In February 2013, yet another mysterious occurrence took place at the infamous Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Twenty-one year old, Canadian tourist, Elisa Lam, vanished – seemingly without a trace. Her worried parents contacted authorities after not hearing from her for several days, which was not in her nature. Law enforcement began searching in earnest, but there was not much to go on. The uncovering of what could be a clue as to what happened to Elisa, only led to a deeper mystery and a barrage of speculation. The on-line community became invested early on in uncovering the circumstances surrounding her disappearance.
Throughout the series a number of people, involved both directly and tangentially with the investigation, are interviewed. Included amongst them are LAPD Homicide Detectives Tim Marcia and Greg Kading. Furthermore, journalist Josh Dean and You-Tuber John Lordon, who was one of several on line sleuths who tirelessly investigated Elisa’s disappearance, are featured throughout. In addition, Amy Price, who managed the Cecil for a decade, talks among other things, about what was going on with Elisa the day before she went missing.
Re-enactments are shown throughout, as well as the actual last known video footage of Elisa Lam, acting in a bizarre manner inside, and directly outside, of the hotel’s elevator. Many people have offered up their opinions as to what happened to Elisa. Some of the theories I found to be plausible, others not so much. One theory that was espoused drew a direct correlation to the 2005 film “Dark Water.” The film, directed by two time BAFTA winner Walter Salles (Central Station) stars Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind). The film was a remake of a 2002 Japanese film of the same name, which was based on the 1996 novel “From the Depths of Dark Water,” written by Koji Suzuki. In the film, Connelly’s character’s daughter meets the exact same fate as Elisa Lam. Did some deranged person use the film as inspiration? Is that how Elisa met her end?
“Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” was directed by Oscar nominee and two time Emmy winner Joe Berlinger. The limited series premiered on Netflix on February 10, 2021. The four episodes that comprise the series contain the genres of documentary, crime and mystery.
After I was finished watching the series I wasn’t convinced that it was case closed. There is compelling evidence to suggest that the outcome provided by authorities is what happened to Elisa Lam, and perhaps it did. I do, however, feel that there is enough mystery surrounding her final hours that the truth of what took place might never be known. Was there someone else with Elisa before she took the steps which led to her demise? The last known video footage of Elisa makes it appear, for a split second, that there was someone else with her, standing outside the elevator, but perhaps it was nothing more than a trick of light. The limited series was sad because it was real, but absorbing nonetheless, because of the enduring mystery.