A slow but respectful look at the search for a serial killer against the harrowing backdrop of a homophobic world.
Last Call: When a serial killer stalked Queer New York is about the search for a serial killer who attacked gay men in New York in the early 1990s. If so many words are needed to give their documentary a title, it stands to reason that the filmmakers need four episodes to explain this search. However, after a slow first and second episode, the documentary kicks off as soon as it becomes clear what the goal is: to paint a picture of the way gay discrimination facilitated this Last Call Killer.
The gruesome murder cases, which at first seemed to stand on their own but eventually formed a pattern pointing to the same perpetrator, act as a common thread. Each victim is presented in detail on the basis of childhood photos and love stories from relatives. Common denominator: all the men were gay, out or not, and ended up in the world of New York nightlife, where they fell victim to a homicidal maniac. In the middle, the different detectives who investigated the cases at that time speak. Always from a different district because the dismembered bodies were found in different places.
Another important element is the vision of various spokespersons for the still existing Anti-Violence Project (AVP) on the events of thirty years ago now. The atmosphere of the queer scene at the time is well captured through an extensive collection of visual material. It’s not immediately clear why highlighting this side of the story is so important. As a result, contributions from AVP employees seem to unnecessarily delay the first two episodes.
Ultimately, these testimonials are necessary to paint the bigger picture: how the social position of queer people set a precedent for violence. From classifying homosexuality as a psychiatric condition to legislating allowing a murderer to hide behind the ‘gay panic defense’. Homophobia was the norm and influenced media coverage of gay people, causing police forces to treat the murder of a gay person differently. Call it ignorance or the prevailing macho culture, but that it was heartbreaking is confirmed by the discomfort of certain officers during the interviews.
The influence of the AVP is essential for the hunt for the serial killer. After years of pressure on the media and politicians, a press conference was finally held with the mayor and the police chief of New York and a special unit was created in which the different districts involved worked together. Meanwhile, the AVP have been issuing warnings about queer nightlife and are looking for the killer. If he was caught and convicted, it becomes clear in the latest episode in which the failings of the American justice system once again become painfully clear.
It may seem superfluous to make a series about a series of murders from thirty years ago, but by inserting it into a story about the bitter need for gay acceptance, precisely at a time when violence against transgender people in the LGBTQ community in particular is on the rise, the message becomes urgent. “We’re not there yet,” the enthusiastic creators seem to want to say. As gruesome as this serial killer’s actions were, what Last Call: When a serial killer stalked Queer New York it is a respectful memory of his victims and a cry for help to all who will listen.
Last Call: When a serial killer stalked Queer New York can be seen in hbo max.