Starting in the summer of 1976 and lasting for over a year one of the most vicious killers was roaming the streets of New York City in David Berkowitz aka “The Son of Sam”. Since his arrest in August of 1977 his story has only grown and reached wider audiences which also included the film Summer of Sam directed by Spike Lee in 1999. The newest saga into these horrendous killings is something that puts a completely new spin on the story of the “.44 Caliber Killer” with an investigation that is still going today. The new 4 part Netflix mini-series The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness directed by Joshua Zeman (Murder Mountain) is a captivating journey into investigator Maury Terry’s life work of trying to prove Berkowitz did not act alone and these murders were part of a cult.
For anyone unfamiliar with the Son of Sam killings the first episode of the series sums up all the accounts from the first shooting up to Berkowitz’s arrest. I had no idea what evidence I was about to see but much like Terry and director Zeman after that first step you inevitably go down a very deep rabbit hole. The series is narrated by Paul Giamatti (Confidence, Sideways) who reads passages from Terry’s journals and notes. We are given a brief history of Terry’s life growing up and it is quite clear that from an early age he was unlike others with a very methodical way of thinking. He spent more than half his life trying to uncover the truth and even in his final hours it was still a priority. Upon watching Terry’s investigation unfold you cannot help but be pulled in because his evidence is so shocking yet feels right: from police sketches never matching, connections to a neighbor that possessed similar phrases/writings to even testimonials from parents/victims who say they do not believe Berkowitz acted alone. The series also paints a very tense relationship with the NYPD that still lingers with retired officers who worked the case calling Terry and his book “The Ultimate Evil: The Search for the Sons of Sam” a lie and complete fantasy.
By the end of the series we tend to see the same story repeat itself over and over with the real victim being Maury Terry. In trying to shine a light on his discoveries including aid from the Queens District Attorney and multiple television appearances it never got the exposure it deserved instead placating to crowds of afternoon talk shows trying to pull in the “controversy” of satanic cults that overwhelmed the late 80s/early 90s. His work is still being carried on by friends who feel just in his cause and hope to one day shed a light on these larger than life depravities. There is a grey area where the edge of belief meets complete lunacy but where that line is I do not know; hopefully this series will push towards making them clearer.
3 out of 5
Series is available now via Netflix
Follow The Film:
Companion Podcast on Spotify w/ director Josh Zeman
Maury Terry’s book “The Ultimate Evil: The Search for the Sons of Sam” can be found HERE