Into the Abyss (2011)
Directed by Werner Herzog
This 2011 documentary is the work of Oscar nominated director Werner Herzog. His other films include documentaries like Encounters at the End of the World and films like Rescue Dawn. Herzog is a student of cinema and history who has been producing movies for over 40 years. This time he took on the story of Michael Perry and Jason Burkett, two young men convicted in the brutal killings of Sandra Stotler and two young men.
Herzog is a wonderful documentary film maker. Throughout this film he is never seen on camera and allows the people to tell their stories with little interruption. The interviews with Perry were done in the weeks leading up to his execution, the last taking place only eight days before his scheduled death. Jason Burkett also told his story from prison where he’s serving a life sentence for his role in the crimes.
The film doesn’t just focus on the offenders. The victims, the investigating authorities, and the families of the convicted were also given a chance to share their stories. It’s especially powerful to hear the wife of Burkett talk about the relationship she has with the convicted killer. All of this allows for a film that doesn’t seem to take sides or focus on any one aspect of the horrible crime and the circumstances that surround it.
As a whole this film serves as a conversation starter on the subject of killing. Not only the death penalty, but also the reasons behind the killing of Sandra Stotler and two other people. As Perry proclaims his innocence, the film also reveals convincing evidence of his guilt. The end result is a powerful examination of a very sensitive subject.
I think this film might be the best I’ve ever seen on the subject of the capital punishment. If you’re a fan of documentaries or interested in the subject this film should be a great watch for you. Like I said earlier, this film does better than most to avoid taking sides. I give this film 4.2 out of 5 stars.