TV Show Review – Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel (2021)

JulieGApril 8, 202112 min

The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel

IMDb Rating: 5.9

TV-MA | 3h 39min | Documentary, Crime | TV Series

CinemaScore Rating: N/A

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 52% Rotten (Critics), 26% Rotten (Audience)



Stars: Tim Marcia, Amy Price, Josh Dean

Movie Tagline:

IMDb summary: College student and tourist Elisa Lam vanishes, leaving behind all of her possessions in her hotel room. The Cecil Hotel grows in infamy.



Originally reviewed by Julie for Keithlovesmovies.

Crime Scene: Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel offers a comprehensive and speculative look into the events surrounding Elisa Lam’s disappearance at the infamous Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles.

The video clip of missing student Elisa Lam was leaked online years ago. Many people watched it at the time, but nobody could figure out exactly what they were seeing. It was weird, which only led to more and more interest in her disappearance. In the video, it looked like she was lost, almost disorientated, acting very strangely. Following the announcement that there would be a documentary releasing on Netflix about the investigation into her disappearance, it was easy to become intrigued.

It’s this same intrigue and driving motivation to know what happened to Elisa that created a flurry of online activity around her disappearance. Everyone was jumping on the viral “bandwagon” in the hope of uncovering what happened on that fateful day in February of 2013. This documentary engages people and parties from every connection to the Elisa Lam investigation, including the law enforcement officers that worked on her case, to the internet “sleuths” that chimed in on the investigation and the processes behind it.

The only party involved in the case that didn’t have anything to say about Elisa’s disappearance was Elisa’s family. In fact, her family are shown only once during the documentary when the official police announcement of the investigation was made at the Cecil Hotel. That was a little unsettling. It’s understandable that perhaps her family requested to be out of the public eye. Nobody would blame them for wanting to be removed from the media frenzy. But many people were feeding off this crazy energy surrounding the case. Some of these people are the primary focus of this documentary.

The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel

Crime Scene: Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel clarifies one thing: nobody can confirm exactly what happened to Elisa during those last moments of her life. The detectives on the case did their best to follow the leads. And seeing events unfolding from their perspective is one of the highlights of this documentary. It’s not as compelling to listen to self-professed internet sleuths discuss their interest in the case and their theories about what happened. Most of it is speculation at best. And some of these sleuths were so involved in finding out what happened to Elisa they filmed themselves visiting the Cecil hotel. They followed Elisa’s last steps through the hotel to the roof where she was found. This all seemed a little gimmicky, disrespectful and in poor taste.

This same group of people also scrutinised innocent parties; YouTubers, bloggers, and every manner of social media influencer had fingers to point with no facts to refer to. A black metal YouTuber named Pablo Vergara was targeted by this group. He explains how he was blamed for Elisa Lam’s disappearance simply because of his taste in music and his interest in the occult and death. This is an interesting aspect of the documentary as it reveals that Elisa was not the only victim in this shocking series of events.

Crime Scene: Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel is constructed so that almost every possible angle is covered, including interviews with the Cecil hotel manager at the time. It’s very comprehensive, but ultimately, nothing is confirmed regarding Elisa Lam’s last moments. You are left feeling that this woman’s death became more of a spectacle than an investigation into her disappearance. And while the police involvement was critical, they were left with very little evidence outside of the Cecil Hotel’s video clip. The Los Angeles coroner’s office stated that Elisa’s death was an accidental drowning. For some, that was enough to end their obsession with her disappearance, but many questions remain unanswered for others.

You be the judge.

Check out the trailer for Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel on YouTube:


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