Into The Abyss


Into The Abyss

Critics Consensus

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



Total Count: 112


Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,627
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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 as well as a state executioner and pastor who've been with death row prisoners as they've taken their final breaths. As he's so often done before, Herzog's investigation unveils layers of humanity, making an enlightening trip out of ominous territory. -- (C) Official Site

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Critic Reviews for Into The Abyss

All Critics (112) | Top Critics (30) | Fresh (103) | Rotten (9)

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

    Mar 29, 2012 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Moving and thought-provoking in equal measure. A Herzog doc of the highest order.

    Mar 29, 2012 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • The result is gripping, moving and revelatory, an unabashed if implicit critique of the death penalty.

    Mar 27, 2012 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Ben Walters

    Time Out
    Top 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.

    Dec 9, 2011 | Rating: 3/4
  • 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.

    Dec 2, 2011 | Rating: A- | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Nov 30, 2011 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Into The Abyss

  • 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.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Apr 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
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 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. 
    Melvin W Super Reviewer
  • Jan 15, 2013
    Understandably, Herzog often seems bewildered by the culture and the people he's examining, but he lets each person speak for themselves without really inserting himself into their narrative. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any agenda at work here other than to present this complicated and sad story to the audience. It's a gamble but it proves more empathetic than clinical.
    Alec B Super Reviewer

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