When David Berkowitz was arrested and charged for a string of murders in the 1970s, New Yorkers rejoiced feeling their nightmare was over. But for one man – journalist Maury Terry – this was just the start of a bigger a mystery, one The Sons of Sam takes us on so explicitly.
While The Sons of Sam is definitely a story about Berkowitz, it could be argued that this is just as much Maury Terry’s story – if not more.
Spooky, mind boggling, very frustrating at times, and incredibly wild, the four-part documentary shows how one man’s obsession to prove to the world what he believed to be the truth– that David Berkowitz didn’t act alone and there were many Sons of Sam – led to his own decline as people discredited him as a journalist, and wondered whether he was being played by Berkowitz himself.
The Sons of Sam begins at the height of Berkowitz’s crimes, when New York was known as “fear city” and was riddled with crime. A string of senseless killings by The Son of Sam, initially known as the 44-calibre killer, began and all the victims seemed to be women with brunette shoulder-length hair.
Everyone was terrified. Women wouldn’t leave their homes at night alone. They would wear baggy or androgynous clothing to disguise themselves, and they were even encouraged to cut their hair shorter so they wouldn’t be a target.
So of course, when the police eventually caught Berkowitz and he confessed to everything, it was a relief – one I most certainly felt at the end of episode one.
Using archival footage from mothers and family members of victims, The Sons of Sam shows how the people of New York were no longer in fear and finally felt that justice had been served.
You’d be excused for thinking this was the end of the documentary, but with three more episodes to come, it wasn’t the case.
I never expected what would come next, with Terry going down an incredibly spooky rabbit hole, as The Sons of Sam took a peculiar turn.
Prepare to be inundated with heaps of information you’re not entirely sure have any relation, but as the episodes progress we learn in the most surprising ways that they most definitely do.
From links to a satanic cult known as The Children and mentions to Charles Manson, each scene connects you to another dot you would never have imagined as Terry uncovers a new piece to the puzzle he’s desperate to put together.
Terry manages to connect murders on the other side of the country to Berkowtiz’s crimes in a way that just leaves you completely mind boggled as you digest the information you have received.
As we get more and more details, and closer to what feels like Terry being able to finally prove what he thought all along, you feel a sense of victory coming on… which makes the conclusion all the more devastating.
Probably one of the hardest pills to swallow when it comes to the documentary and the true story of The Sons of Sam, is that Terry doesn’t actually get to solve his own mystery, before passing away in 2015 due to a brief illness, which some contributors in the documentary believe was caused by him neglecting himself during this two decade-long obsession with the Berkowitz case.
Despite what seemed like hardcore evidence as Terry even sat down with Berkowitz himself, the police just never bought his story. They didn’t rate him highly and thought he was being orchestrated by Berkowitz from jail, as the criminal alleged that he didn’t commit the crimes alone just like Terry had said. It’s at this moment you start to question Terry’s credibility and wonder if everything you’ve just watched is even true.
The Sons of Sam leaves you questioning everything: Who is right – Terry or the police? Did Berkowitz really act alone or is Terry right and are the other Sons of Sam out there? And why won’t the police believe Terry?
The questions are endless.
Echoing Terry’s life, The Sons of Sam takes us on a wild goose chase where we’re presented with so much information, only to be told that nothing could be done and Terry never got the answers to his questions.
In this case, I suppose we have to thank filmmaker Joshua Zeman (Crospey and Murder Mountain) for the final scene of The Sons of Sam, which offers us some solace after all of Terry’s hard work, but also leaves us on a cliffhanger as we wonder if there’s still more of the story to be told.
Years after Terry’s passing, Steven Blake Crawford, a security guard at Stanford University died by suicide just as the police were going to arrest him for the murder of Arlis Perry – a crime Terry believed had connections to the Satanic cult he thought Berkowitz was part of. When the police searched Crawford’s home, they found a book called The Ultimate Evil, written by Maury Terry about serial killers.
A coincidence? Or was Maury Terry right all along? Perhaps this is a question a sequel to The Sons of Sam could answer.
Want more show content? Discover what David Berkowitz’s letters contained.
The Sons of Sam will be available to stream on Netflix . Check out our lists of the best series on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix, or see what else is on with our TV Guide. Also visit our dedicated Documentaries hub for more news.