What The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness is all about without spoiling the show
What is it with true crime documentaries and their long titles? Books are guilty of it, too. In any case, The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness will be referred to as The Sons of Sam moving forward in this review of the documentary.
You’ve probably already guessed this has something to do with David Berkowitz, the man known as The Son of Sam despite not having a father named Sam. It’s like when I introduce myself as a doctor at parties even though I never finished college. There’s a reason as to why this is the Son of Sam murders and it isn’t idenity theft like we were made to believe.
In the 1970s, the 44 Caliber Killer was running rampant around New York City shooting and killing people. The Sons of Sam documentary covers the known facts of the crimes but near the end of the first episode actually reveals itself as to what this series is really about.
We know about Berkowitz. How many people are really familiar with the others who were possibly involved? This is a true crime documentary looking into potential conspiracies and ties between Berkowitz and another well-known occultist, Charles Manson, plus some Scientology and other creepy stuff. Did Berkowitz act alone or were we made to believe fiction?
Did you know about The Sons of Sam story before watching?
I knew quite a bit about Berkowitz as he is one of the more high-profile murderers. The conspiracy part wasn’t brand new to me. In my 2021 re-watching of all episodes of Unsolved Mysteries hosted by Robert Stack, there was an episode that took a closer look into the possibility of Berkowitz acting as part of a Satanic ritual and not as the lone gunman.
This seems to be more common knowledge than I think most of us realize. Countless programs in the 1980s and early 1990s covered this. During the Satanic Panic, everyone was looking for a more devilish explanation whenever anything went wrong. I still try to blame my farts on Satan whenever I can.
Will The Sons of Sam make people feel uncomfortable?
The most horrific parts of this documentary go outside of the murders in New York City attributed to the Son of Sam. A lot of the discussion involving cults gets a little grim. The idea of one of the victims being filmed while shot for a snuff film to sell to be a wannabe film producer is rough. The description of the murder of Arlis Perry in California, who fits into this story more in theory, is absolutely vile and heartwrenching. This documentary includes descriptions of the mutilations of animals, too. It is low-key harsh for viewers. You have been warned.
What was good about The Sons of Sam?
I love a good conspiracy theory involving something we already think has been solved. I went into this documentary expecting it to be a simple profile of the Berkowitz murders. Instead, I got something entirely different. It took almost the entire first episode before we started to learn about John Carr and Michael Carr, the actual sons of Berkowitz’s neighbor Sam. Once they’re introduced, things get weird.
The rabbit holes this documentary goes into might not be for everyone. If you don’t own a tinfoil hat, you might think it’s all a bunch of rubbish.
Episode one was, frankly, not very good. It was rushed and the way they detailed Berkowitz’s involvement had me thinking I was not going to enjoy this documentary. The moment John Carr’s face was shown alongside one drawn by a police sketch artist and I could see similarities was when I realized I was going to reopen my mind and see if I could enjoy it.
What this documentary did well was show both sides of the argument. It’s not preaching that all of the theories are true. In fact, it seems to lean more toward some of them being too big of a stretch. You’ll come away with an opinion.
What could have made The Sons of Sam better?
I know they were going for the big twist at the end of episode one, but I would have liked this one much better if that wasn’t the case. Too much time was spent, and done so rather rushed, in what felt like a single short film on the Son of Sam murders. This is a problem with a lot of true crime documentaries. The pacing in the beginning just doesn’t click. For me, it took a while to even put together who Maury Terry was or that Paul Giamatti was doing the voiceover pretending to be him.
Each episode leads into the next part of the conspiracy very well. It’s the start of the show which still has me a bit angry. When you have such a unique premise, don’t wait to share it. I can understand if someone exited this series and went to something else instead because of the way it began.
Is The Sons of Sam worth watching?
Despite my feelings about thow it started, this turned out to be a fun ride. That’s actually what it was. There were connections made by Maury Terry, who turned out to be a big part of the series, which had me thinking he was onto something. Then there were other parts where I could see why people thought he was pushing too hard for something that wasn’t there.
We do get to see some interview footage with Berkowitz from years ago. The once violent man is now calm and doesn’t seem threatening at all. Those parts added to a favorable overall score for this true crime documentary. It gets my recommendation.
Overall Score: 7 out of 10
This is far more about the conspiracy than the actual murders. The way they tie in several notable crimes will leave the viewer wondering which ones are related and if their dog’s neighbor might have something to say to them.
Interested in watching The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness or learning more about the case? Below you will find affiliate links to the series as well as other information about this case. By using this links, I may receive a small commission of any purchase you may make.
Watch The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness on Netflix
The Ultimate Evil: The Search for the Sons of Sam by Maury Terry
Son of Sam: Based on Authorized Transcription of the Tapes, Official Documents, and Diaries of David Berkowitz by Lawrence D. Klausner
If you have a series or film you want to know my opinion on, please leave a comment below. I may have already written about it. I can save you some time from watching a dud.
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