Into The Abyss Reviews

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Super Reviewer
May 30, 2013
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.
Super Reviewer
½ February 13, 2013
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. 
Super Reviewer
½ October 29, 2011
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.
Super Reviewer
September 19, 2012
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
Super Reviewer
August 3, 2012
A compelling look at the capital punishment, though Herzog clearly wants to convince us it is wrong. Still, he also shows other people's opinions, allowing us to draw our own conclusions about the subject while raising an interesting discussion on the value of life.
Super Reviewer
July 13, 2012
"I don't think human beings should be executed. Simple as that"

Conversations with death row inmate Michael Perry and those affected by his crime serve as an examination of why people - and the state - kill.

He's taken us into a forgotten cave; alongside bears; to the end of the world; and now Werner Herzog takes us straight into the mind of a madman, in a documentary about what causes people to kill and what society's attitude to such people should be. Documentaries tend to stand back from their topics; Herzog gets right up under their nose. At times I felt Herzog was oblivious to his audience, as though trying to satisfy his own curiosity. And that's why he has always been highly respected: his selfishness is the key to his charity. All interviews are incredibly moving, not just because almost all involve tears, but because I felt that interviewees had nothing else to reveal and what they did reveal was utterly sincere. This docu-drama uses actual police footage of the crime scenes which, when accompanied by an austere soundtrack, gives the film a sombre, eerie tone. There's no doubt about it: the crimes were heinous. Both Perry and Burkett blamed each other. Both denied involvement. What's clear is that the crimes were unprovoked and victims perished needlessly. (We're led to believe that people were murdered for the sake of a red sports car.) Although Herzog states unequivocally that he is anti-capital punishment, he never proselytises; he produces an equal account of the merits and pitfalls of state-sponsored execution and, like any objective filmmaker, allows his audience the final say.
Super Reviewer
½ June 3, 2012
Herzog interviews some interesting people, always meditating on the spiritual and emotional toll we take when a human life is taken. The movie opens with the pastor who lays his hands on a person on death row through their last moment of life. Towards the end we listen to the man who, 8 hours before execution, meets the imprisoned and becomes their servant, trying to fulfill their last requests before he later straps them to the table to be killed and unstraps the remaining corpse. I should say that in the past tense - after he had to experience this routine with a woman prisoner, he could no longer stomach the job. The majority of the documentary follows the events of two kids (18 years old) who killed a mother and two kids. One is sentenced to death, the other to life in prison. The one given life gets a lot of of the film's focus, with lots of time spent with his father and wife, giving us an idea of why he is who he is. The person on death row gets very little background in comparison, nobody speaks on his behalf except for his partner in crime. The point may be that this very difference is what determined their contrasting fates in the justice system, but I would have liked to hear the thoughts of the young man's family. Two scenes are particularly powerful and creepy. One is the police crime scene video of the homicides. The second is the graveyard of people who have been executed by the people of Texas and were unclaimed afterwards. It's horrifyingly large and evokes comparisons of historical mass murders by foreign states that we Americans always frown upon.
Super Reviewer
½ November 15, 2011
For better or for worse, Herzog is unable to make a distinction between film making and film directing. His 'interviews' are unapologetically injected with his own personal beliefs and ideas. This being said, Into The Abyss is still a fascinating watch.
Super Reviewer
½ April 14, 2012
Werner Herzog is a peculiar specimen. He has such a presence behind the camera that it seems he cares nothing for the illusion of objectivity. From his uncommon voice, swelling music, and manipulative questions, one can see the puppeteer's strings right away. I know that not every documentarian needs to be absent from the film entirely, but Herzog invaded this film in such a way that I could hardly focus on the story he was trying to tell.
For instance, in the very opening scene in a conversation with Michael Perry, the death row inmate that the film is centered around, Herzog doesn't even get two questions in before launching into a diatribe against capital punishment.
During subsequent interviews he manages to not only throw in some jokes with his subjects, but he easily gets off on tangents about tattoos and relationships. Again, I don't mind him having a light-hearted conversations once in a while, but what the hell is this doing in the final film? It adds nothing to the story.
Herzog's patented profundity pervades every scene as well. The passionate music pumps through the speakers while the viewer gets treated to an agonizing amount of crime scene footage. His camera lingers on a subject in silence for a bit too long, as if he were hoping to capture something spontaneous, but to no avail.
It isn't all bad. Especially during the final act when he gets into the protocols of administering the death penalty. It seems to be the only time he let's the material speak for itself. Which is a shame because I felt he had the makings of a great film. Unfortunately, I too often found myself thinking, "What the hell is Herzog doing?"
Super Reviewer
½ April 12, 2012
While it isn't free from documentarian Werner Herzog's usual pretention and his transparent attempts to find profound inspiration in absolutely every moment," Into The Abyss" moves at a great pace and covers an inherently captivating topic (death row). More importantly, the documentary is emotionally powerful both in what is shows and what it says about life and death. I may find Herzog slightly annoying, but I have to hand it to him, he knows exactly what to ask his interviewees to get them to open up and say exactly the right things. Not exactly as good as Herzog's "Grizzly Man," but it taps into the same feeling of being just close enough to death to really appreciate life.
Super Reviewer
December 14, 2011
Documentary covering the last days of Michael Perry, convicted of committing a triple murder for a red Camaro valued at a couple of thousand dollars. Many frightening, sad people are interviewed, but the scariest character of all may be a death row groupie in serious denial. It's raw, it's real, but its seriously depressing; we go into the abyss, and we never come out. The "message of hope" at the end is bitterly ironic.
Super Reviewer
April 4, 2012
Another fascinating documentary by Herzog, very even-handed, and not too political. A documentary is supposed to make you think about what you're watching, and this one sure as hell succeeds in doing just that.
Super Reviewer
November 28, 2011
Without going on his usual tangents, Werner Herzog has created a very effective and haunting argument against the death penalty with his latest documentary, "Into the Abyss." Of the arguments, the most damning is that it is no deterrent against future murders. Case in point, there is Michael Perry, who at the age of 18 with Jason Burkett killed three people, all for a car which they drove for three days before they were arrested in a shootout after bragging about it to friends.

