Tales of the Grim Sleeper (4 stars)

Tales of the Grim Sleeper

Gripping and disturbing serial killer documentary from Nick Broomfield

Nick Broomfield’s latest documentary hones in on the strange and disturbing case of a serial killer nicknamed the 'Grim Sleeper' by the press, due to an apparent period of slumber from his crimes, which stretch back more than a quarter of a century. Lonnie Franklin Jr, arrested in 2010, is the alleged murderer of a number black women in South Central Los Angeles. Charged with ten counts of murder and one of attempted murder, he is suspected of killing many more.

It’s a wholly depressing story of police negligence, misogyny, racism and the alarming effects of the crack epidemic. Broomfield is interested in the bigger issues, and, with police and politicians refusing to comment, it is left up to the residents of South Central to explain the mounting body count.

After Franklin Jr was arrested and his house searched, the police released 180 photos of women that may have also been murdered, but whose whereabouts don't appear to have been properly investigated. That is, until a local woman and ex-addict, Pam Brooks, turns detective, after being asked by Broomfield to locate some of these women and reveal it wasn’t that difficult a case to solve.

If there’s something positive to be taken from this appalling state of affairs, it lays with the women who have been campaigning to find the killer since the first murder back in 1985. Broomfield introduces us to the passionate and intelligent spokeswoman for the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders, Margaret Prescod. She’s a fearless campaigner who famously commandeered a press conference microphone from the LA Chief of Police – who was celebrating the capture of the serial killer – to set a few things straight, as the force patted themselves on the back.

The police acronym NHI – apparently used to describe the victims of these crimes – tells you all you need to know about the sickening results of dehumanisation (it stands for 'no human involved'), while Broomfield and editors Joe Bini and Marc Hoeferlin construct their film like a maddening and gripping episode of Columbo.

Selected release from Fri 30 Jan.

Tales of the Grim Sleeper

Tales of the Grim Sleeper

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • US / UK
  • 1h 50min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Nick Broomfield
  • UK release: 30 January 2015

Documentary about an LA serial killer nicknamed the 'Grim Sleeper' by the media for the apparent 14-year hiatus in his career; a suspect is in custody, but he's suspected of killing many more women whose murders haven't been properly investigated. A maddening and gripping story of police negligence, misogyny and racism.