Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel

  • 20 Feb - 26 Feb, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly

Netflix is setting up Crime Scene as an anthology series that examine a particularly notorious location where a crime occurred over the decades. Its first season examines a doozy: The Cecil Hotel, located in downtown Los Angeles, the scene of strange occurrences than could be documented in a four-part series. Director Joe Berlinger decided to focus on one of its most recent notorious cases. The series focuses on the disappearance of Elisa Lam, a college student from Vancouver visiting LA on a solo vacation. Lam, a prolific blogger who used Tumblr like a personal journal, had the police especially flummoxed, as it seemed that she never left the property when she disappeared. But there was no trace of her. Berlinger and his team unpack all of these conspiracy theories, eventually ending up at what feels like the truth about Lam’s death. There’s something uniquely captivating about how this case unfolded, particularly in the way that all of the conspiracy theories arguably obscured the truth and tragedy more than clarified it. There are times when Crime Scene leans too much into that mindset of salacious true crime obsessive, illustrating how many of the conspiracy theories around Elisa were misguided. Berlinger interviews the former manager of the Cecil, who is candid about the history of the location that feels almost like a web in which Lam got stuck.