Netflix’s “American Murder” Revisits a Tragedy


Alejandra de Llano

A heart shattering crime became the basis of the 2020 Netflix documentary “American Murder.”

Alejandra Dellano, Staff Writer

Release Date: September 30, 2020
Director: Jenny Popplewell
Starring: the watts family and friends
MPAA Rating: TV-MA
Our Rating: C+

“American Murderer Next Door” is a newly released Netflix documentary that hit the screens on Sep. 30, 2020. Although it has been out for less than a week, it has grown an immense amount of attention, currently holding the number 1This documentary revolves around the tragic case of the disappearance of Shannan Watts and her 2 little girls. This attention-grabbing documentary is a suspenseful masterpiece. It kept me wondering when the truth would come out and what would happen next.As with many things the true-crime documentary held back on the analysis approach of the crime and leaned towards a more of a leading event’s path.

Going into the movie with an open mind and no recollection of the case in it itself is a key point in the full experience of the movie. The anxiousness of being on your feet wondering what would happen next gave me the thrill of a horror movie although I was watching a crime documentary. It becomes abruptly clear as you are watching that something about this spooky case is not right. The Watts family was seemingly very well put together and as the perfect neighbors you see in ideal neighborhood posters but what lied beneath those smiles was something inhumane.

“I really like the way they tie in the pictures of the family to see what they were like before. It was unsettling seeing them smile and be happy before everything happened,” freshman Amelia Diaz said

The cinematography throughout the entire film consisted of a range of different perspectives which created a way in which viewers could keep all points of view in mind. In the early stages of the film, we see the body came footage of the police officer who arrived at the scene first. The footage shown from the first day of the missing case is crucial to the entire case, the viewer gets a significant insider on the story from the start which was a nice addition to tie in the film itself.

I find it insane how one person can have no heart and do such a thing. This movie makes me like I shouldn’t just welcome everyone into my home. I love true crime movies and this movie was definitely worth watching.

— sophomore Jazzmyn Chavez

In sync with the police officers body cam footage, videos from Shanan’s Facebook posts appear on the screen, which further invests the viewer by introducing them to the identity of the victim. The slideshow of pictures and videos was bittersweet because of the sad truth that was to come. Later on, we are shown an insider into the prosecutor taking a polygraph test which gives us a firsthand look into what was asked of them. This test would later help discover the truth of the case.

The suspenseful music added in undoubtedly made it so that watchers would be covered in goosebumps. Along with the many images and videos from Shanan’s Facebook, the filmmakers added a series of text messages shared between her and several contacts that connect the crime to the criminal. The way they smoothly added those text messages to build up the final plot twist was a significant and great bonus.

As for the flaws of the film, it was prevalent throughout the documentary was the way the criminal was projected as a good man when he did inhumane things that should not be treated with sympathy which is really minimizing the whole crime in it itself, which isn’t fair to the victim’s family. Overall the rapid pace of the movie is admirable but does not allow room for clear interpretation.

This heartbreaking film is perfect for fans of true crime shows and movies. Going into this movie with an open mind is essential to trying to understand everything being shown. This film was spectacular but, some lingering questions about the case itself remained unaddressed at the end of the film.

This movie does provide a representation of how horrifying the real world can be, making it a gut-wrenching and suspenseful masterpiece. Similar to many films in this genre, the true-crime documentary held back on the analysis approach of the crime and leaned towards a more of a leading event’s path. It kept viewers wondering when the truth would come out and what would happen next from start to finish.