Netflix’s Crime Scene: Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel Docuseries is Soured by Shameless Plugging

Alice Oscura, Featured Writer

Plot: The mysterious circumstances that surround the death of Canadian student Elisa Lam are explored in this four-part docu-series.

Review: This one was a bit of a strange watch for me. Stretching across a span of four episodes we are taken on a journey of the many hypotheses and conspiracy theories surrounding the mysterious death of Elisa Lam. The interest shown in this case was only fueled by the internet’s reaction to the infamous elevator video that was released by the police online to seek the public’s assistance in the search for her.

The story of Elisa Lam turns out to be an extremely tragic tale of a young woman with a bright and promising future who yearned for something more out of life. Lam’s Tumblr account “Nouvelle-Nouveau”, which is still active, was highlighted a lot during the series because it was able to offer relevant clues during the investigation in 2013. The focus seemed to be pointed towards her state of mind during her trip to Los Angeles and leading up to the moment of her disappearance.

What disturbed me a bit with this series is the massive amount of shameful plugging done by the hotel’s former manager Amy Price. She became the manager in 2007 and stayed until 2017 when the hotel was sold to someone else. While I had to admit that she faced many, many challenges during her tenure, the thing that bugged me the most was the denial of negligence on the part of the hotel in Elisa Lam’s case. You can sort of pick sense from nonsense and read between the lines during these interviews, enough to see that the hotel management wanted to distance themselves from the negativity that will be dredged up by revisiting the case again. Price’s interviews seemed very coordinated and lacking compassion for the incident. In my opinion, she was given way too much time to speak about the work and changes that she was able to implement during her tenure as the hotel manager. It was so unnecessary and the commercialising upon such tragic circumstances was in poor taste.

As the series delves deeper into Lam’s disappearance and we have reached the timeline to where her body is about to be discovered, you are going to get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach folks! At this point it has now been 19 days since Lam’s disappearance and the hotel residents begin to complain of fowl, discoloured water emanating from their pipes whilst there are also complaints of terrible water pressure. Now you know where this is going. Yuck! Sorry but it grossed me out to no end. I mean I got nauseous peeps! The residents of the hotel had been bathing, washing, and drinking the water that poor Elisa Lam’s body had been floating in for almost three weeks! To hear them describe it was totally disturbing and is going to make your skin crawl.

After Lam’s body is discovered the online community began to wait with bated breath for the release of the autopsy results. It was quite a long wait, and most were disappointed that her death was ruled accidental due to bipolar disorder. Lam was diagnosed with a quite severe form of bipolar disorder and depression. She was on four different kinds of prescription medication at the time and what was also very glaring was the fact that in the toxicology report it was discovered that she was under-medicating herself. Her family revealed that she had a history of not wanting to take her meds which reveals so much more about Lam’s personality to the viewers. Out heart breaks to realise that she personally struggled with wanting to be a normal person. She is quoted as saying that she knew she didn’t belong in a job where you got stuck behind a desk as she wanted one that would let her travel endlessly.

But somehow the internet community still suspected foul play from everyone including the hotel staff, the coroner, and the LAPD themselves. There are some particularly wild conspiracy theories explored in the series including that a Mexican death metal singer named Pablo Vergara murdered Elisa Lam. That guy’s life was literally destroyed by wild online accusations that caused all his social media accounts to get banned. But weirder still was their comparison to the movie Dark Water that was released in 2005. Talk about grasping at straws!

At the end of the series, I have come away with the following—Elisa Lam died tragically due to her mental disorder, but what makes her so relatable even to this day is the fact that she struggled to be normal despite her illness. Many of us live a state of denial because we don’t want to be ridiculed or judged for being diagnosed with a mental illness. But it is better to face it head on and try to constantly work on ourselves, hopefully with the support of our loved ones. Elisa Lam’s death remains an unnecessary tragedy that still seems to be shrouded in mystery.

Dark Alice’s Score: 6.5 out of 10

For my review of true crime documentary Night Stalker you can click here. And for more on the history of the Cecil Hotel you can check out my review of Ghost Adventures Cecil Hotel 2-hour special here.

39AFB96D-4DEF-4DED-8DFE-3400E758CE9B Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump. I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. You can find me as Dark Alice Reviews on Facebook, my Instagram is alice_oscura and my Twitter handle is @lise_veliz2. For more on me you can click here.