Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel (2021) Series Review

A riveting exploration of an unthinkable tragedy.  And I like the menacing and slightly creepy atmosphere throughout.

Certificate: 15

Director: Joe Berlinger

Starring: Viveca Chow, Steven Thomas Gamble, Judy Ho

Genre: Documentary, Crime

No. of Episodes: 4

Runtime: 60 Minutes

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewed by: Pearl

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The once grand Cecil Hotel provides a nightmare backdrop for the disappearance of Elisa Lam. Her final footage in an elevator triggers a viral hunt. – From IMDB

This is genuinely one of the most unsettling and creepy crime Documentaries I have seen in a while.  The combination of the hotels sketchy and unsettling past and the creepy as hell elevator footage just douse the whole series in a tense and unsettling atmosphere. 

Normally crime documentaries are done in a very formulaic way, through the examination of physical evidence and interviews with police and witnesses/family. But the viral nature of this mystery and the fact that it was released in the age of social media and Web Sleuths meant that so many people were involved and so many people had theories and ideas, that we get a much more mixed bag of interviews and experts talking.

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I was not aware of this case before watching the show, but clearly this case had a huge following at the time.  We learn about half way through the series what the outcome of the case was, and that was something that I was expecting to happen a lot later than that.  But once we get that reveal we really get into the crux of the mystery. 

I don’t know if I like the focus on the Web and Youtube aspect of the case.  A lot of these people weren’t going to the hotel to help, they were going to capitalise on the murder of an innocent woman and that never really sits right with me.  Like women that visit murderers in prison, it just makes me feel a little icky.  It didn’t necessarily help with the case and while most of these amateur sleuths are harmless, engaging in a hobby, some of them are not.

A riveting examination of the case, but not necessarily told in a way that I agree with, it won’t be my favourite true crime documentary, but it was good enough for a one time watch.

‘Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel’ is streaming on Netflix now.

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