‘Tales of the Grim Sleeper’ Review: A Powerful Film About a Serial Killer You’ve Never Heard Of

By  · Published on September 8th, 2014

Image courtesy of Barney Broomfield

I used to offer a disclaimer when recommending Nick Broomfield documentaries, noting that I believe him to be a genius filmmaker but acknowledge that he’s also an acquired taste. This isn’t something I need to put out there for Tales of the Grim Sleeper. Not since his early days (not counting his brief stint with docu-drama last decade) has he been so reserved with his documentary work. It’s probably his most accessible in his four-decade career. It’s also one of his best.

While yet another investigatory feature, in which he’s again on screen a whole lot, his personality this time is not overbearing on the subject matter. He surely realized that this isn’t a tabloid story and therefore doesn’t welcome the faux-naive tabloid character that he plays in such docs as Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam, Kurt & Courtney and his previous release, the hugely disappointing Sarah Palin: You Betcha.

Tales is about a serial killer you’ve probably never heard of, nicknamed the Grim Sleeper by the media because of a presumed hiatus he took from killing women between the late-1980s and the 2000s. In 2010, Lonnie Franklin Jr. was arrested and charged with the attributed murders of 10 women in South Central Los Angeles over a 25 year period, and it’s thought that he may have actually taken the lives of more than 100.


Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.