Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel

This is the second time that Elisa Lam’s name has come up on this site. The first was when we reviewed Hunter, a hilariously inept 2015 action movie with conspicuously overdubbed sax playing and a protagonist with a protruding gut, but which referenced Lam’s horrifying death at the Cecil Hotel.

Now, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel is a project that’s just as flabby, four episodes of true crime click-bait that could’ve been halved.

Why bring up a budget conscious pant-load of a film like Hunter in the context of a Netflix Lam doc? Well, surprisingly, the third-tier actioner actually wasn’t cited by any “web sleuth” in the doc, a collection of people for whom Occam’s razor is an afterthought, who are given a loose leash to spin all kinds of inane conjectures about the UBC student’s tragic demise. Had the web speculators done a little digging, they could’ve found our Hunter review. After all, the film is called HUNTER. Coincidence, tinfoil hat wearers???

If you think this line of thinking isn’t thinking, you’d be right. In Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, however, a bunch of self-styled online detectives make a “suspect’s” life a living hell, all for the sin of being a death metal musician and staying a few nights at the Cecil around the time of Lam’s death and writing dark music.

They even speculate about the mysterious origins of a nearly four decades-old bio diagnostic assay, because, after all, it’s called ELISA too. Good lord, people.

The folks also make all sorts of other audacious guesses about possible perps, absent any evidence, with reference to, yes, a horror film that shares a similar plotline. They even accuse LAPD of tampering with surveillance footage from the elevator. Why? How’d they come by this bit of insider info, short of pulling it out of their posteriors? Damned if we know.

Crime Scene is dominated by such folks. And a documentary film, by the very nature of its structure, lends heightened credence to opinions of those with disproportionate screen time.

A tighter, better production could’ve included: the Cecil’s manager, an investigating officer, and a psychologist to talk about Lam’s mental state.

That’s enough.

Certainly not a litany of runtime-extending Lam-obsessed creepers, one of whom even has the temerity to get footage of her Vancouver-area gravesite  for an extra dramatic boost.

Pretty tacky stuff. And a shame, given the lengths with which the filmmakers went to track down some of the case’s most important figures.

** (out of 5)

A new book for fans of cult action cinema

Everyone knows the “needs no introduction” action heroes, most of whom can be announced through their surnames alone: Norris, Van Damme, Seagal. But there are a wealth of others that deserve their due as well, even if they’re not (but should be) household names.

That’s where Mine’s Bigger Than Yours! The Wackiest Action Movies comes in, a sprawling action movie genre-hopping book that puts Reb Brown, Brian Bosworth, Vic Diaz, Howie Long, Matt Hannon, YK Kim and Michael Dudikoff up on the marquee so they can shine alongside the likes of global megastars like Schwarzenegger and Stallone.

The new book is a romp through the world of fisticuffs, jailbreaks, pit fighting, mercenaries, and really big explosions—all the stuff that makes action movies great.

This is a fun one for fans of action cinema. But don’t take it from us: the reviews are in!

“If you’re an action movie fan, a B-movie fan, a movie book fan, and or a fan of damn good and fascinating movie criticism, you should make an effort to track down, own, and read.”
411 Mania

“A must-read for action fans, clearly written with love for the genre.”
The Action Elite
“Interesting and hilarious…horrible action flicks that have flown under the radar.”
3rd Strike
The book, complete with a foreword by Ozploitation / Aussie action legend Brian Trenchard-Smith, is divided into chapters such as Dystopian Hell, Kick Ass Women, Revenge, The Long Arm of the Law and Stupor Heroes. There’s a little something for everyone.
Pick one up, and help support this site but also new episodes of the genre cinema celebration, the Really Awful Movies Podcast.
And horror fans, Death By Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons is our acclaimed first collaboration, what Scream called “Really entertaining and often amusing…like a greatest hits album with just the good kills…”