What happened to Elisa Lam? As Berlinger captures in “Crime Scene,” this was a question that obsessed true crime fans around the world, who analyzed these camera footage more than the movie Zapruder. Did it seem to someone else that there might be a foot in the hall, indicating another person? Why did the doors not close? What’s up with the weird time stamp that suggests possible hotel manipulation? Are they covering something? Is it possible that the haunting rumors of the Hotel Cecil are true? Or did Lam meet the wrong person that night, which had happened to a number of people over the years in a place with a history of violence?
Berlinger and his team unbox all of these conspiracy theories, ultimately leading to what appears to be the truth about Lam’s death, but they are more curious as to how Cecil’s story and the release of the security video amplified the conversation around this case. Elisa Lam disappears into a Marriott elsewhere in the country and there is no really haunting camera footage? It’s a tragedy, but not the one that gets a four-hour Netflix series. There is something particularly captivating about the way this case unfolded, especially how all the conspiracy theories arguably obscured the truth and the tragedy more than they clarified it. There are cases of Internet sleuths assisting with investigations, but there are also cases of real crime freaks taking their ideas out in the den of message boards. It seems to be one of the latter, making “Crime Scene” an interesting story not of a crime itself, but of all the issues surrounding it.
There are times when “Crime Scene” relies too much on this real salacious crime-obsessed mindset, but I believe it’s for the greater good in the end, illustrating how many conspiracy theories are around. of Elisa Lam were wrong at best. The Cecil Hotel is a crime monument, a place Elizabeth Short (The Black Dahlia) may have been shortly before her assassination and a place where Richard Ramirez (The Night Stalker) is confirmed to have stayed. Berlinger quizzes the former manager of Cecil, who is frank about the history of the place that almost looks like a web that Lam got stuck in, and Berlinger even places it in the context of the city, noting its proximity to the famous Skid Row.