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Into the Abyss (2011)

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


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

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

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
Composer: Mark De Gli Antoni
Sebastian Steinberg - guitars and contra bass.
Lisa Germano - violins.
David Byrne - guitar.
Peter Beck - winds.
Colin Stevens - instrument designs.
Mark De Gli Antoni - keyboards and percussion.
See more »

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User Reviews

Objective documentary on capital punishment
14 September 2016 | by tomgillespie2002See all my reviews

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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