In ‘Crime Scene,’ Joe Berlinger Investigates True-Crime Obsession
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In ‘Crime Scene,’ Joe Berlinger Investigates True-Crime Obsession

It is not difficult to summon a dark aura around the hotel, and many media accounts have done so.

In a recent phone interview from 2007 to 2017, Hotel General Manager Amy Price said, “It really showed as a dark place, with Richard Ramirez being there and of course Alyssa Lam.” She also appears in the series. “But I thought about how they presented everything authentic and very correctly.”

For all that happens at Cecil, there will be no documentary without Lam’s disappearance, and perhaps there is little interest in the hotel today. The web investigator, none of whom has met him, expresses his love and affection for her. He and the series stare at the elevator video as if it were a dead sea scroll. We see this again and again, when Lam punches a row of lift buttons and throws himself into a corner of the elevator, then walks out and makes some strange hand gestures. Surely this would mean everything.

Or maybe not. And here is where you either stop reading (assuming you haven’t already googled the case) or don’t — continue to the very-mysterious conclusion. Finally, yes, Cecil was a crime scene. Finished many times. But there seems to be nothing criminal about the Lam case, which according to investigators, was a tragic accident.

Asked how he assimilates his more high ideals with a true-crime style imperative for entertainment, Berlinger calls attention to the fact that “Cecil” tackles topics that include cyberbullying, the homeless, and mental illness. Originals go beyond zombies. But he also knows that the true-criminal audience is tuning in for more lurid details, and sometimes that gives him pause.

“I ask myself, if, God forbid, something happened to me or my family, would I want someone to tell that story?” He said that in a follow-up email. “If I am being completely honest, I would only like that if telling that story was a greater purpose than just ‘entertainment’.”



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