Aired on Netflix in September 2020, American Murder: The Family Next Door is a true-crime documentary directed by Jenny Popplewell. The film tells the story of the 2018 Watts family murders, which took place in Frederick, Colorado. It uses archival footage including social media posts, law enforcement recordings, text messages and home video footage to depict the events that occurred.
Piecing together home videos, social media posts, text message conversations and interrogation room video, American Murder: The Family Next Door is a real-life found-footage horror.
The way it’s formatted makes it a gripping watch. With only firsthand footage, the story is told exactly how it happened, without opinions or other points of view that may be unreliable or bias.
It highlights how social media can produce a deceiving window into somebody’s life about their happiness and wellbeing, but also how our daily posts, location tags, and photos can build up as evidence, working as a visual diary of somebody’s life.
It doesn’t feel right to say that it’s an enjoyable documentary because it’s an absolutely awful crime. But what speaks loudest is the actions of the person responsible (I won’t spoil for those who have seen!). It’s the reality of how somebody you trust can do something so vile that unnerves the most, and the truth is hard to take.
Directed by a female, the documentary ends with an important message about domestic violence. The statistics are shocking so I think it was vital for these to be included.