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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.


Werner Herzog
2 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »



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


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 »



USA | UK | Germany



Release Date:

30 March 2012 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

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

Filming Locations:

Conroe, Texas, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$47,559, 13 November 2011, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$216,262, 18 December 2011
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

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.
See more »


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.
See more »

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User Reviews

Into the Unbias. But is that for better or worse?
28 February 2013 | by redeemingtheunevenSee all my reviews

This was a difficult one to gage. Let me just start by saying that I don't write many reviews (that will become clear. Gee, I bet you really want to keep reading now, don't you?) and when I do, they're films I'm split down the middle with - that I enjoy to a large degree but also have some problems with. So that's what I'm going to do now; discuss the main flaws as I saw them.

The first 45 minutes or so of 'Into the Abyss' had me rather compelled, guiding us through the crimes themselves, preliminary interviews with those convicted, and really quite touching re-encounters with family members of the victims. A quite traditional introduction into matters of this nature, I thought. But it did take quite a detour and almost made a point to be unbiased. That may sound nonsensical - after all, documentaries are largely there to present us with untampered material and remain objective. However, other than interviews conducted with the deceased's families (namely Lisa Stolter-Balloun and Charles Richardson) and the Lieutenant, I didn't feel like there was really any support for the 'good guys.' You can call it documentation, you can call it rmeoving prejudice, you can call it Herzog doing his job as a filmmaker - but I had a hard time taking what this film gave me: an inherently sympathetic and empathetic viewer.

I would have liked to have seen Herzog push some buttons with the more questionable individuals. I'm talking about Michael Perry and Jason Burkett - two guys who had some quite serious and detrimental cases going against them. Yes, I realise this documentary was not about that; whether they did or didn't do it. Alongside other interviewees, it served more as a platform to discuss capital punishment and how lives can go wayward from poor upbringings and whatnot. But that just didn't make for particularly riveting or insightful conversation, to me. It was intriguing enough, and held that throughout, however had few flashes of real emotional depth that you would expect in a case like this - particularly with Perry and Burkett. Often times, Herzog would strike up what I can only call small talk that felt out of place and actually kind of insulting. I can appreciate the mindset behind that (either it's to ease tension or it's Herzog being Herzog) but am of the opinion that such trivial chatter is unnecessary and even impolite in some instances. Maybe that's all just my warped perception, though.

Herzog ending the film with a nod to the "families of the victims of violent crime" admittedly left a bad taste in my mouth. Not that I think those affected don't deserve the recognition and dedication - they absolutely do - but I would not have thought it to be that simple from this particular project. Apparent as it may have been that Herzog was against the death penalty (he directly addressed this very early on), he made no mention of it in writing at the film's closing? No facts about how many people had been put to death in the most recent year, or anything relating to that? Nothing? Without that, I cannot help but feel the dedication Herzog decided upon was more for show and as a tool of faux-support. Nice of him to put it in there but it just seemed a little forced and loose-ended when he didn't follow it up with or acknowledge the very same capital punishment system that he clearly feels strongly about.


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