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Into The Abyss (2011)



Average Rating: 7.7/10
Reviews Counted: 102
Fresh: 93 | Rotten: 9

Another probing, insightful look at an interesting subject, Werner Herzog explores the American prison system with passion and not politics.


Average Rating: 7.6/10
Critic Reviews: 29
Fresh: 25 | Rotten: 4

Another probing, insightful look at an interesting subject, Werner Herzog explores the American prison system with passion and not politics.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 7,787

My Rating

Movie Info

In his fascinating exploration of a triple homicide case in Conroe, Texas, master filmmaker Werner Herzog probes the human psyche to explore why people kill-and why a state kills. In intimate conversations with those involved, including 28-year-old death row inmate Michael Perry (scheduled to die within eight days of appearing on-screen), Herzog achieves what he describes as "a gaze into the abyss of the human soul." Herzog's inquiries also extend to the families of the victims and perpetrators


Documentary, Special Interest

Werner Herzog

Apr 10, 2012


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All Critics (105) | Top Critics (29) | Fresh (93) | Rotten (9) | DVD (4)

The result is gripping, moving and revelatory, an unabashed if implicit critique of the death penalty.

March 27, 2012 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Herzog is pursuing no agenda with Into the Abyss, despite his opposition to extreme judicial measures. He's seeking to answer the question of why people kill, especially in a situation such as this where the reason for the murders was so meaningless.

December 9, 2011 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Into the Abyss does what too few documentaries these days do - it gives ample play to all sides of the argument. Herzog allows us to think things through on our own.

December 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The overriding point of Into the Abyss, what keeps this sad, sorrowful film from becoming depressing and elevates it far above the usual chatter of liberal-conservative debate, is that there can be light on the other end of even the darkest of tunnels.

November 30, 2011 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

"Into the Abyss" makes a strong case for the inhumanity of capital punishment, regardless of the crime or the criminal.

November 23, 2011 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Herzog's investigation may not work as an anti-death-penalty editorial, but its findings are undeniably profound.

November 18, 2011 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The star filmmaker, oft mocked for verging on self-parody, keeps his Teutonic explorer persona in check and allows his subjects' emotional outpourings-sadness, shame, dread, and desperation, and unexpected glimmers of hope and happiness-to set the tone.

July 1, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Comment Magazine
Film Comment Magazine

A smart documentary that takes sides in the death penalty debate but never shies away from the horrendous crimes at the center of the story.

June 30, 2013 Full Review Source: Big Hollywood
Big Hollywood

A virtuoso work, unparalleled in Herzog's career. And it'll just break your heart.

June 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Deadspin

Questions if the state has the right to murder.

January 27, 2013 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Herzog is empathetic and non-judgmental, even as his interview subjects try to rationalize their lives, declare their innocence and the like.

December 28, 2012 Full Review Source: McClatchy-Tribune News Service
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

This is humane, fascinating documentary filmmaking that is willing to confront insurmountable issues. And as is the case with most true crime material: truth is stranger than fiction.

September 27, 2012 Full Review Source: The Aristocrat
The Aristocrat

It is also a devastating portrait of the culture of crime, drug and alcohol abuse, and broken families ...

May 19, 2012 Full Review Source:

Herzog's engrossing examination of a real life triple murder demonstrates that evil doesn't reside only on death row.

April 9, 2012 Full Review Source: KC Active
KC Active

It is a film full of despair, but it's also compelling, and Herzog's interview with a death-row groupie towards the end of the film provides a horribly grim punchline.

April 1, 2012 Full Review Source: Scotsman

Werner Herzog's documentary about a triple murder in Texas is a compelling reflection on capital punishment.

March 31, 2012 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

The honesty of the flesh, the absurdity of the sacred, the enduring equivalence of meaninglessness that all men share. Into the Abyss: a Tale of Death, a Tale of Life finds its foothold here.

March 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Electric Sheep
Electric Sheep

The film trawls the bottomless depth of hopeless criminals as much as it examines the "correctional" system.

March 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Sun Online
Sun Online


March 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Daily Mirror [UK]
Daily Mirror [UK]

A powerful, poignant film.

March 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Daily Express
Daily Express

[Forces] viewers to face complex questions about society, justice and the sanctity of life.

March 29, 2012 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

It's a decent film, though I felt that a clearer, sharper light could have been cast on the defendants themselves.

March 29, 2012 Full Review Source: Guardian

The extensive use of lurid crime scene videos and subtitles set in a naff typewriter font sit uneasily with the director's opposition to capital punishment.

March 29, 2012 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph | Comments (4)
Daily Telegraph

When Tolstoy said all unhappy families are unhappy in their own ways, perhaps he was thinking of Texas. But even he reckoned without the rich, extraordinary complexities of unhappiness chronicled in Herzog's film.

March 29, 2012 Full Review Source: Financial Times
Financial Times

Moving and thought-provoking in equal measure. A Herzog doc of the highest order.

March 29, 2012 Full Review Source: Little White Lies
Little White Lies

Offers a convincing and depressing critique of capital punishment in the US while somehow managing to find a glimmer of hope in what Herzog calls the urgency of life.

