Tales of the Grim Sleeper. Nick Broomfield. UK/USA.
With the year book-ended by a pair of first-rate miniseries (Andrew Jarecki’s The Jinx on HBO and Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi’s Making a Murderer on Netflix, respectively), 2015 felt a little bit like the year of the true crime documentary, and how fitting for a year marked by civil unrest, racial injustice, and a growing distrust in the police force. You can hear these sentiments echoed throughout Nick Broomfield’s Tales of the Grim Sleeper, a troubling mosaic about a serial killer who haunted the streets of South Central Los Angeles over a twenty-five-year period. No stranger to making films about murder conspiracies (see Kurt & Courtney and its thematic sequel Biggie & Tupac, as well as the pair of Aileen Wuornos docs he made), Broomfield takes a different angle with this film, trying to piece together testimonials about The Grim Sleeper, who was widely believed to have been able to carry out his crimes due to the racial discrimination and negligence of the local law enforcement.
Getting nowhere as a white British man with a camera in South LA, he enlists the help of Pam Brooks, a former prostitute with the sort of star quality young Hollywood couldn’t sell their souls to obtain, who helps him look for a number of missing women believed to have been victims of The Grim Sleeper. With so much time passed and so little evidence, Broomfield pieces together fragments of a terrifying portrait of America, merely scratching the surface of a story that’s pages have been torn out, raising questions that won’t ever have an answer. Tales of the Grim Sleeper is available streaming on HBOGo and HBO Now in the U.S. and was released by Sky Vision in the U.K.