American Murder: The Family Next Door Documentary Review

Is this a must watch?


Photo courtesy to Honk News

Katie Le, Editorial Board

    Netflix released a documentary recently on September 30, 2020 about an infamous family murder case, the Watts’ family. This documentary showed many seen and unseen footage and evidence including cops body cam footage, footage during interrogation, social media posts, and text messages involved in the case. 

   [SPOILER] Chris Watts was married to Shannan Watts and was a dad of two girls, Bella and Celeste, with a baby boy on the way. Chris and Shannan had been happily married for eight years when things took a turn for the worst. Their relationship started to become rocky and Chris started to become distant, which led Shannan to believe he was having an affair. Later, he was found to be having an affair with his coworker, Nichol Kessinger. At one point, Shannan went on a business trip, and when she came back home, she was gone and unresponsive the next morning. This caused her best friend Nickole Atkinson, who dropped her off the night before she was missing, to call 911. Shannan was diagnosed with lupus a while back and needed to have frequent visits to the doctor, but missed her doctor’s appointment that day. Cops became involved and there were clips shown of their body cam footage during this time, showing Chris’ abnormal body language and emotions. Also a clip of a neighbor’s house camera was shown, which showed Chris backing his truck’s trunk into the garage seemingly loading something in it. Everything was off with the way Chris was acting during the time his family was “missing”, which ultimately led to him being charged for the disappearance and murder of his family. Now he spends his life in jail for his horrendous actions.

  Students were asked about their opinions on American Murder: The Family Next Door, and the consensus was that overall they thought that this was a really interesting documentary. Many people enjoyed hearing about the details of the case, and seeing the footage that was captured. There really weren’t any negative opinions about this mo

Photo courtesy of Honk News

vie according to the survey given to Oakton students. The majority recommended that people watch this documentary.

   At first glance, the documentary seems to be filled with details, but the reality is that they missed a lot of parts of the case. One thing they fail to mention in this documentary is how suspicious Nichol Kessinger was, as she was portrayed to have not known what was going on. It was said that Chris Watts and Nichol Kessinger started having an affair in July 2018, but evidence showed that they knew each other earlier as Kessinger’s search history had searches of Shannan Watts as early as 2017 (Parade). Also the night before the murder, Chris and Nichol had a 111 minute long phone call and before meeting with the police, she deleted all her information about him. 

   Another aspect that wasn’t explored in depth was the fact that the family was in debt in credit card bills, medical expenses, and student loans. Because of this,

Shannan landed a job that would help them relieve some of the debt, but it required her to go on business trips. This could’ve played a part in the murder of the Watts family, but it will never be known since the documentary didn’t mention this.


   Another thing that the documentary didn’t explore much was Chris’ psyche, which definitely was a mistake on Netflix’s end because everyone who read about the case wanted to know what went on in Chris’ head that drove him to do this malicious act. The documentary went into depth for the wrong parts of the case and barely touched on some aspects of the case. This documentary provided surface- level coverage of the case. It seemed that overall this documentary was rushed, and that a bunch of footage and evidence was compiled together and made into a movie.

   If you’re looking to know the basics of this case then I recommend you watch the documentary, but if you want to learn more about the case then I recommend you to do some research on it. With that being said, it wasn’t a bad documentary but it certainly could’ve used more details and focused more on other aspects of the case.