Directed by: #FredrickMunk
The line between justice and revenge blurs when a devastated family uses social media to track down the people who killed 24 year old Crystal Theobald.
Now, where am I supposed to begin with this muddled and tasteless documentary? I can’t even begin with a short rundown of the documentary’s content and purpose itself as it never seems to become clear. Promoted as a film that provides a wide range of insight into the murder of Crystal Theobald, minutes into the film a distant feeling is evident due to the constant mixing and clashing of information surrounding the subject. After reading many other reviews I found an abundance of fellow viewers who experienced the same distance and lack of connection; it wasn’t what they were prepared to expect. I always try to give Netflix original documentaries a chance because I do find the odd hidden gem, but unfortunately Why Did You Kill Me? is just another film within the many that are not up to the mark at all.
A certain level of balance in reviews is necessary, even when each positive aspect seems to cling onto something negative, so I want to give praise where it is significant, highlighting an element that caught my attention throughout the documentary. Despite the representation and direction of the story being gut-wrenching, the music (Matt Morton) included in scenes is wonderfully composed and directly striking in a documentary that revolves around true crime. If it wasn’t for Morton’s musical abilities the film would significantly lack any sense of atmosphere. An extremely good set of tracks, to me, would be ones that not only fit like a missing puzzle piece into the unraveling story and assist the film in its continuity, but they would also be immersive if listened to separately — either entirely separate from the film’s content or listening with the content loosely present in the mind. Morton’s music definitely meets the standards here and I am sure to check out more of his work at a later date.
Regrettably, the negative aspects throughout Why Did You Kill Me? pile up dreadfully high. The pace of the film is painfully slow. It starts without any kind of attention grabbing event or enticing presentation of information, ultimately leading to the rest of the duration dragging on for what feels like hours, when in reality the film is only an hour and a half long. To make matters worse, whenever a section of information is finally being focused on and beginning to glue your eyes to the screen, it is swiftly dismissed for another part of the story. It doesn’t make the film confusing by definition, maybe slightly hard to follow with a clear head at times, however it without a doubt makes it a frustrating watch overall. Being able to accurately describe a documentary as slow paced and fast paced all in one paragraph sums up how I feel about the film. It isn’t a witty contrast, it’s just entirely inconsistent.
Thankfully, talking about the centred story doesn’t give any ‘spoilers’ so I‘m glad that I‘m able to give you these upcoming warning signs before viewing. The representation of the case and everyone involved is vile; racist harassment that is brushed under the carpet, the glorification of a white officer that put the victim’s family at risk, all directed in a way that, to an extent, actually mocks a horrific murder, how it was investigated and how the family reacted to the death. These harmful narratives are given further sustenance by the director (Fredrick Munk) and how he chose to carry this story forward on screen. A whirlwind of anger and sadness is what I felt while watching Why Did You Kill Me? as an officer with an inflated ego is presented as sympathetic while viewers are drawn to empathise with the victim’s family who have suffered with substance abuse. At the same time as attempting to draw out this empathy in an obscure way, the director is pointing a spotlight on an act of revenge by the family and running with the idea; talking of mass murder themselves and torment to the public. I have absolutely no idea what the documentary was aiming for its audiences to feel about the situation. Show compassion to a family suffering through a loss by supporting a second crime of abuse and murder? Praise an officer that enabled a 14 year old girl to carry out the investigation of her cousin’s murder? I truly have no idea what the purpose of this film initially was and why the story was chosen to be pieced together in such a format.
Why Did You Kill Me? presents an interesting crime case in the most uninteresting and derailed way possible. I try my best to be as upbeat as I can when reviewing films but I’m disappointed at how plainly uncomfortable it made me feel from start to finish. If you are interested in true crime documentaries that are accessible through Netflix I’d highly recommend watching Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story, Trials of Gabriel Fernandez and/or Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer in its place.