AMERICAN MURDER: THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR is a Netflix true-crime documentary of the best kind. Told entirely through archival footage, social media posts, and home video. Read our full American Murder: The Family Next Door review here!

AMERICAN MURDER: THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR is a Netflix true-crime documentary with a tight runtime of 82 minutes. Told chronological and very matter-of-fact while being full of respect for the victims.

This story is entirely fact-based since it has no interviews or opinions shared. It is perhaps the purest and most direct form for a documentary ever. And I think it works perfectly!

Read our full American Murder: The Family Next Door review below.

Experience a case unfold as it happened

Instead of seeing interviews with friends and family of the victims, we see this missing-persons-turned-murders case unfold as it happened.

In American Murder: The Family Next Door we see everything through social media posts, archival news footage, and home video. Also, most importantly, we see how the case was first recorded and how everyone reacted through footage from the body cam of the responding police officer.

Then we follow the body cams of police officers canvassing the neighborhood, and then the interrogation tapes recorded at the police station. Finally, we also see recordings from the trial and courtroom along with press conferences. 

Again, with a runtime of 82 minutes, this is intense and very focused from beginning to end. Also, yes, it is quite scary to watch (especially if you know the case beforehand), but also fascinating in important ways. Especially due to the fact that the case is solved within just a few days.

American Murder: The Family Next Door – Netflix Review

Watch American Murder: The Family Next Door on Netflix

Jenny Popplewell directed American Murder: The Family Next Door and she did a perfect job with this story! You cannot deny that she is the kind of documentary filmmaker who focuses intensely on the topic. Not forgetting emotions, but showing everyone’s emotions as the story unfolds.

I absolutely loved this way of doing a true-crime documentary. Full of facts and never having post-interviews influence us in any way. Honestly, the less you know about the actual true-crime case, the better. However, I did know of this case and I still found this to be one of the best true-crime documentaries I’ve ever watched.

You might like: Our list of the best true-crime killer documentaries on Netflix >

This is the first documentary from Jenny Popplewell in eight years. She made Glamour Model Mum, Baby & Me in 2012, and worked on a TV Series documentary and a few other documentaries prior to this. I really hope we won’t have to wait another eight years for another documentary from her.

In my opinion, this way of doing a true-crime documentary should be made into an entire Netflix docu-series. Here’s hoping Netflix feels the same way and gets Jenny Popplewell on board for it!

American Murder: The Family Next Door is out on Netflix worldwide from September 30, 2020.


In 2018, 34-year-old Shanann Watts and her two young daughters went missing in Frederick, Colorado. As heartbreaking details emerged, their story made headlines worldwide. Told entirely through archival footage that includes social media posts, law enforcement recordings, text messages and never-before-seen home videos, director Jenny Popplewell pieces together an immersive and truthful examination of a police investigation and a disintegrating marriage. AMERICAN MURDER: THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR is the first film to give a voice to the victims.

I write reviews and recaps on Heaven of Horror. And yes, it does happen that I find myself screaming, when watching a good horror movie. I love psychological horror, survival horror and kick-ass women. Also, I have a huge soft spot for a good horror-comedy. Oh yeah, and I absolutely HATE when animals are harmed in movies, so I will immediately think less of any movie, where animals are harmed for entertainment (even if the animals are just really good actors). Fortunately, horror doesn't use this nearly as much as comedy. And people assume horror lovers are the messed up ones. Go figure!
Karina "ScreamQueen" Adelgaard