What makes this true-crime watch different — and far more effective — than most others in the genre is that it relies completely on first-hand raw footage

Shan’ann Watts with husband Chris and daughters Bella and Celeste


Shan’ann Watts lived her life on social media, documenting everything on an almost daily basis — from her morning cup of coffee to the walk and talk of her young girls Bella and Celeste to the quiet moments of romance she would get to steal away with husband Chris from her extremely busy life of being a working mother of two. In this age of oversharing our lives online, Shannan shared a lot more of her life virtually than many others would. Her social media updates presented a happy family living the American Dream. On August 13, 2018, Shan’ann and her daughters went missing from their home. That they were murdered in cold blood was discovered two days later. Shan’ann was a few months pregnant at the time.

Ironically, it’s Shan’ann’s  incessant social media updates, her video confessionals and her ominous text messages with her husband and close friends that form the core of American Murder: The Family Next Door, an 83-minute spine-chilling documentary that’s been creating a buzz on Netflix.

What makes this true-crime watch different — and far more effective — than most others in the genre is that it relies completely on first-hand raw footage from Shan’ann and her family’s lives before their world came crashing down. Director Jenny Popplewell stitches together a compelling and often painful account of the unravelling of a family, without a single talking-head interview or recreated event. The result is a film that feels deeply personal and very disturbing at various points.

What works for American Murder is the fact that it’s not just a true-crime story. Scratch below the surface and what appears