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Into the Abyss (2011)

PG-13 | | Documentary, Crime, Drama | 30 March 2012 (UK)
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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.

Director:

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

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Cast

Cast overview:
Werner Herzog ... Himself - Narrator (voice)
Richard Lopez Richard Lopez ... Himself - Death House Chaplin (as The Reverend Richard Lopez)
Michael Perry Michael Perry ... Himself - Death Row Inmate (as Michael James Perry)
Damon Hall Damon Hall ... Himself - Montgomery County Sheriff's Department
Lisa Stolter-Balloun Lisa Stolter-Balloun ... Herself - Daughter and Sister to Victims
Charles Richardson Charles Richardson ... Himself - Older Brother of Jeremy
Jason Burkett Jason Burkett ... Himself - Convicted Murderer
Jared Talbert Jared Talbert ... Himself - Citizen of Conroe Texas
Amanda West Amanda West ... Herself - Former Bartender
Delbert Burkett Delbert Burkett ... Himself - Jason Burkett's Father
Melyssa Thompson-Burkett Melyssa Thompson-Burkett ... Herself - Jason Burkett's Wife (as Melyssa Burkett)
Fred Allen Fred Allen ... Himself - Former Captain pf Death House Team
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Storyline

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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Details

Country:

USA | UK | Germany

Language:

English

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 »

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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

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Quotes

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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Connections

Featured in Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #2.17 (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

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

 
Well Made But Lacks Punch
3 June 2012 | by bdgill12See all my reviews

In Conroe, Texas, 2001, Michael Perry and Jason Burkett broke into the home of an acquaintance, Jason Stotler, in the hopes of stealing a new car. When their plan began to unravel, Perry shot and killed Stotler's mother. After dumping the body, they then killed Stotler and another friend in order to regain access to the house inside of a gated community they had been locked out of. Shortly thereafter, the duo was arrested after a haphazard shootout and brought to justice. Perry was sentenced to death, Burkett to life in prison. With Perry's execution right around the corner, filmmaker Werner Herzog journeyed to the maximum security prison in Huntsville, Texas in order to interview the culprits, get the details of the case, and have a look at the concept of the death penalty.

Perhaps the preeminent voice in documentary filmmaking, Herzog has spent the majority of his illustrious career crafting his approach and that shines through once again here. What I love about Herzog's documentaries is that there's never any question as to how he feels about his subject matter and yet you never feel as if he's forcing it down his throat. At the outset of Into the Abyss he states (off-camera) that he is against the death penalty and at times you can tell that his film is sliding toward his side of the argument. A very compelling portion of the film involves Herzog's discussions with a man who spent his entire career strapping the condemned to a gurney until a series of events led him to jump to the other side of the argument. Still, however, Herzog allows the audience to judge for themselves, choosing to let the camera roll while laying out the facts. My impression is that Herzog would like to start a dialogue concerning the matter rather than shame proponents of the death penalty into submission.

At the same time, Into the Abyss pulls no punches in its portrayal of both Perry and Burkett. While both profess their innocence, Herzog quietly points out the holes in their respective stories and makes it clear that there is virtually no evidence to support their claims. These two were morons with a history of bad and violent behavior who finally escalated their actions. Perhaps their greatest mistake was being so stupid as to believe they could get away with their crimes when clearly neither one of them had the mental capacity to outsmart a brain damaged dog, let alone a team of police detectives. The film uses splices of the videos investigators shot at the crime scene and accentuates the footage with interviews with the detective in charge of the case and the family members of the victims. It is a dark light that is shed on Perry and Burkett and Herzog makes no attempt to turn them into the martyrs they would have you believe they are.

The only real issue I had with Into the Abyss is that it simultaneously tries to cover too much ground and doesn't reach quite far enough. Herzog takes the time to highlight a fairly extensive interview with Burkett's father, himself in prison, in an effort to illuminate Burkett's difficult childhood but then doesn't do anything with this information. It seems as if the film goes halfway toward building a bit of sympathy for at least Burkett, if not Perry, and then abandons the idea. There are also a handful of interviews that don't seem to serve much of a purpose. At the same time, because of the nature of how Herzog shot the film, his "turn on the cameras and see what happens" style, there are times when Into the Abyss seems a bit purposeless. There's no great statement made and again, while I appreciate that he didn't take to the heavy-handed preaching tactic used too often in these documentaries, this leaves the film devoid of a lasting impression. It's a good film and one that is certainly worth watching if for no other reason than the conversation it could lead to but it lacks the punch that I would have expected it to display.

Please see my reviews at thesoapboxoffice.com


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