American Murder: The Family Next Door
Duration: 01 Hr. 22 Min
Director: Jenny Popplewell
Genre: Documentary, True Crime
Release Date: 30th September 2020
Streaming Platform: Netflix
Plot: This documentary follows the horrendous murder of Shanann Watts, a pregnant mother, and her two little girls.
It is when Shannan Watts along with her two young daughters go missing in Colorado; Nickole Atkinson (friend of Shanann Watts) calls the police and hovers around her quiet home trying to figure out what is happening.
Her husband Chris Watts was the first suspect in the case and even as he publicly denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of his family’s whereabouts, he ultimately failed a polygraph and finally confessed to the murders.
Review: Jenny Popplewell’s true-crime documentary “American Murder: The Family Next Door” takes place in the kind of neighbourhood where you can imagine somebody saying, “You don’t expect this sort of thing to happen here.” With the heart-breaking details emerging, the family's story had made headlines all around; therefore the director has let the story unfold at a steady pace that never falls into the true-crime-TV trap - of tension-building cuts, music, and ominous foreshadowing.
'American Murder: The Family Next Door’ could almost be one of these recent screen movies, such as Paranormal Activity, Unfriended, or Searching (where events play out through screens and various media forms) nevertheless, what is happening in this film is very, very real.
This is the first documentary from Jenny Popplewell in eight years and she has done a perfect job with this story! You cannot deny that she is the kind of documentary filmmaker who focuses intensely on the topic.
The opening shot of the film shows that all materials in the film were captured by police, the media, or uploaded to the internet; personal messages and footage were provided by Shannan's family as well. Hence, you feel so close and intimate with its subjects, though it seems surreal due to the amount of footage and access the documentary has a hold of, between television, contributions from authorities, and social media.
As far as the technical aspects of this documentary are concerned, it is so well put-together, that even if you know what is coming, the editing would keep you hooked. However, the documentary keeps everything slightly vague as you still have no concrete idea of why he murdered his family!
Overall, ‘American Murder: The Family Next Door’ is entirely fact-based and perhaps the purest and most direct form for a documentary ever.