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Into the Abyss (2011)

PG-13 | | Documentary, Crime, Drama | 30 March 2012 (UK)
2:27 | Trailer

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


2 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview:
Himself (voice)
Richard Lopez ...
Himself (as The Reverend Richard Lopez)
Michael Perry ...
Damon Hall ...
Lisa Stolter-Balloun ...
Charles Richardson ...
Jason Burkett ...
Jared Talbert ...
Amanda West ...
Delbert Burkett ...
Melyssa Thompson-Burkett ...
Herself (as Melyssa Burkett)
Fred Allen ...


Into the abyss explores a triple murder which occurred in the small Texas City of Conroe in 2001. Michael Perry and Jason Burkett, under the influence of alcohol and drugs, murdered a middle-aged housewife; they then gunned down her stepson and his friend. The film features Conversations with the two inmates and those affected by their crime. Unlike many of the films that deal with crimes, into the abyss isn't concerned with figuring out exactly what happened, but rather serves as an examination of why people - and the state - kill. Written by Brad

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material and some disturbing images | See all certifications »



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Release Date:

30 March 2012 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$47,559 (USA) (11 November 2011)


$216,262 (USA) (16 December 2011)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


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. Like the hummingbirds. Why are there so many of them.
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Featured in Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #2.17 (2011) See more »


End Credits and Incidental Music
(untitled) Composer: Mark Degliantoni.
SEBASTIAN STEINBERG - guitars and contra bass.
LISA GERMANO - violins.
DAVID BYRNE - guitar.
PETER BECK - winds.
COLIN STEVENS - instrument designs.
MARK DEGLIANTONI - keyboards and percussion.
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User Reviews

True Documentation
21 August 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The art of making a real documentary has become lost in recent years with filmmakers consistently using stylistic editing and asking questions only to prove the point there trying to make. One thing that struck me with "Into The Abyss" by Werner Herzog was how brilliantly he stayed on task of what he was trying to say. He clearly states once that he does not believe in the death penalty.

The thing that impressed me the most was how he was never on screen and only asked honest and pertinent questions to all his interviewees without leading them to the answers he wanted. He probed but always let the person say exactly what they wanted to say. He never tries to excuse or romanticize the crime led the one person he interviewed to death row but is firm in his belief that capital punishment is just as much a sin as the crimes perpetrated by the death row inmates

As I understand it, The United States is one of the last few developed countries that still imposes the death penalty and Texas has the highest rate of death row inmates and the lowest rate of appeals for death row inmates in the nation. While pondering that question you have to ask yourself, "why is that?" is crime being any more deterred by this, I would say no since they still have the highest rate of death row inmates even to this day.

The commentary by the different people that Herzog talks too is extraordinary. The two that I found to be the best were the father Jason Burkett who is also in prison and the man who was once captain of the guard where Perry was to be executed. This mans conclusion on why the death penalty should not be used is perhaps the best and most profound.

Herzog poses no enlightening statement at the end and even provides no commentary minus the questions he asks the people he interviews and this is perhaps the best way he could have approached this subject. He let's the viewer determine for themselves what they want to take away from the evidence he provides.

This is a hard film to review but is a film that should be seen, and the two questions stuck with me even after the film was over, Who has the right to take another life? and, Is there a point where the taking of a life is not a sin?

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