Crime Scene: The Vanishing At The Cecil Resort thrives on the bait and swap. The Netflix documentary begins with a number of speaking heads build up the ominous, almost-paranormal aura of Los Angeles’ Cecil Resort, “a spot the place serial killers let their hair down”, and finally ends up someplace extra grounded — the tragedy of a younger lady whose struggling went unnoticed till it was too late.
The 2 are related. A visitor of the resort, 21-year-old Canadian vacationer Elisa Lam, was reported lacking in January 2013. Footage of her-last identified whereabouts has since turn out to be the stuff of city legend. Lam, as seen via the resort’s safety digicam, will get into the elevator, which refuses to close. She shrinks right into a nook earlier than going out to research, showing to speak to somebody simply out of view. She’s by no means seen once more.
The four-part documentary neatly contextualizes Lam’s disappearance with an in-depth historical past of the Cecil Resort, an institution so horrifying it impressed the fifth season of American Horror Story. The Evening Stalker Edgar Ramirez lived there, as did serial killer Johann Unterweger, who posed as a journalist writing about prostitutes to lure them into his room, the place he’d then homicide them. Supervisor Amy Value describes discovering useless friends within the room and snipers prowling the hallway. For some time, the collection lets viewers stew within the implication that the explanation for the resort’s grotesque historical past is likely to be supernatural earlier than revealing that it’s extra sociological (one other bait and swap). The resort is situated at Skid Row, a 36-block space that’s one of many poorest on the earth, and rife with homelessness and crime. Skid Row historian Dr. Doug Mungin’s insights into the historical past and demographic of the world make for one of many extra fascinating detours the documentary takes.
Each side of Lam’s case is pored over, with various levels of success. Interviews with the resort supervisor, upkeep man and detectives on the case assist flesh out the sequence of occasions and fill within the gaps. A number of factors of investigation are touched upon, after which revisited from a special perspective to resolve any lingering doubts. Much less helpful, nevertheless, are the interviews with a pair who stayed on the resort on the similar time Lam did and whose solely contributions are descriptions of the constructing’s shoddy interiors.
The collection additionally devotes a number of time to net sleuths, on-line detectives whose obsession with the case and its proof led to some startling breakthroughs in its investigation. Their genuinely sensible deductions are undercut by some their extra baseless conspiracy theories, which embody Lam being possessed by a ghost or being an undercover authorities agent on a mission to unfold tuberculosis, which is what makes it so grating that episode three spends a lot time discussing these.
The documentary has one ultimate bait and swap up its sleeve although. By detailing these unhinged theories, it primes the viewer completely for the fallout that ensues after they unfold. A musician recognized as Morbid is falsely implicated in Lam’s dying when YouTubers declare to identify references to it in considered one of his music movies. He talks about being locked out of his social media, receiving dying threats every day and struggling to create music even eight years on. It’s an sudden, and transferring have a look at how conspiracy theorists harm the residing of their quest to avenge the useless. The documentary shifts from unraveling a conspiracy concept, to decrying them.
Crime Scene isn’t with out its shortcomings. It’s too lengthy drawn-out and lacks the attitude of somebody near Lam herself, counting on net sleuths’ speculations about her ideas and psychological state primarily based on interpretations of her Tumblr posts. Its repeated use of inventory footage of males typing in green-tinted rooms, to indicate the online sleuths, comes off as foolish. Keep on with the almost four-hour-long collection although, and also you’ll discover that its conclusion, a departure from the whole lot else earlier than it, is definitely worth the watch.