BY NINA RAMIREZ
This article contains spoilers
On September 30, 2020, the streaming platform Netflix gifted its audience a devastating, yet entrancing documentary: “American Murder: The Family Next Door.” The documentary is based on the true story of the disappearance and savage murders of Shannan Watts, a pregnant mother, and her two daughters, Celeste and Bella.
In an intriguing and entrancing manner, the documentary takes viewers from the first moment, when a family friend made the first 911 call worrying about the family, to the very end, when the murderer was finally sentenced for his heinous crimes.
The documentary goes back and forth between events that occurred before and after the murders, continuously presenting related photos and videos from Shanann’s Facebook page. This structure was used as a form of pathos to really tug at the hearts of viewers by showing how beautiful and loving Shanann was with her husband and adorable children before their tragic demise. It certainly did the job well as it will be sure to leave every viewer in tears by the end.
Additionally, the film’s chronological order was extremely clever, with each day that passed after the murders being presented. This showed audiences how detectives and police officers handled the tragedy by trying several methods of tracking the missing family and finding the criminal responsible for their eventual deaths.
In an intriguing and entrancing manner, the documentary takes viewers from the first moment…
Audiences will also find it fascinating to view first-hand how the first police officer arrives at the scene, as the film presents the raw footage of everyone’s reaction– a worried family friend, concerned neighbors, a seemingly shocked husband, among others– to the horrid crime situation.
Viewers will surely be on the edge of their seats throughout the whole film, especially when they see the prime suspect being interviewed and confronted after he failed a polygraph test. It was incredibly upsetting to watch the suspect change his story numerous times in his confession, a situation that added further tension to the film.
Despite its immersive portrayal of an ‘American murder,’ something quite unfortunate about the film is the overbearing amount of foreshadowing. Since the start of the documentary, the constant views of Shanann’s wedding to her Facebook videos describing her supposedly loving relationship made it obvious who the horrendous culprit was in the end. This was a missed opportunity on the filmmakers’ part to possibly shock the audience to their core.
However, the level of engagement throughout the documentary made up for the amount of foreshadowing. Viewers are nearly guaranteed to give the film their utmost attention from the second it begins to the second it ends, where dozens of tears will be shed.
However, the level of engagement throughout the documentary made up for the amount of foreshadowing.
In fact, the final cutaways were well-executed and result in a feeling of sorrow, especially when they seeing the tragic impact the incident has had on both the victims’ family and many across the nation.
To describe this documentary and the real story as a tragedy would be an understatement. It’s one of the most horrific outcomes anyone can imagine for a family, and the portrayal of this crime in “American Murder: The Family Next Door” is sure to be a spine-chilling experience for all who view it.
- Based on an engaging true story.
- Reveals gripping information.
- Extremely emotional.
- Has too much foreshadowing.
- Left out some important details.
Photo courtesy of Heaven of Horror