Review: American Murder: The Family Next Door

 It's all there.

This documentary on Netflix follows the 2018 disappearance of Shanann Watts and her two young daughters in Colorado, USA. Constructed almost exclusively by social media posts and police footage, we get first hand knowledge of the investigations and the lives of everyone involved.

After seeing Asshole's Watching Movies review this, I knew I was going to check it out. True crime docs are something I've always found intriguing and lately I've been watching and listening to these type of cases while I work. Shanann's name rang a bell, but I didn't recall the case specifically.

Since I didn't research anything prior all of this was new to me. I really liked the structure of this documentary. Re-enactments are were docs can lose me and I'm glad this film didn't use them. Instead, nearly everything is crafted together by social media posts. Shanann posted a lot of content online and text messages she sent flash across the screen rather than us watching two actors play these out. I prefer this so much. There's also a ton of footage from the police themselves. The interrogation videos, and plenty of body cam footage when they made the initial house call. Yes, shockingly they had their body cams on. Gee I wonder why that was? 

This doc is basically the Sparks Notes version of the case, which is fine. It features quite possibly the dumbest murderer of all time and my biggest gripe is that they didn't push this moron to explain further because I really wanted to know how he thought any of this was going to work. This isn't going to be winning any Best Documentary prizes, but for a film under 90 minutes on Netflix, it's worth the watch.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-


  1. I don't know if I'm going to see this as I'm not sure if I want to watch any murder mysteries right now given the fact that we're living in dark times. Plus, I'm still fucked up by some of the shit I saw on Dark Side of the Ring.

    1. Dark Side of the Ring is so fascinating. I don't have Hulu at the moment so I'm grateful that most of the episodes are on youtube.

  2. I think if you know nothing about the case, it's really good. I had pretty much seen all the footage used in other reports/videos but I did appreciate the time line leading up to the murders. The dude was such an idiot. Her friend and neighbor are the real heroes of the story!

    1. Oh I know. Just get a divorce, dude. Problem solved lol

  3. This dude was so stupid. Like, you plan a damn murder, you have set your mind do it.. and then you make it so obvious. The crime is horrific of course but I'm sort of immune to the horrors of the real world by now so I expected more. Apparently he sent letters to a lady who is going to publish them as a book (money grab) and he described the killings. I do wish the documentary went a bit darker in that sense. Maybe I'm just fcked up that way. :D

    1. It's almost impossible to think about anything BUT how dumb this guy was. That's where the documentary slightly fails, IMO. You don't really leave this with his victims in mind first, it's him and how a divorce would've spared their lives. smdh.


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