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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
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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In 2001, teenagers Michael Perry and Jason Burkett were arrested and charged with a triple-homicide shortly after an intense shootout with the police. They were convicted of murdering 50-year old nurse Sandra Stotler, her sixteen year old son Adam, and his friend Jeremy Richardson. They shot and killed Sandra with a shotgun in her garage so they could steal her valuable red Camaro, and later murdered the two teenagers to obtain the keys to the gate of their middle-class community estate. As a result, Perry was sentenced to die by lethal injection, and Burkett was given a life sentence.
Just how one culprit can be slated to die while the other gets to spend their life behind bars for the same crime is just one of the many questions raised in Werner Herzog's objective documentary on capital punishment. We meet Perry early on, child-like and God- fearing, just 8 days before he is due to die. During this meeting, Herzog reveals his own feelings about the death penalty (he's strictly against it) and even tells the inmate that he doesn't like him very much, but that he also respects everyone's humanity and point of view. The film is not a condemnation of Death Row, but a meditation, and Herzog simply sits back and allows the story to tell itself through interviews from all sides and sporadic narration.
Although it does cover the crime itself in detail, Into the Abyss is not a re-investigation, but tells the story of the horrifying events back in 2001 juxtaposed with interviews from 2010 to allow us to make up our own mind and absorb the devastating affects such an act of brutality can cause. The most heart-breaking moment comes from the interview with Burkett's father, a prisoner himself, as he comes to terms with his own role in his son's fate. We learn of the events that attributed to his boy's character and eventual destiny, and wonder if society failed him. We then see how the crime left Sandra Stotler's daughter completely alone in life, and wonder why such a monster like Burkett should be allowed to live. You may find yourself discussing the topic in depth afterwards, but on hearing Perry's final words to the victim's families before he was given a lethal dose, I could not bring myself to believe that watching him die would ever bring them inner peace.
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