To Herzog, nobody should be executed by the state, even Perry who ten years later is on death row while Burkett serves a life sentence and is eligible for parole in 2041. Herzog tells Perry that while he respects him for what he is going through, he also hates him for what he has done. While Perry had possibly a more stable home life, Burkett's father was in and out of jail when he was growing up, now in for a life sentence. It is implied that this led to Burkett's downfall. Ironically, it is Burkett's father who saved his son's life with an emotional speech at the trial.

They are not the only people Herzog talks to. While also steering clear of experts, he interviews family of the victims, pointing out how utterly senseless both the murder and execution are, with the execution being more sterile. And there is an interview with a former guard captain who presided over sometimes two executions in a week who could no longer go on with his job and still suffers from those memories. In the end, Herzog returns to a graveyard, full of anonymous convicts whose bodies were never claimed by family.
Super Reviewer
April 20, 2013
Werner Herzog is certainly one of the most influential documentary filmmakers of our time, and Into the Abyss represents his examination of the criminal justice system. Like his past documentaries, he does a great job of getting his subjects to say insightful and penetrating, things on screen, with emotional breakdowns commonplace. This is Herzog's greatest strength, getting to the key emotional and political undertones.

The film is often compelling in many of these interviews, with the execution guard testimony being unforgettable. The problem with the documentary, however, is that it simply felt too detached. Herzog's the king of long camera takes, but he indulges that too much here. The story is told, but in too cold of a way, and often confusing. The film itself was also a bit slow, meandering too much after appearing to make a point. In this way, it wasn't always as engaging as Herzog's other efforts, often feeling more tedious than interesting.

Still, it has a lot of interesting things to say, and is worth a watch for any interested in the subject.

3/5 Stars
Super Reviewer
January 15, 2013
Herzog seems bewildered by the culture and the people he's examining, but he gives them and their stories a fair say without any judgement which is strangely brave on his part. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any agenda at work here other than to present this complicated and horrifying situation to the audience.
Super Reviewer
May 15, 2012
Herzog sketches a human portrait on his theme, death seems to be in the background and his focus is on life. However, I found the 3 hour long portraits for his miniseries Death Row to be far more fascinating because in In To the Abyss there didn't seem to be much exploration of the inmates as there was in the miniseries portraits. The documentary itself is subjective more than presenting both sides of the argument, Herzog personal beliefs drive its focus but none the less it is a interesting doc. Watch out for the interview with an ex lethal injection doctor, that is magnificent and his story could have been a fascinating documentary in itself.
Super Reviewer
February 20, 2012
A moving, beautifully made documentary which at under 2 hrs still manages to present an exhaustive look at the death penalty. Werner Herzog admits early on his anti capital punishment stance which informs the film, yet some of the interviewees have other views and the film allows the viewer to make up their own mind. Ultimately thought provoking, "Into the Abyss" confirmed my own opinion that killing murderers is not humane, just, or an answer.
Super Reviewer
½ April 22, 2012
This is one of the most emotionally tormenting documentaries I have ever watched, and with good reason. It provides and new and dense perspective of capital punishment, following those convicted and the families affected. The documentary's greatest success is its portrayal of both sides of the story, almost free of bias. While Herzog might not be the best interviewer, his film is unremittingly dark, melancholic, and above all, important.
Super Reviewer
July 1, 2012
Being the great documentarian that he is, Herzog examines a 'death row' case without any agenda - simply letting the story and people speak for themselves. Its not an easy watch, but it is fascinating.
September 14, 2014
The entire time I was watching this, I was trying to figure out why exactly I didn't like it. Toward the end, it finally occurred to me that documentaries should be a statement of fact rather than an editorial, and this plays way more like an editorial. It's pretty much a commercial for the anti-death penalty movement, and while the filmmakers are certainly entitled to their opinion, it doesn't really have a lot of place in a documentary that's supposed to be about facts. Also, I have a really hard time taking pity on cold-blooded killers, so maybe it's just that the editorial was so much the opposite of my own beliefs. Either way, I was not a fan.
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