Netflix’s Cecil Lodge documentary is a bloated, harmful mess



Crime Scene: The Vanishing on the Cecil Lodge is a 2021 American docu-series you wish to skip.


Crime Scene: The Vanishing on the Cecil Lodge, the newest hit documentary on Netflix, is a terrifying watch. However not for the explanations you may anticipate.

Specializing in the infamous Cecil, a grim resort in downtown LA, it tells the story of Elisa Lam, a Canadian scholar who went lacking within the resort beneath mysterious circumstances, earlier than later being found drowned.

It is a true crime documentarian’s dream. Grainy safety footage exhibits 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 traditional Darkish Water, Lam’s decomposing physique is discovered face up within the resort’s water tank. Residents had been ingesting, 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 accountable 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. However 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 susceptible victims at additional threat.

Warning: Spoilers forward.

A stretch


Cecil Lodge has a protracted historical past with legal exercise.


Crime Scene: The Vanishing on the Cecil Lodge is punishingly lengthy. Needlessly lengthy. What takes 4, one-hour lengthy episodes might and ought to be simply handled in a single feature-length episode. 

In what has shortly change into a Netflix documentary development, 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 problem? Does Netflix demand documentarians stretch their initiatives endlessly?

Regardless, Cecil Lodge stretched my endurance for pretend teases and false cliffhangers.

Watching any serialized documentary sequence calls for a tolerance for intentionally positioned pink herrings which are shortly resolved within the following episode, however Cecil Lodge does some pretty unforgivable stuff.


Footage of Elisa Lam on the Cecil Lodge inspired “web sleuths” to analyze her loss of life, usually with detrimental penalties.


One explicit piece of knowledge, 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 tip of the ultimate episode. Hours of useless hypothesis and — at occasions — baseless accusations towards police and resort employees all rendered utterly 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 primarily — 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.

By way of these sleuths, Cecil Lodge indulges all sorts of conspiracy theories, lending them credence and respect all through. Solely to disclose — within the last 10 minutes — that nearly every part they mentioned was full horseshit.

It is a approach that is borderline harmful.

Cecil Lodge’s countless 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 buddy to file himself touching Lam’s headstone) dissecting them uncritically on digicam is a step too far.


However it’s nothing in comparison with the therapy 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 resort, web sleuths took it upon themselves to accuse Morbid of murdering Lam and dumping her physique within the water tank.


Morbid was handled particularly poorly within the documentary.


Not solely does the Cecil Lodge documentary obscure the truth that Morbid stayed on the resort 12 months earlier than Lam’s disappearance for nearly its complete runtime, it indulges wild conspiracy theories that he was concerned together 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 accountable for Lam’s loss of life makes no sense and doubtlessly damaging.

However it’s par for the course with Cecil Lodge, a documentary that takes an insane, slam dunk story and someway makes it not simply boring, however borderline offensive by offering a platform to a gaggle of people that actively derailed the case and damage folks.

Cecil Lodge might have been a good, concise thriller. It might have been a warning about on-line communities and the collateral injury they trigger once they assume experience. However it’s none of these items. It is a very lengthy mess of a documentary that disrespects its viewers and the story it is attempting to inform however, worst of all, disrespects the victims.

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