The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel Docuseries Review

Cecil Hotel

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel docuseries provides insights to the tragic death of Elisa Lam at the (in)famous Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

Should you skip it or watch it? Read on this review to find out.

Warning: This review contains spoilers. Then again, this case has been solved 8 years ago so I guess there’s really not much of a need for a spoiler warning.


There was a lot of intrigue surrounding Elisa Lam’s case at the Cecil Hotel. Not to blame the LAPD, but in their desperate attempt to look for answers, the force sent out a video to media outlets to help determine what happened to the 21-year-old Canadian student. The case, consequently, became a wide-open Pandora’s box with the public now involved in an open investigation.

The hype, the intrigue, the public scrutiny diminished the tragedy of losing a student, a sister, and a daughter. And in present day, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel re-ignites that fire by putting the word “vanishing” in its title.

Seriously? We all know this case has been solved already. Putting the word vanishing in that title just suggests that there is some mysterious paranormal aspect to this case that people have not seen. Well, spoiler alert, there isn’t.

Misleading and Out of Focus

Elisa Lam died of accidental drowning. She drowned in a water tank on the rooftop of the Cecil Hotel. She was found there, face up and naked, by the hotel’s maintenance after residents and guests of the hotel complained about low water pressure and apparent discoloration. The investigators deduced that she had a mental breakdown after skipping her medications for a severe case of bipolar disorder.

These are the facts surrounding Elisa Lam’s death. She had a mental breakdown which ultimately led to her drowning inside the water tank of the Cecil Hotel. The documentary should have focused more on what caused her to miss her medications and should have explored more in-depth on the extent of her mental illness.

What we got instead is the over-sensationalizing of Lam’s case. The filmmakers chose to interview people that had basically had nothing to do with Elisa Lam. It is understandable not to hear from Elisa’s family in respect to their privacy. The docuseries seemed to focus more on the experiences of the amateur investigators/internet sleuths, their conspiracies, their theories and I don’t get why.

Sure, they were part of the story of Elisa Lam but they did not have anything to do with her. They did not know her at all. To hear things from their perspective is just misleading. They should have interviewed people who had close interactions with her instead. Perhaps her classmates from the university? I mean, people who (actually) know something about her and saw how she suffered from her mental disorder.

That would have given the audiences a much clearer picture of what happened as opposed to sending us into a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories that never helped in any way at all.

The Other Victims

Sad as it was, Elisa Lam was not the only victim portrayed in the docuseries. The documentary also tried to give some context about Skid Row. The rows of homeless people in this part of town and how crime and people with mental illness could blend in seamlessly in the area. They are victims too.

But the saddest victim of all went by the stage name Morbid aka Pablo Vergara, a multi-talented musician, screenwriter, photographer, and many more, who was falsely accused as Elisa Lam’s murderer. Just because internet sleuths found videos of him at the Cecil Hotel and they considered his music videos disturbing. Surely, that makes him guilty, right? Well, at least the internet sleuths think so.

Morbid ended up in a psychiatric hospital after a suicide attempt and basically lost everything. All because of reckless false accusations from people who never cared for Lam and are just in there for the hype.

Skip or Watch?

Elisa Lam’s death was a tragic one and this docuseries does nothing to give justice to her memory. Instead, it focuses its attention on how so-called internet sleuths basically ruined the case. All while simultaneously destroying other people’s lives especially Morbid in the process with their barrage of conspiracy theories and bizarre “synchronicities”.

It should have focused more on Lam’s mental illness and the circumstances on how it became a factor on her untimely demise.

That said, skip this one.


Here is salida|etc’s rating for Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel.

Our Rating

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