American Murder: The Family Next Door – Netflix Documentary Review


A Shocking Family Tragedy

Back on August 13th 2018, 38 year old Shanann Watts and her two youngest daughters disappeared in Colorado. As the true horrors of what took place that day are revealed, this perfect family fa├žade is shattered forever.

Stitched together solely with archival footage from the time, American Murder: The Family Next Door is undoubtedly a haunting and emotionally stirring story.

Much like the documentary on YouTube, American Murder shatters the illusions of this perfect family set-up very early on. Text messages highlight an estranged relationship while Shanann’s obvious addition to social media causes rifts to grow in her marriage to husband Chris.

As the truth is revealed, Chris is not the loving husband he appears to be. If you’re unaware of the case, I won’t spoil what happens next but suffice to say it’s pretty shocking.

Instead of talking head segments and experts weighing in on their opinion however, this documentary leaves it up to the viewers to judge exactly what’s happening and why. This results in a lot of questions being raised at the end and a slightly underwhelming experience – especially compared to the feature-length doc on YouTube.

Almost all of this documentary combines establishing shots of areas with overlapping text messages or police footage to paint a portrait of the story. Much like the Madeline McCann series on Netflix last year, this simply retreads familiar ground without really diving into more details or offering up extra clues.

With the exception of a few text messages, there really isn’t a whole lot here that hasn’t been shown already in other mediums. This isn’t a bad documentary though and if you aren’t aware of what happened then it’s definitely worth watching.

For everyone else though, Netflix’s effort doesn’t offer anything substantially different to what’s already out there on the topic.

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  • Verdict - 7/10

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