Netflix's newest crime docuseries falls short

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I can usually always count on Netflix to release some sort of docuseries right when I need it most. This time, however, I was disappointed with the streaming service’s latest release. This disappointment comes in the form of “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel,” a four-episode series centered around the disappearance and death of Elisa Lam in 2013. 

Netflix is setting this up to be an anthology series, with each season focusing on a different notorious location of crime and examining how and why that might be. 

Lam was a 21-year-old woman who went missing on a trip to Los Angeles and was later found dead on the roof of the Cecil Hotel where she was staying. Security footage of Lam acting unusual in the elevator surfaced throughout the case and has been dissected by theorists far and wide. 

I have been intrigued by this case for as long as I have known about it. It is widely popular among conspiracy theorists on the internet, and there have been many theories as to what actually happened that fateful night at the Cecil Hotel. 

I strongly admire the choice to not include said conspiracies when looking at the case in this series. I feel that if that were the case, it would be more of the same information that is already out on the internet. 

Instead, this series focuses on the cold hard facts of what definitively happened on the night of Lam’s disappearance. I enjoyed almost all of the interviews that were shown on screen and thought that they all added to the narrative greatly. This does not mean, though, that I enjoyed the series overall.  

I did not enjoy the added touch of Lam’s Tumblr posts being read out loud and shown on the screen. I understood that they had such a big impact on the case that it would make sense to include them in some way, but the more that it went on the less interesting they became. I began to get tired of being taken out of the facts of the case and thrown into a recreation of Lam’s life that didn’t seem necessary to include. 

The final shot of the series features one of these being read aloud by someone meant to be portraying Lam. I felt that it was meant to have a larger impact that was lost on me. 

Overall, I think that this documentary did the minimum amount in terms of adding to the case or keeping me interested. I found myself wanting to look at my phone multiple times, and becoming restless and bored by the series. If you are a fan of crime documentaries, conspiracies or the Lam case in general, I recommend looking elsewhere for new and intriguing information. 

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The Torch.


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