Sons of Sam (2021)

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Flack
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Sons of Sam (2021)

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In the summer of 1976, a serial killer began prowling the streets of New York City, randomly shooting couples making out in their cars late at night. The media dubbed the man the .44 Caliber Killer based on the weapon he used, but after they began receiving handwritten letters from the murderer, he told them his name: the Son of Sam. For a little over a year, residents of New York City lived in fear of the madman as he continued shooting random people (and taunting the police) until he was captured the following summer (in large part due to dumb luck).

Second only to "who," people have a desire to understand "why" serial killers do what they do. Why did Jack the Ripper eviscerate multiple women of the night with surgical precision, only to disappear as mysteriously as he appeared? Why did John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, and Jeffrey Dahmer do the horrible things they did? People need closure, and the closure we got from the Son of Sam murders was... bizarre. David Berkowitz, aka the Son of Sam, claimed that he was told to kill by his neighbor Sam Carr's dog, Harvey. This was good enough for NYC detectives and prosecutors, who quickly found Berkowitz guilty on six counts of murder and said the case was closed.

But some details of the investigation didn't seem to add up. Berkowitz didn't own a yellow Volkswagen, a car that was seen driving away from multiple crime scenes, and his face didn't resemble any of the police sketches that had been circulated. A lot of people began to question the official story. One of those people was a man named Maury Terry.

Maury Terry was a writer working for IBM at the time of Berkowitz's arrest. Based on the fact that the NYC's wanted posters seemed to show radically different people, Terry began doing his own research. One of the drawings, according to Terry, looked a lot like John Carr -- an acquaintance of Berkowitz's, and the son of Sam Carr (the "Sam" in "Son of Sam").

Sons of Sam -- plural -- is as much Maury Terry's story as it is Berkowitz. It's the story of a man who went down a dark rabbit hole looking to make sense out of senseless crimes, and losing himself in the process. It's also about the game of cat and mouse Berkowitz and Terry played.

Terry's theory, which is covered in great detail in the docuseries, is a bit difficult to follow if you haven't read up on it. (I have read up on it.) His theory revolves around "The Children," a group of Satanic foot soldiers linked to "The Four P Movement," itself an offshoot of "The Process," short for "The Process Church of the Final Judgment," which was a culty group of people which Charles Manson apparently also had a loose connection with. Terry believed the murders were being carried out by The Children. Terry believed there were Satanic sacrifices and animal mutilations being performed. Terry believed there were multiple shooters. Terry believed in a lot of things.

Terry believed in so many things that he wrote a book about the murders called The Ultimate Evil in 1988. Terry appeared on every talk show you can imagine, and his book contributed to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Despite all his findings, the NYC police department refused to reopen the case.

In 1993, after multiple exchanged letters, Terry was able to interview Berkowitz face to face. During the interview, Terry was able to get Berkowitz to admit multiple things. He confessed there was a cult. He confessed to there being multiple shooters. Everything that Terry had come up with, Berkowitz confirmed. The problem was... the interview wasn't performed very well. Terry fed Berkowitz all the information, to which Berkowitz mostly just nodded yes or no. Berkowitz provided very little information without being prompted. For Terry, it was vindication. For everyone else, it was a once day story that disappeared from papers a few days later.

The bigger problem is that Berkowitz is an unreliable source. At trial, he said he received telepathic messages from his neighbor's dog who ordered him to kill. Later he said that wasn't true, that he was a part of a Satanic cult. Later he said that wasn't true, either. Today, Berkowitz is a born again Christian who prefers the name Son of Hope to Son of Sam. Berkowitz has more stories and personalities than victims at this point.

There's no denying that some weird things happened surrounding the case that the NYPD intentionally ignored. Both Carr brothers, at least one of whom closely resembled one of the police sketches based on eye witness reports, died under strange circumstances. But the problem was, Terry never stopped investigating the case. He couldn't let it go. Nearly 40 years later he was still organizing people, doing interviews, connecting dots that didn't need to be connected.

There's no denying that David Berkowitz was crazy. This documentary posits whether or not he took Maury Terry with him.

"Jack Flack always escapes." -Davey Osborne