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Tragic 1 Star

Michael Perry
Jason Burkett .
Werner Herzog.
Running Time
107 minutes

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Into The Abyss
Law And Order, Herzog style

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Herzog travels to Death Row in Conroe, Texas, to examine a triple homicide case and asks the big questions: not only why do people kill, but why the State feels compelled to do the same in response. He talks to people on both sides of the bloody equation, the incarcerated perpetrators, the families and friends of the victims as well as those who choose to work within a system created to kill.

Into The Abyss
Werner Herzog isn't afraid to step into the darkness. For his latest project he examines a ten year-old murder case in rural Texas where three people, Sandra Stotler, her son Adam and his friend, Jeremy Richardson, lost their lives to Michael Perry and Jason Burkett for the sake of a red Camaro sports car. And while the Death Row theme might feel overly familiar to fans of late-night satellite TV, Herzog brings a new clarity to these visions; he brings life.

Initially, the reels of police video seem all too recognisable, especially with the wall of mournful strings that Herzog layers across the images. The blood-splatters in a stranger’s house are equally familiar, no matter their violent story, but it’s when Herzog steps away from the graphic horror to examine the communities on both sides of this blunt terror that the truth comes out.

Especially fascinating is the prison chaplain, framed with the anonymous graves of the Death Row prisoners — no names, just the numbers from their uniforms and wooden crosses — as he talks about gently holding their ankles as the lethal injection courses through their veins. He’s the first person you see weeping on camera, but not the last. Jason Burkett’s father has spent a lifetime incarcerated; his testimony at his son’s hearing might just have saved that young man’s life, as he’s interviewed among a lattice of steel bars recounting the time that he, Jason and his other son were all serving time in the same prison, eating a Thanksgiving dinner together, his features knit together with sadness and shame.

Violent crime almost seems like an afterthought in the communities that spawned these men; death doesn’t so much lurk in the shadows as just sit and await the inevitable. The killers are stilled behind glass, either in grim acceptance or complete self-denial. Herzog ultimately visits the object of desire that lead to this needless bloodshed; the red Camaro impounded in a police yard. Impassive and still, the roots of a tree pinning it to the earth, unremittingly bleak but with a charge of life all its own, much like Herzog’s film.

A haunting portrayal of people who are neither completely innocent nor wholly evil, and the terrible price of killing, whether in the pursuit of a sports car or in the name of justice.

Reviewed by Philip Wilding

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Average user rating for Into The Abyss
Empire Star Rating

RE: Don’t stare.

I saw this a couple of weeks back and I agree I found it pretty good...I can't recall the kids name but if you Google it he posted a long blog and it's interesting reading, he's picking loads of holes in the case, and to read it you almost think this kid has a case of misjustice, but come the film he barely brings any of this up!! Also how a court can spare the life of his co accused from the death sentence after his convicted Father pleads his case is anyone's guess This really does ... More

Posted by spides at 06:29, 17 April 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Don’t stare.

A deeply moving documentary based around the events of a terrible crime, death row and capital punishment itself which again displays Herzog as a master of tackling big universal themes by focusing on a small personal story. Unlike a number of his previous documentaries, his choice to refrain from using his own narration and allow both the interviewees and the images to speak for themselves is a wise one, as it ensures objectivity dominates rather than his own agreeable yet ultimately subjectiv... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 16:41, 02 April 2012 | Report This Post

Don’t stare.

We’ve been taught to see the well-spoken, smiling man on death row as our beat upon, down-trodden hero, and after opening with this tried and tested device, Herzog yanks us back to the crime scene and the hero’s utterly depraved and senseless brutality. So far, so new, fresh and daring; but then, twenty minutes into what could have been an incredible film, he starts meandering through the wider story, of one of the killer’s incarcerated father, whose regret and life-saving courtroom plea p... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by thebackseatdirector at 17:13, 31 March 2012 | Report This Post

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