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The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel: True Crime Doc Doesn't Disappoint
Netflix dedicated a 4-part docu-series to the mystery and confusion surrounding the Elisa Lam case and the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, a deep dive into the disappearance of Lam and the history behind the Cecil Hotel from its' early 1900's origin. The dark and twisted true stories behind the hotel's guests have been common knowledge to those who worked there or were always interested in the lore behind locations. Lam's disappearance went from slowly being uncovered to immediate viral energy due to strange footage from an elevator security camera. For further information on the production details and a trailer for the limited series, there's an article I wrote on the subject before everything started streaming on Netflix.
Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, does a good job at tackling the major parts of this whole story. It can be difficult to cover an average case involving any sort of true crime, but adding in a setting with so much true crime history in itself is a whole other story. The integration of an online narrative of the investigation alongside interviews is what gives the series a push in the right direction for it to be compelling as well as truly thought-provoking. When portions of the story start to make sense, the direction of the series doesn't wrap itself around in a nice biased package for viewers.
Instead, the variety of interviews from detectives who worked the case to employees from the Cecil itself, provide insight for audiences to take apart things and examine it all for themselves.
Deciding between coincidence and reality is something that is done well in the telling of not only Elisa's story but also the surrounding area she was found in. Parallels come and go, that is the perfect place for a bad discussion of the story to end but this series doesn't do that. Theories are not hidden, everything is thrown out in the open. What makes me praise this docu-series is some of what was included became new information to me on the topic. Placing the viewer in the midst of the pros and cons of online sleuths is just as important as the other aspects of the series. The Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel docu-series has small amounts of cringe moments, but in the end it portrays Elisa Lam in a respectful light and does a good job at gathering multiple voices.