Into the Abyss takes you on a journey of life and death just like the poster says. Herzog knows how to pull your emotional strings with the questions he asks throughout the entire movie. The array of interviews that are set up are exactly what is needed. He doesn’t stray much farther than the key characters. Granted that Werner Herzog is against the death penalty, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to pick that up throughout the entire film. He has his moments where what he says points in that direction. However he does a pretty good job at keeping himself non-biased.
Well this sad but true story takes place in Texas where the death penalty is alive and thriving. Also sadly, this whole case was childish, stupid and over greed. Two idiotic nineteen year old kids decided that they were going to steal their friends mom’s car. They had it all planned out, they were going to crash the night at his place and take it in the middle of the night. Well plans changed when the friend wasn’t home for the night. Unfortunately that is when Michael Perry decided to take matters to a dark place. The outcome of Perry’s decisions became a triple murder investigation.
The really interesting thing about this case and the investigation was that Michael Perry wasn’t alone in killing of the three individuals. Perry had help in doing this, Jason Burkett was along for the ride the entire time. However, when it came time for the trial there was a split decision. Jason’s defense attorney brought in Jason’s dad to testify. Well his dad is spending life in prison for the exact same crime that his son just committed. They played the emotional, “Well I wasn’t there to raise my kid and if I had been he wouldn’t have turned out like this” card to the jury. Unfortunately it worked. By having his dad testify to the jury about how he wasn’t there it swayed a couple of people into taking the death penalty off the table for Burkett. Burkett ended up getting a life sentence, which is 40 years. He will get out when he is 59 years old. On the other hand, Perry, who didn’t have his parents pleading for his life ended up getting put on death row because of the crimes he committed.
Herzog chose to break Into the Abyss into a couple different sections. The first part of the film was the reconstruction of the crime that Perry and Burkett had committed. The shots that were Herzog chose throughout the reconstruction were rather somber. He wanted the shots to hit you on a different emotional level. The first person who was murdered was done in the garage, well they left one of her shoes just laying there. He had a long shot of the shoe that were just laying there. He has long shots on the body that was all wrapped up and laying in the lake. When all was said and done you might be asking yourself why he might do long shots on just things. He was all to drive the point home, these crimes were gruesome and chilling.
Into the Abyss is a pretty straight forward documentary. It is not here to sway people on way or another on the topic of the death penalty. It is just here to show the emotional tole that every side endures throughout the process. Whether that side is the victims, the individual who is getting the death penalty or even the personnel involved in the death of the individual. Everyone feels the effects of putting someone to death.
Like I stated earlier, Herzog is unbelievable. He knows exactly what questions to ask the interviewee. He doesn’t allow things to linger to long. He allows them to answer it to their fullest and if things start to look like they are getting off track he will ask another question. He does a pretty good job at not allowing them to wallow in their pitty. Herzog interviews only the people who are relevant to the case. He doesn’t bring in experts to argue either side of the debate. He keeps it to the key characters; Michael Perry, Jason Burkett, Jason’s dad, the death row captain who oversaw 120 executions, the chief investigator and the two friends that Perry and Burkett initially told they killed people for the cars.
Althought Into the Abyss wasn’t aimed towards swaying people’s minds about the debate of the death penalty it definitely will make people think about it. It makes you think of how someone could get into that situation in the first place. How could they get so low. Is it right to have the death penalty for such crimes? Upon completion of Into the Abyss I sat in the dark theater just letting everything sink in. How in the work could there actually be comedy in this type of situation. And unfortunately there was. Perry still to his death remained his innocence saying that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even though he initially admitted that he murdered them. He even led the investigator into the woods right to the bodies.
There were times where I laughed throughout this film. Granted those times were when Perry was too much to handle. He stupidity was shinning through. However, on the other side of comedy there was pain, anger and denial. Overall, Into the Abyss was a good journey through the lives of those effected by the death penalty and that system. If you are into documentaries then this is definitely a film you will not want to miss. However, if you are not into documentaries or have any say on the subject of the death penalty you’ll find yourself bored throughout it.