The True Horror of ‘The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness’

You guys, I have discovered a mind-blowing Netflix documentary exposing an unbelievable conspiracy called The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness! See, it turns out David Berkowitz, the infamous serial killer calling himself the “Son of Sam,” did not commit his crimes alone. And I don’t just mean an accomplice; he was a member of a far-reaching interconnected murder cult! A satanic cult, no less!

This is a big deal, as it not only validates a once-fringe suspicion about a decades-old spree killing case that gripped the nation in the late 70’s, but it also finally lends an air of legitimacy to a widespread belief among mostly white, mostly working and middle-class Americans in the late 70’s all the way until roughly the early 90’s, dismissively labeled as the Satanic “Panic” by distracted SJWs who were focused on frivolous pet projects like “systemic inequality” and “widespread poverty.” Ha! It turns out there were satanic cults murdering people and engaging in ritualistic abuse the whole time! No, not the ones QAnon was talking about. Those were different satanic cults. Or maybe the same ones and they just went through a rebranding.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter! What matters is that journalist Maury Terry has connected all the dots and poked enough holes in the “official story” to reveal the dark truth about those seemingly random killings from a disturbed man in New York all those years ago.

You see, it turns out that in one of the taunting letters Berkowitz wrote to the police, he mentions the name “John Wheaties.” Along with several other random names and weird phrases, but see, here’s the interesting thing – one of his neighbors was a man named Sam Carr, whom he claimed had a demon-possessed dog who ordered him to kill all those people. But the dog and that bonkers claim isn’t what’s important; what’s important is that Sam Carr had two sons, one of whom was named John Wheat Carr! And even more amazing, one of the many police sketches drawn up during the shootings kinda sorta looked like John Wheat Carr from a blurry photograph taken from when he was a teenager!!!

Terry’s Editor told him that wasn’t enough to hang an article on, but he encouraged Terry to “keep digging.” And dig he did! He first noticed a series of errors made by the police, and how over-eager they were to close the case and pin everything on Berkowitz before he even filled in all of the details of his killing spree. When they first searched his car, for instance, they didn’t have a warrant, so in order to ensure their evidence was accepted, they surreptitiously had a judge sign a warrant after they had already searched the vehicle. Now, you’re probably thinking “What?! That’s a serious indictment of the NYPD and a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment! I assume Terry was outraged about this infringement on civil liberties and decided to focus on police misconduct from there, right?” But that’s because you’re too small-minded and focused on tangible societal problems that you are far more statistically likely to suffer from. Terry knows the real story lies with the fact that their procedural violations and ethical lapses leave the door open for multiple killers linked to an exotic shadowy secret organization!

To help him understand the scope of what he was dealing with, he went to all sorts of experts in the occult who were very credible and discerning and not at all clout-chasing grifters taking advantage of a moral panic. They casually name-dropped popular movies and books that hit the cultural zeitgeist suspiciously right around the same time Americans started believing in the existence satanic murder cults as an actual threat. And there were weird cults around that time! Like Process Church of the Final Judgment, which wasn’t really a satanic cult so much as a niche offshoot of the Church of Scientology and they were never actually linked to any ritual murders. And in fact, they formally disbanded two years before the Son of Sam killings even occurred. But they were weird, okay?! And one of their symbols was found near where Berkowitz lived, so surely that has to mean something!

And there was the Manson clan! They were real! And they actually killed people! And their leader did spout all sorts of ominous satanic messages and cryptic riddles whenever he was interviewed about his motivations! So surely he’s connected to Berkowitz somehow! That has to be why so much of this series is dedicated to recapping those crimes and interviewing the author of a book that linked the Manson family to the Process Church before a defamation lawsuit forced him to remove that passage from it. Because they were similar in some very disparate and tenuous ways. Yes, it all has to be connected. By his account, Terry had “fallen down a rabbit hole far darker than I had ever anticipated,” and as we all know, rabbit holes always lead to credible conclusions with rock-solid evidence.

It all converges with a not-very-riveting-at-all confrontation between Terry and Berkowitz himself in the form of a one-on-one televised interview. And in that interview, he outright says… absolutely nothing at all of any real substance. But hey, talking heads speculate that there may be reasons for his evasive non-answers! Maybe he felt threatened by the satanic cult he was a member of! Maybe he didn’t want to be a “snitch!” Maybe he didn’t want to relive those parts of his life! Or maybe he was just a mentally and emotionally stunted individual telling Terry what he felt he wanted to hear in response to aggressively leading questions that no professional interviewer would actually believe.

So… yeah, maybe the interview with Berkowitz himself puts a damper on things. Might not be as airtight as it was originally promised at the beginning of the series. But so what? Just because there’s very little credible evidence proving Terry’s theory doesn’t mean it’s not true! Or, at least, you can’t prove his theory is not true! We have to be strong enough to handle the horrifying reality that there are secret societies of truly irredeemably evil powerful individuals whose every action is carefully-planned and calculated to the last detail, and all of those brutal slays had a deeper, Machiavellian meaning behind them. What other possible explanation could there be? If Terry is wrong, and there really is no satanic cult behind these murders, that means he wasted years of his life and destroyed his reputation as a journalist over the cynical mind games of a disturbed serial killer. That would mean the true crime documentaries being churned out by streaming services and podcast networks are flooding harmful misconceptions about the causes of violent crime in America, making us increasingly unable to detect and effectively confront the actual threats to our lives and safety in favor of more sensational boogeymen. That would mean evil is motivated by mundane impulses and weaknesses that can’t be easily spotted, and Berkowitz really did kill at random and took joy in manipulating people into believing he was part of something bigger. That would mean lives end and communities are torn apart not by villainous organized figures working off some master plan, but by the random outcomes generated by broken societies and casually cruel men. 

Which, when you think about it, is even scarier to contemplate than what The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness originally set out to prove…


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Written by Robert Hamer

Formerly an associate writer for now-retired Awards Circuit, Robert Hamer is a military veteran who now spends his time obsessing over movies and weird pop culture rabbit holes.

He is returning to film and awards season commentary to return to a sense of normalcy in these plague-ridden times of rising fascism and late-stage capitalist dystopia. Join him, won't you, in these somewhat unorthodox attempts at cinematic therapy?

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