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Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel (2021)

February 27, 2021 Logo Netflix Logo Tmdb Logo IMDb Logo Rotten Tomatoes Logo Metacritic Logo

Netflix’s latest trending true crime documentary is a winding tale of conspiracies, flukes, cover-ups and Los Angeles’ seedy skid row. Set aside a few hours to binge this tale of a missing young girl and a hotel with a notorious reputation – it is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat!

police cars parked outside of a building with a sign that says, Cecil Hotel
Image Courtesy of TMDb

In the winter of 2013, Elise Lam, a university student from British Columbia, Canada, was wrapping up the Los Angeles leg of her first solo travelling adventure when she suddenly disappears. Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel explores the mystery of Lam’s disappearance, the media attention this case garnered and the unusual internet following the investigation attracted.

During this four-part mini-series, filled with re-enactments and interviews with people who were connected with the hotel or Lam, various theories and explanations are floated by the viewer, from solid police leads to wild internet conspiracies. What emerges is a winding tale of strange coincidences that leaves the viewer second guessing what is truth, what is possible and what is urban legend. What makes this whole mysterious disappearance even more unnerving is that is all unfolds under the roof the notorious Cecil Hotel.

An aerial picture of the Cecil Hotel
Image Courtesy of TMDb

Built in the 1920s as a hotel catering to businessmen, this once posh establishment had fallen on hard time through the 1930s, never regaining its once respectable reputation. Switching management and ownership over the decades, The Cecil Hotel became known for cheap long term room rentals and hallways full of illegal activity. It also became known for the multiple deaths that occurred within its walls.

By 2013, a block of floors had been renovated and marketed as a youth hostile, still offering inexpensive rooms but to a younger and trendy traveller, instead. This is what drew Elise Lam to the infamous hotel, where she would ultimately meet her end.

A bank of security monitors that show a variety of images of hotel hallways
Image Courtesy of TMDb

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel goes down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories and gets tangled up in the odious reputation of an ancient building but in the end the story comes back to a missing girl and the family who deserves answers. At times a bit drawn out, and at other times tense and spooky, this take on the mystery of Elise Lam is intriguing and compelling. If you are a true crime buff, this docu-series is definitely worth the watch.

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