Crime Scene: The Vanishing on the Cecil Lodge, the, is a terrifying watch. However not for the explanations you would possibly anticipate.
Specializing in the infamous Cecil, a grim lodge in downtown LA, it tells the story of Elisa Lam, a Canadian scholar who went lacking within the lodge underneath mysterious circumstances, earlier than later being found drowned.
It is a true crime documentarian’s dream. Grainy safety footage reveals Lam, spooked and unusual, in an elevator speaking hysterically … to a different particular person? A demented spirit haunting the Cecil? Who can inform? Later, mimicking the precise plot of Japanese horror basic Darkish Water, Lam’s decomposing physique is discovered face up within the lodge’s water tank. Residents had been consuming, washing and brushing their enamel in murky water from that very tank for days earlier than she was found.
With a thriller like that, and a legendary director in Joe Berlinger (beforehand answerable for classics like Brother’s Keeper and Paradise Misplaced) you’d anticipate Crime Scene: The Vanishing on the Cecil Lodge to be must-see TV. Nevertheless it’s not.
Not even shut.
It is dangerous. And never simply dangerous. Crime Scene: The Vanishing on the Cecil Lodge is bloated, boring and complicated. It is irresponsible and dishonest, indulging conspiracy theories that put already weak victims at additional danger.
Warning: Spoilers forward.
Crime Scene: The Vanishing on the Cecil Lodge is punishingly lengthy. Needlessly lengthy. What takes 4, one-hour lengthy episodes might and needs to be simply handled in a single feature-length episode.
In what has rapidly turn out to be a Netflix documentary pattern, Cecil Lodge is in painful want of an edit — repeating particulars endlessly, taking part in for time with meaningless segues and pointless interviews. Is it a metrics challenge? Does Netflix demand documentarians stretch their tasks endlessly?
Regardless, Cecil Lodge stretched my endurance for pretend teases and false cliffhangers.
Watching any serialized documentary collection calls for a tolerance for intentionally positioned purple herrings which can be rapidly resolved within the following episode, however Cecil Lodge does some pretty unforgivable stuff.
One specific piece of data, intentionally withheld close to the start, is used to create thriller and debate across the nature of Lam’s loss of life for the entirety of the present, solely to be resolved virtually casually close to the top of the ultimate episode. Hours of unnecessary hypothesis and — at instances — baseless accusations towards police and lodge employees all rendered fully and totally pointless. There is a restrict right here and Cecil Lodge breezes previous it.
Which takes me to maybe the worst a part of this documentary: the web sleuths.
In an try to stretch the present’s runtime, Cecil Lodge fills out minutes of display time with a rotating forged of “web sleuths” — YouTubers basically — who vary from mildly unusual to downright creepy. These sleuths spend hours dissecting footage, digging via Elisa Lam’s social media accounts, making outrageous claims on YouTube channels.
Through these sleuths, Cecil Lodge indulges all forms of conspiracy theories, lending them credence and respect all through. Solely to disclose — within the last 10 minutes — that nearly all the things they mentioned was full horseshit.
It is a approach that is borderline harmful.
Cecil Lodge’s limitless trawling via Elisa Lam’s Tumblr weblog feels uncomfortable, like studying somebody’s teenage diary — however given Lam’s psychological well being struggles being paramount to the case it is arguably comprehensible. Nevertheless, having these unusual sleuths (one requested a good friend to report himself touching Lam’s headstone) dissecting them uncritically on digital camera is a step too far.
Nevertheless it’s nothing in comparison with the remedy of Pablo “Morbid” Vergara, a loss of life metallic singer bizarrely caught in a vortex of baseless hypothesis. After stumbling throughout a YouTube video of him documenting a keep on the lodge, web sleuths took it upon themselves to accuse Morbid of murdering Lam and dumping her physique within the water tank.
Not solely does the Cecil Lodge documentary obscure the truth that Morbid stayed on the lodge 12 months earlier than Lam’s disappearance for nearly its total runtime, it indulges wild conspiracy theories that he was concerned along with her loss of life. Utilizing footage of his loss of life metallic movies, alongside loss of life metallic lyrics, it intentionally creates a story that his involvement in Lam’s loss of life is a viable chance.
Solely later do we discover out that not solely was Morbid not in america on the time of Lam’s disappearance, he’d been endlessly harassed and threatened to the purpose the place he tried to take his personal life and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. Egged on by the identical kind of web sleuths who’re given an enormous, uncritical platform on this documentary.
Spending half your documentary suggesting this man, pushed to the brink by a web based mob, might have been answerable for Lam’s loss of life is not sensible and doubtlessly damaging.
Nevertheless it’s par for the course with Cecil Lodge, a documentary that takes an insane, slam dunk story and by some means makes it not simply boring, however borderline offensive by offering a platform to a gaggle of people that actively derailed the case and harm folks.
Cecil Lodge might have been a decent, concise thriller. It might have been a warning about on-line communities and the collateral injury they trigger once they assume experience. Nevertheless it’s none of these items. It is an excessively lengthy mess of a documentary that disrespects its viewers and the story it is making an attempt to inform however, worst of all, disrespects the victims.