Journey Into Evil (2000) – Documentaries about serial killers are invariably made on far smaller budgets than feature films about them, whether or not the subjects of the latter are real or invented characters. “Journey Into Evil” is one such relatively low budget affair, and is far more horrific than any film about the fictional type.
The investigation into the crimes of offbeat killer couple Leonard Lake and Charles Ng began when they were caught shoplifting in San Francisco. Ng fled the scene but Lake was arrested. What the police probably thought was a routine case of of low level theft quickly became something far more sinister when Lake swallowed a cyanide capsule that was sewn into the lining of his jacket. He had been driving a stolen car and using a stolen identity, from a man he had murdered.
As Ng fled to Canada, the authorities descended on Lake’s ranch where they found evidence of many murders, and a bunker in which young women had been imprisoned after being kidnapped. These were known as “M Ladies”, and had been unwilling participants in Lake’s “Project Miranda”.
Shoplifting led to Ng’s downfall as to Lakes’s; he was arrested in Canada, and spent years fighting both extradition and the impending court case that would see him on death row, where he has languished since his conviction in February 1999 for eleven murders.
For obvious reasons, this documentary focuses largely on Ng, but space is also given to their unindicted co-conspirator, Lake’s wife, Cricket. We see some amateurish psychology here, the usual psycho-babble, in this case explaining how Ng found in Lake the father figure he had always wanted. This cuts little ice; Ng’s wealthy Chinese father sent his son to boarding school in England, from which he was shortly expelled for stealing. As Lake’s victims included his own brother, and his best friend – whose identity he stole – it remains to be seen if anyone, sane or otherwise, would want to belong to his family. The relationship between Lake and the younger Ng was one based on a shared fascination with evil rather than some kind of proxy parenthood.
Overall though this is an excellent film, provided you have a strong stomach. We hear from the families of the victims as well as both lawyers and law enforcement officials, and see footage of Ng’s trial as well as two of the two men’s captives on a torture tape. Both were of course murdered.
Leonard Lake and Charles Ng are believed to have murdered as many as 25 people, yet are far less notorious than many lesser fiends whose crimes pale into insignificance by comparison.