American Murder: The Family Next Door: Movie Review

We are huge fans of true crime shows since we were young. May it be “The First 48”, “Deadly Women”, or even “Forensic Files”, we’ve always found these shows intriguing and shocking. “American Murder: The Family Next Door” felt like it takes the genre to another level. The whole experience was astoundingly intimate as it details the private lives and the actual investigation in a very first hand manner. While it certainly lacks the specifics of the investigation, case and proceedings, the broad strokes it provided left us still extremely impacted and satisfied.
It is August 14, 2018 and a friend of Shan'ann Watts has been unable to contact her throughout the whole morning. She gets worried and has called the police to check her house. When they arrive, she and her two daughters are missing. As her husband Chris Watts introduces himself to the authorities, the true and horrific nature of their disappearances will slowly be unearthed and unveiled.
If you’re familiar with the mystery film “Searching” then “American Murder: The Family Next Door” felt familiar. But the biggest difference is that there are no actors here. Everything we see actually happened and the people in the film are not acting but this is how they talked and reacted to the events that transpired. We’ll have to admit though that the very personalized nature of the film, using actual social posts and texts, was very disturbing and off-putting at first. Especially in the context that begs the question, are we even supposed to be looking at their personal messages to family and friends to understand the case? But eventually we adjusted and understood why and it provided a lot of context and heavy emotions by the time the credits rolled. Plus, it also highlights how social media posts can be deceiving - showing a facade that is far from reality. Unfortunately, some may find the content lacking in terms of the actual investigation and trial that proceeded after. The film focuses on the events before the murders and the few days during the family’s disappearance. While it showed how the police was able to masterfully weave through Chris’ lies and psyche, outside from that, the film doesn’t really have anything else to offer outside of its social media content. In the end, “American Murder: The Family Next Door” may skimp on technicalities but it provided a new and interesting way to present true crime that could be the framework for more shows in the future.
Rating: 4 reels

Why you should watch it:
- a very private, intimate, and impactful look into the Watts Family Murders

Why you shouldn't watch it:
- doesn't delve deeper into the investigation and trial of Chris Watts
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