Stop us if you've heard this before, but there's a true crime docuseries on Netflix that's setting tongues wagging. The appetite for such endeavors seems limitless. We seem to really enjoy deviant and perverse behavior as long as we can pause and take a bathroom break every now and then. But sometimes, a series sneaks in and offers more than just thrills, cheap thrills, and sexy aesthetics. And then, American nightmare, a quick and concise work mixed in even with a dash of investigative reporting. In short, it's worth the hype.
It's one of those stories that you might remember when it actually unfolded. In March 2015, a young man named Aaron Quinn called police to report that his girlfriend, Denise Hoskins, had been kidnapped from his home near the Bay Area city of Vallejo. His story was decidedly bizarre: The soft-spoken, polite, wetsuit-clad kidnappers made him drink a painkiller, warned him not to call the police, and mentioned a paltry $15,000 ransom. The cops, whom Quinn eventually called, explained that they believed Quinn was lying.
Then things got weird. Hoskins reappeared a short time ago in her hometown of Huntington Beach, about 400 miles away, and claimed that her kidnappers had sexually assaulted her and threatened her family if she told anyone. Vallejo police and the FBI decided she was lying, too. The FBI agent in charge, David Sisma, allegedly assumed the pair had uncovered a hoax inspired by the film Girl gone; The media took this theory and ran with it. Hoskins and Quinn were buried in bad press.
The true story, chronicled here by directors Bernadette Higgins and Felicity Morris (Tinder scammer) With a strong sense of narrative rhythm and visual restraint, it's nowhere near smutty, and if you don't know the details, and want to avoid spoilers, you may want to stop reading.
There's already a terrifying villain here: a serial rapist and peeping-hole named Matthew Mueller, a disbarred lawyer and Iraq War veteran with an all-American look and an MO that includes duct tape, tranquilizers, ties, and blacked-out goggles. But the threat that really stands out in the directors' depiction is the negligence of law enforcement, including a pattern of victim-blaming and back-covering, allowing two innocent people to turn around in the wind out of arrogance and laziness.
Even if you take into account the bizarre details of Hoskins' kidnapping, which on the surface may seem to strain credulity, the revelation of how overbearing local and federal police threw her and Quinn under the bus is troubling. lowest 'American Nightmare'The headline-grabbing story is a story of shameful systemic failure. (Here it should be noted that Misty Carauso, one of the Bay Area police detectives, who decided to investigate rather than make assumptions, emerges as a hero. If American nightmare It is a condemnation of bad police work, and it is also an acknowledgment of good police work.)
Higgins and Morris deserve praise on a number of fronts. First, they tell a compelling, comprehensive story in less than three hours, presenting a more exciting, watered-down version of American nightmare It would have needlessly stretched out five or six episodes (as these types of series often do). They build suspense in a way that's unlike withholding evidence, weaving together their raw material—interviews, interrogation footage, explicit re-enactments—with a high level of beguiling craft. Not only do they know how to tell their story; They also know how to trust her, without the need for shock tactics and emotional manipulation.
American nightmare is a powerful exposition of what is fast becoming a tired and often exhilarating documentary genre. Which is another way of saying it's much better than it should be.
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