Son of Sam: The Hunt for a Killer TV Movie Review
Written by Giuseppe Infante
Released by Investigation Discovery
Directed by Richard Carson Smith and Hannah James
Written by Richard Carson Smith
2017, 86 minutes, Rated TV-14
Premired on August 5th, 2017
Joe Borelli as himself
Marlin Hopkins as himself
William Gardella as himself
Steve Dunleavy as himself
The summer of 2017 marks 40 years since the infamous 1977 "Summer of Sam" and a new documentary, Son of Sam: The Hunt for a Killer, was released on August 5th on the Investigation Discovery channel. In the retrospective narrative, the events unravel in chronological order, beginning with the initial murder of Donna Lauria, continuing through the .44 Caliber Killer phase, leading up the letters left for the media and police, and ending with an update on David Berkowitz and his new light on life in the present. Through interviews with several people who were involved directly and indirectly (victims, their families, police, media figures), Son of Sam: The Hunt for a Killer depicts the haunting tale of how one man's madness and addiction to killing cast a shadow over New York City for over a year.
This is one of the most notorious serial killing sprees in the history of the Untied States of America. If one were to ask a random person on the street, "Have you ever heard of the ‘Summer of Sam’," the responses would all be similar: "Yes." This event has been the topic of biographical and true crime non-fiction, multiple documentaries and a Hollywood rendition. Now, if one were to ask random people about David Berkowitz, the response would vary. The mayhem and frenzy cast on New York City by Berkowitz in 1976-1977 overshadows him as a person. Many know of the Summer of Sam and how turmoil surrounded millions of the city's inhabitants, but Berkowitz's notoriety has depleted due to the media and the insertion into "pop culture."
There are several strong points which makes Son of Sam: The Hunt for a Killer a definitive choice of interest when it comes to exposition of a historical nightmare. In the documentary, the tone is set with chilling synthesizer sounds and modern visits to the locations of several of the attacks. Seeing and hearing the victims walking and talking through the very tracks they were victimized forty years prior adds to the realism of the situation. Imagine; 1970s youngsters, sitting in a vehicle on the many lovers’ lanes, and having to worry about getting blown away. The fear was instilled in all five boroughs and people's lives were deeply affected. Choosing to stay in on a weekend night, rather than heading to a disco-tech, became the decision for many who'd rather be out on the town. The documentary really illuminates life under the thumb of this monster, and it wasn't full of strobe lights and dance moves.
One aspect I would've like to seen explored further would be the psychological aspect of Berkowitz. The dude blamed a dog for forcibly instructing him to commit these heinous crimes. The filmmakers tough upon this with bare bones, leading true crime enthusiasts in search for more answers to dark and dreary questions. Also, the viewers will get a glimpse into his present situation. This could've been looked into further, but gives just enough to make one think about redemption. Regardless, this is a fresh look on a case that has been in he public eye since its happenings all those moons ago.
David Berkowitz was caught 40 years ago on the day of this writing, August 10th, 1977. If you were alive, do you remember where you were when he was captured? If you weren't born yet, how much do you know about the case? Son of Sam: The Hunt for a Killer manages to cater to both sides of peoples' timeframes. Those who were alive and familiar with the events will feel a sense of dread reliving this horrific summer, especially at the closing segment in the documentary. And for the few who've never heard of the "Summer of Sam" at all, this documentary is an excellent launchpad into a foray of insanity.