‘Cecil Hotel’ captivates with horror and edge

Netflix’s new series recounts the eeriest details of the Elisa Lam case

Anna Malesiewski, Assistant Editor

“Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” is a docuseries that recounts the disappearance of Elisa Lam and the eeriness of the infamous Cecil Hotel. This series is intriguing and kept me so engaged that I watched all four episodes in one sitting.
The series elaborated on the infatuation that people had with the case after Lam’s death in 2013. Following the case and the aftermath, the series presents a chain of events that reeled me in and kept me questioning with each plot twist and turn.
It depicts downtown Los Angeles and the environment surrounding the Cecil Hotel. Immersed in the epicenter of homelessness and drug use, the docuseries presented an ominous yet intriguing backdrop.
While the series starts out with the history of the hotel, it quickly shifts gears and tells the story of Canadian traveler Elisa Lam. She disappeared in the Cecil Hotel, and her case became popular in the media. Video footage of her behaving abnormally in an elevator went viral, and she was found dead in a water tank weeks later.
The series presents the viewer with numerous pressing questions, but these questions are too outlandish and lead the viewer on. For example, almost the entire third episode made it seem like the Elisa Lam case was a government scandal, but that was not the case at all. While this subplot was interesting, I wish the series would have focused more on the actual events, and less on a conspiracy theory that was barely relevant.
However, I did enjoy that the series focused not only on the case itself, but all of the complications surrounding it. This answered some of the questions that would have been in my mind after I finished the series if they were not addressed. The viewer learns what happened to the Cecil Hotel as a result of the Elisa Lam case, what happened to the targets of internet conspiracy theories and what happened to the downtown Los Angeles area during and following the case.
The most prominent shortcoming of the series was the detachment that the viewer felt from Elisa Lam, the victim herself. No interviews were conducted with people who actually knew her, and while the creators were able to draw some sympathy from her fate, it would have been more moving if we were able to get to know Elisa more. Her parents were only seen in the series twice, and there were very few shots of Elisa Lam herself. Most of the shots were of an actor meant to portray Lam.
I really appreciated the connection to mental health at the very end of the series. The docuseries reels viewers in with a spooky plotline and finishes as a tragedy. The movie depicts the story of Elisa Lam as completely avoidable and illustrates that it is imperative that those in mental health crises receive the help and care they need. I was saddened at the realization that Lam needed help, and no one ever gave it to her.
Overall, “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” was riveting and meaningful. Aside from minor instances where the plot was roundabout and misleading, the storyline was captivating. The series was able to be wildly entertaining, while also bringing awareness to an important message.



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