REVIEW: “Cecil Hotel” Offers Fans True Crime Fix

“Crime Scene: Cecil Hotel” is another show in a long line of true crime documentaries, but it adds freshness to the genre. Image courtesy Netflix.

“Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” follows the unsolved death of Elisa Lam, a 21-year-old Canadian student.

Directed by the same director as “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” starring Zac Efron, Joe Berlinger created the four-episode docu-series.

While addressing the case of Elisa Lam, the series also covers some of the history of the Cecil Hotel.

Built in 1924, the Cecil Hotel is located in downtown Los Angeles, California, and is 15-floors tall with 700 rooms available. With “skid row” right across the street, the hotel became a place of affordable housing for low income and those experiencing homelessness. 

Although not all those who stayed there were bad people, a lot of crime did happen at the Cecil.


“Back in the ‘80s, I would never go past the sixth floor,” said Kenneth Givens, a former Cecil Hotel resident. “Usually, the higher floors for the Cecil, people used to get killed up in there.”

Serial killers, such as the Night Stalker, also stayed at the Cecil Hotel after committing some of his murders. 

As for Elisa Lam, the college student traveled to California on her own. Los Angeles was one of her last stops. 

During her trip, she called her family daily. One day, she did not call her family, and her family was concerned. That same day, Elisa Lam’s family filed a missing person report. 

During the investigation, the police released security camera footage from inside the elevator. This footage showed Elisa Lam acting in an unusual way. She clicked all the middle buttons on the panel in the elevator, and she kept peaking her head out and hiding in a corner.

At the beginning of the investigation, the police searched Elisa Lam’s room and the rest of the hotel, including the roof.

On February 19, 2013, 18 days after her disappearance, a couple staying at the hotel complained about the water pressure and taste. The hotel manager sent one of the maintenance workers, Santiago Lopez, to check the water tanks that were located on the roof. In one of the tanks, Lopez found the body of Elisa Lam.

While this story has been told countless times on podcasts and shows, such as Buzzfeed: Unsolved, the docu-series offers more insight on the history of the hotel and more theories that have yet to be told.

“Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” is available on Netflix.



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