Director: Joshua Zeman
Genre: True Crime, Documentary
No. of Episodes: 4
Rating: 3.5 Stars
In the late seventies, New York was terrorised by a serial killer who called himself, ‘The Son of Sam.’ When David Berkowitz was arrested in 1977, many believed that the case was over. However, The Son of Sam case grew into a lifelong obsession for journalist Maury Terry, who became convinced that the murders were linked to a satanic cult.
True crime documentaries really are Netflix’s bread and butter. They pump more than a few of the out every year, and they do them very, very well. This one is no different, but rather than focussing purely on the case and the perpetrator himself, this documentary chooses to look at the man who became obsessed with the case, and how he wasn’t going to let it go. A much more relatable story to those of us with a penchant for true crime.
The first episode does the job of explaining to us the details of the case, how it unfolded and how it was handled by both the police force in New York City and by the media. We are told about the conflicting composite sketches and some of the other inconsistences in the case and basically get the set up for the rest of the series. From then on we deep dive into the theory that maybe David Berkowitz wasn’t working alone and that maybe he was involved in some kind of Satanic Cult.
Whenever Satanism is mentioned in anything, ever, I find it prudent to remember that the ‘Satanic Panic’ as it is now called, sprang up in the eighties, during the time that Terry would have been conducting a lot of his research. There was hysteria around that time about satanic cults and satanic abuse, and a lot of came to nothing, so I always take rumours like this with a pinch of salt. Add to that the fact that Terry was made some real dubious connections and was seeing Satanic involvement at every turn, and we are left with a highly unreliable narrative.
The series does a great job of documenting Terry’s slow slip into obsession. He was absolutely determined to prove that he was right, at the expense of almost everything else. And how, while a lot of what Terry was saying made sense, and perhaps there were avenues of investigation still to check, the police at the time really pushed through the story of Berkowitz supposedly thinking he was receiving instructions from a possessed dog, and rushed the case to a close to try and calm the fear in the city.
Ultimately, the documentary paints Terry as much of a victim as some of the people that Berkowitz killed. His whole life was dedicated to this mystery, and he gave up everything for it, right up until the time that he died, and still people are not willing to buy into his version of events. It leaves almost an unsatisfying feeling in it’s wake as we are left questioning whether or not Terry could have been right, rather than the nicely wrapped up endings these shows usually end on.
Whether you believe it or not though, this is really compelling and interesting documentary, and I recommend every true crime fan to give it a watch.