Why Did You Kill Me? is another winner in the true-crime genre for Netflix, as it explores the power of social media in another real-life case.
This review of Why Did You Kill Me? is spoiler-free.
Maybe it’s Netflix’s idea of a grim joke to release Why Did You Kill Me? on the same day as the new season of The Circle. The latter is a reality show in which several contestants, most of them utterly vacuous, attempt to win $100,000 using social media profiles, several of which are catfishes. The former, another winning true-crime documentary for the streaming giant, is about a family who used MySpace to figure out who killed their daughter, Crystal Theobald, and why.
You’ll notice the premise here is not entirely dissimilar from Don’t F*ck With Cats, another mega-popular entry in the genre that was also about the public using the internet to do the police’s jobs for them. It also posed the same ethical question which is, in short, whether justice achieved my amateur sleuths for personal reasons is the same thing as justice achieved by the official systems we have in place – and whether, given the power of the internet and the diligence of a grieving loved one or appalled pet enthusiast, those systems might be worth a revamp.
At just 80 minutes, Why Did You Kill Me? is pacey, but its perspective doesn’t suffer as a result. It’s an even-handed examination of what happened to Crystal, who, at just 24 years old, was shot dead just down the road from her house for seemingly no reason at all. Using a couple of dummy MySpace accounts, the family picks up where the authorities leave off, and Fredrick Munk’s film does its due diligence in bringing in varied perspectives from all sides of the case.
Talking heads, even ones plucked from law enforcement, gangs, and the families of culprits rather than victims, are nothing new, so the production makes an effort to spice up the visuals with some welcome flourishes. It’s a nice addition but doesn’t take away from how compelling the case itself is. The aesthetic cues only complement the balanced script and intriguing implications, and the fact that the film for once reaches a definitive conclusion rather than encouraging endless audience speculation is another feather in its cap. Genre fans will have a good, albeit brief, time with this one.