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cast: Roselyn Sanchez, Bret Roberts, and Danny Trejo

writer and director: Chris Fisher

93 minutes (18) 2002 Mosaic VHS rental
Also available to rent on DVD

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by John Percival
This film is based on the events in Los Angeles in the 1980s, when serial killer Richard Ramirez terrorised the city. It is a violent and disturbing tale of a man who is possessed by evil and worships the devil, and who breaks into people's houses to butcher the occupants, and is also following the police hunt to catch him. The killer, whose name you never learn, played by Bret Roberts, is a sadistic drug addict tormented by horrifying visions of the Devil who compels him to rape and kill. Female cop Gabriella Martinez (Roselyn Sanchez) faces her own demons as she joins the team of detectives to help crack the case. She faces sexual harassment at the hands of her colleagues and puts the lives of her own family at risk during the course of the investigation.
   Remembering that this film is only 'based' on the events of the Nightstalker Richard Ramirez is not so important as it is inaccurate in many respects, but the whole basis of Ramirez's passion for the devil is vital. His killing spree in 1985 was during a time of great anxiety in America regarding Satanists. Sadly the film never focuses on the true character of the Nightstalker and reasons behind the Satanism are never explored.
   Director Chris Fisher uses some troubling techniques to show the presence of the Devil. Mostly this is through frantic high-speed head movements and flashing imagery. I have a real problem with the flashing imagery as it flashes so quick it borders subliminal in the way it stays on the screen for a fraction of a second but stays in your head long afterwards. Having the main images you remember of the film being the word 'Satan' written in blood and the vision of a scary bald pale demon is, in my opinion, a visual device too far.
   The film balances itself by following the battles of Gabriella Martinez who seems to be wearing too many badges, she is female and Hispanic battling against men in authority. Also her strict religious practices draw her in direct opposition to the Satan worshipping killer. Martinez shows she is neither weak in the face of adversity nor vulnerable to the real demons of the piece, which are drugs and base desires. Characters other than the killer are given the high-speed head shaking demon treatment when they snort coke, or sexually harass a woman, or even have the urge to kill the Nightstalker instead of bringing him to justice.
   The performances of the cast are pretty well rounded, the stunning Roselyn Sanchez appears to have studied at the Sandra Bullock school of understatement but she holds her own very well. Bret Roberts, I think, is cast more for his creepy looks and demeanour but he is convincing as a man tormented by a demon and his final capture is a satisfying end to the movie.
   Even though director Fisher has wasted a good opportunity to delve behind the true story of the Nightstalker, he has presented us with a more disturbing and promising 1980s' based serial killer movie than even American Psycho (2000).

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