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A Review On Netflix’s New Documentary “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel”


person holding a remote control pointed at TV streaming netflix
Photo by freestocks from Unsplash

Netflix has done it again with another great crime documentary! Some of their previous crime documentaries such as Amanda Knox, Abducted In Plain Sight, and Casting JonBenet. There are tons of great crime documentaries on Netflix, so if you need something new to binge and love true crime, definitely give this new one a try! 

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel is a haunting story about the infamous Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, California. The documentary centers around the disappearance of Elisa Lam, a young woman who resided at the hotel for a short period of time before mysteriously vanishing. Her story is the reason as to why the Cecil Hotel received so much media attention, however, there definitely have been a lot of other weird things that have happened there such as random stabbings, heroin overdoses and assaults. The hotel itself was very inexpensive, drawing a lot of lower-class visitors to stay there. It wasn’t exactly the nicest quality hotel, but it was a great spot for people who are new to the area who just need a place to stay. 

The documentary itself is four episodes, all about an hour each. It is very well done, in my opinion, I just wished they focused more on the hotel and it’s major history as a whole. The entire documentary was really just centered about the mystery surrounding Elisa Lam, which personally I think could have been just one episode or made into another documentary. Anywho, with what we do have, I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline.

If you do not know the story about Elisa Lam, please please please watch the documentary or a YouTube video about her disappearance before you keep reading! I do not want to spoil anything for you readers! 

Basically, Elisa Lam was a young woman from Canada who wanted a new start, so she decided to move to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, she chose to stay at the Cecil Hotel. She went missing on January 31, 2013 at the age of 21 when she was staying at the hotel. There was an investigation with unfortunately zero leads. That is when the police decided to release camera footage of her in the hotel elevator, which raised more questions than answers. In the footage, which you can see here, it shows Elisa acting very strangely, portraying schizophrenic tendencies that could also be viewed as her talking to some sort of supernatural force. There are so many conspiracies surrounding this video. Elisa does have a past of mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, so was she off her medicine? Or was something supernatural going on? Would she have died if she stayed somewhere else? I guess we will never know.

Elisa’s body was found on the top of the hotel in a water tank, naked. It took authorities almost an entire month to find her body, which raises questions in my mind as to why they didn’t think to check the water tank sooner? 

Hollywood Sign from Unsplash in the hills
Photo by Ahmet Yalç?nkaya from Unsplash

There are tons and tons of different conspiracies surrounding her strange death, most of which are addressed in the documentary. Something I wasn’t a fan of, however, was that the makers of the documentary wanted to shut down these conspiracies and end the story with the fact that her death was ruled an accident. But, was it? I think something bigger is going on here, but that is totally up for your own interpretation and discussion.

Victoria Tustin

U Mass Amherst '22

Tory is a senior here at UMass Amherst. She is currently a Journalism major with a Spanish minor, and has a passion for writing just about anything!
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