Hey! So yesterday, we discussed various forms of my lock down entertainment but I left out one major talking point in the TV section. I had just watched the Netflix documentary, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel and it was all news to me. Despite the Elisa Lam story apparently being huge in 2013, I had no idea about any of it – the haunting viral video, the dark past of the Cecil Hotel (American Horror Story even based Hotel off of The Cecil!), and all of the conspiracy theories of what could have happened to Elisa even though her death was ruled an accident.
Because I had no past recollection of the Elisa Lam story, I devoured the four part under four hour long documentary in one evening. It took me a while to digest all of the information because the “elevator” video was playing on a loop in my head. However, after thinking about it for a few days, there is still something about the Elisa Lam story that just doesn’t sit well with me. At the end of the day, we have no firm idea of what her last few days were like which makes the case feel severely lacking in closure. I don’t believe in any of the far fetched conspiracies about the case but I have a feeling that the management of the Cecil Hotel knew more than they were letting on. The hotel manager didn’t seem particularly trustworthy to me and she had an extremely defensive standpoint throughout the documentary.
Speaking of conspiracies, I thought that this documentary focused way too much on them. I was completely shocked to learn at the very end of The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel of Elisa Lam’s struggle with her mental health as well as her family’s confirmation of it. Instead of starting a conversation about mental health, the documentary almost encouraged the Internet Sleuth sensation while only briefly glazing over a life that these “detectives” ruined – Pablo Vergara’s. Elisa Lam’s story just felt like it got added in after the fact.
This is the third documentary that I have watched recently on Netflix and I can’t say that I have been very impressed with any of them. Each documentary has just had so much extra crap muddled in that I feel like it doesn’t do the actual story any justice. While the first two episodes of Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel were really gripping and informative the remaining two indulged heavily in conspiracy theories which was a missed opportunity for more meaningful conversation.
What are your thoughts on the Elisa Lam story? What was the last documentary you watched? I want to hear from all of you, so leave me a comment and let’s chat! Much love. -Sarah
I completely agree about how much extra time they spent discussing the conspiracy theories. That part was so redundant. I guess I was looking for facts, like a timeline, interviews with people who were not the defensive former staff who looked at the hotel as her personal project to “save”. It seemed no one had spoken to the police or requested documents under the Freedom of Information Act. It made me want to become an internet sleuth to figure out the crime, so if that was their goal, I think they achieved it. It would have been nice to frame the story that way instead of presenting it as a factual documentary.
Oh, and for fuck’s sake, was the hatch open or closed?! It took them far too long to explain that piece, and even when they did, it wasn’t clear.
RIGHT?!?! Yes to literally everything you said, especially the last part!! I actually think I’m gonna watch it again with my boyfriend this time so I can see if it’s any clearer to me because I was so close to falling asleep by the time they even started talking about it!!
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Elisa Lam’s blogs and social media sites are listed here –
Thank you!!! What do you make of the case?
I agree that far too much effort was expended on the goofy internet “sleuths. It’s unfortunate the detectives’ recollections had to be intercut with so much of it. By ep. 2, I was waiting for the mental health of Ms. Lam to be introduced. Occam’s Razor. I think Netflix has garnered so much praise from the sleuthing community (still giggling about that being a thing), that this is a safe base to pander their true crime material to now. I used to admire Netflix docs, but if they’re going to continue giving so much of their talking head time to folks like that, forget it.
Honestly!! I can’t believe they waited until the literal very end of the documentary to talk about her mental health!
This Netflix doc was a misfire. Worse, Ms. Lam’s memory was exploited for mass entertainment’s sake. (Having watched it start to finish, yes, I recognize the irony of my statement.)
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