Coming to Netflix from director Jenny Poppelwell is a documentary to tell the whole story of what tragically happened to one family with AMERICAN MURDER: The Family Next Door.
In 2013, the world learned about the disappearance of a mother and her two small daughters living in Colorado. What starts out as a local matter within days becomes international but there is a story before it all happened.
Shanann and Chris Watts are a married couple living in Frederick, Colorado and likes to share her life and family on social media. Telling of meeting husband Chris and her battle with lupus. Nikki is her best friend and Shanann shares everything with her about marriage and good times together.
After a business meeting away for a few days, Shanann arrives home in the early morning hours. Nikki tries to call and txt her the next morning but does not get a response. As time goes on, Nikki decides to go to Shanann’s house and finds nothing. Calling the police and Chris, everyone is worried, and they finally get inside the house to find – no one.
No Shanann and no children and no signs of break-in or struggle. The police begin to talk with neighbors and time is passing with still no word or clue as to where Shanann and the children have gone.
The days are filled with making flyers, passing them out and the dogs being brought in to the Watts’ home and television interviews. Chris is interviewed as well and that’s when questions about the relationship between he and Shanann come into play.
The FBI is called in and Nikki has more to say about the relationship between her friend and Chris. This documentary goes back weeks and unravels the Watts’ story and where the home life became difficult. Agreeing to a polygraph, it only brings more problems as secrets are revealed.
After four days, the family is told the worst news, but the truth is still far from being told. Social media isn’t far behind with their own opinions which aren’t always so nice in regard to Shannan. With a confession in hand, the police and courts begin the process exposing lies, secrets and the story of a man who did the unthinkable.
When the truth is finally revealed, it is nothing short of pure horror and the family and friends left behind are shattered.
Director Jenny Popplewell takes the entire 122 minutes and dedicates it all to what makes this story riveting and horrifying. A married couple that seem perfectly happy on the outside to everyone with their lovely daughters and successful careers, is unmasked day by day to its tragic conclusion.
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AMERICAN MURDER: The Family Next Door is a tragic look inside the life of a family and the friends who could have never imagined such evil was so close to them. It is a story of a man who kept secrets from his family about how he truly felt about marriage and a family. It is a story about Shanann, a woman who was strong willed, dealing with illness and loving her family.
This is a difficult documentary to watch because no one wants to believe that one human being could be so selfish and destructive. Even when the story is told leading up to the one horrible day, there is no excuse for what happened and no excuse acceptable. What is left are families who live day to day with what the rest of us can walk away from, pain, confusion and never seeing their loved ones again.
As much as we find ourselves hollering for answers and then justice, director Popplewell manages to avoid judgement but instead focuses on the facts and presenting extraordinary details of led up to the tragic event and the continued tragedy after.
In the end – it is an American tragedy of evil!