March 28, 2012 Full Review Source: ViewLondon

Audience Reviews for Into The Abyss

This is a unique documentary and it is one that takes a look at a death row inmate and the story behind his crime. Into the Abyss is a solid film, but one that is hard to watch, and is the type of film that you only need to see once. Due to its subject matter, it's not one worth watching again. This is a powerful in your documentary. Werner Hezrog narrates and interviews the subjects, each tell their story and Hezrog interviews the victim's family and other people that are part of the case. The film is disturbing and is a truly one of a kind. This is a well crafted documentary and one worth seeing, but it is not for everyone. The subject Michael Perry is clearly a psycho and he claims his innocence, even if the DNA evidence says otherwise. Although interesting, I won't rewatch this, and it is quite hard times to watch, especial when you hear the victim's story. The film gives us an in depth look at Death row, and it's an unforgettable film that is sure to stay with you long after you see it. This is a brilliant movie that is sure to entertain documentary lovers. The subject is intense, but quite captivating, and Hezrog does not portray Perry as a victim, if you look closely, you can clearly see that Perry is deranged, and thinks he did no wrong. Well, Hezrog definitely proves that he's a murderer who has no empathy or sympathy for the victims. His last words were even I forgive you for the wrong that you committed to me, as if the victims haven't suffered enough. Hezrog shows Perry exactly as he is a murderer with no conscience. Into the Abyss is unforgettable documentary filmmaking at its very best.
May 30, 2013
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

Fred Allen: Hold still and watch the birds. Once you get up into your life like that, and once you feel good about your life, you do start watching what the birds do. What the doves are doing. The hummingbirds. My, there's so many of them. 

"A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life"

Into the Abyss is another remarkable documentary from one of films greatest ever, Werner Herzog. It's crazy how he can inject beauty into everything he touches. Now with Into the Abyss, the beauty isn't overpowering, as the story doesn't really call for it, but it's still there. It's in the questions that Herzog asks, it's in the statements members of the deceased families makes; it's there. 

This documentary follows a triple murder and the two men charged with the crime. One of which was put to death, the other was sentenced to life in prison. Both men claim they had no involvement in the murder. Herzog isn't trying to make a case that either of the men is guilty or innocent. He's not tying to make a case for the abolition of the death penalty. He states that he doesn't believe human beings should be executed, but he enters the story with no bias at all in his presentation of everything. This is something that very few documentaries made on controversial subjects are able to do. Most of the time, the filmmakers bias will enter into the story. Herzog's does not and that's his genius.

Interviews include a clergy member who goes to see men who are about to be put to death, a sister and daughter of two of the victims, a brother of the other victim, the father of one of the man who was sentenced for life, a man who worked at the place where death row inmates take their final breath, and the wife of the man who was sentenced to life. Each and every interview has extreme power because what is spoken is spoken from the heart. Herzog is spot on with the questions he asks too. He always knows where to take an interview and he does so here with precise perfection.

Into the Abyss is a great documentary and just proves once again why Herzog is a legend. It's sad to watch the families talk about it all, but once again Herzog does find the beauty in it. The film can be hard to watch at times because of the subject material and all of the facts that are brought out, but it is a film that deserves to be watched. 
February 19, 2013
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

Master filmmaker Werner Herzog does it again. This time, he investigates a triple homicide case that took place in 2001 in Conroe, Texas. Along the way, he delves into why people kill, and why states enact the death penalty. Despite clearly stating his opinion on the subject, Herzog comes to this documentary with no agenda, and lets viewers ultimately decide for themselves what is right or wrong.

Incorporating police footage, interviews with family of the victims, law men, clergy men, the perpetrators, and others, this is a tremendously gripping and fascinating piece of work. It can be quite hard to watch at times, but it is so compelling that you can't help but watch. And, despite a few light hearted and quirky moments, this definitely ranks as one of Herzog's most depressing and unsettling films.

It could have been so easy for him to get on a soap box and preach for a while, but Herzog takes the smart route and just tells a story, leaving the tough stuff up to the viewer, which, with a touchy subject like capital punishment, is the best way to go. Highly recommended.
November 13, 2012
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

This is more of a documentary then it is a movie, about 2 men who are involved in a triple homicide in Texas. This is a true to fact movie. Interviews are held with the men convicted of the crime. Very interesting to say the least. 3 stars 6-14-12
September 19, 2012
Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer

    1. Werner Herzog: Wow. I never realized the extent of capital punishment till I saw this. Who won in this? It seems to me, there was no win. Just a lot of losses. The state of Texas is no different from taking a life than Micheal Perry. Again... Wow.
    – Submitted by Barbara M (23 months ago)
    1. Michael Perry: I tell people all the time, I'm either going home, or home.
    – Submitted by Chris P (2 years ago)
    1. Jason Burkett: I want fifty children.
    – Submitted by Chris P (2 years ago)
View all quotes (3)

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Foreign Titles

  • Into thr Abyss - A tale of Death, a Tale of Life (DE)
  • Into the Abyss (UK)
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