez and his demons are often little different than the 2.0 mix.
Extra Features
The DVD includes the trailer, some uninteresting deleted scenes with very rough sound mix, and a commentary. The commentary track features director/writer Chris Fisher, the cinematographer, and the editor. It's not a bad track, and does provide some factual details about Ramirez. Fisher explains that Ramirez was like a REAL boogeyman for him during his youth, a very creepy threat. Other interesting things include illustrations of Jaws as an influence, and more insight into the demon's activities. There's some joking, but none of it is particularly funny. While describing Ramirez's Satanism, though, the commentators seem a bit confused about what Satanism actually is. Perhaps they are speaking of Ramirez's perception of Satanism, but the ideas they present are a far cry from the glorified atheism truly found in The Church of Satan. Additional trailers are available for Identity, Spider, and Double Vision.
The Verdict
Worth watching for some of the imagery, but you'd be best off skipping over any section involving the police without Ramirez. Focusing on the cops makes the narrative boring and is disrespectful to those whose lives Ramirez disrupted, so it was a really bad move.
Movie Score
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