ELIZE MATSUNAGA: ONCE UPON A CRIME on Netflix is a true-crime documentary series with four episodes. This docu-series is off to a rather slow start where the audience doesn’t get many facts to begin with. Read our full Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime docu-series review here!

ELIZE MATSUNAGA: ONCE UPON A CRIME is a new Netflix docu-series in the true-crime subgenre. This case is apparently very well known in its native Brazil. I can certainly understand why when watching this story unfold. However, if you don’t know this case, don’t expect this docu-series to get you up to speed from the beginning.

Instead, much of the focus is on the fact that this docu-series features the first-ever interview with Elize Matsunaga. Sure, I get that this is a big deal for Brazilian watchers. Still, it would have been nice for the rest of the Netflix viewers to get more of a rundown of the case from the beginning.

Continue reading our full Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime docu-series review below.

You need to catch up quick!

If you are not familiar with the case, then you’ll be watching much of this from the sideline. Obviously, you’re always watching from the sideline, but so many facts aren’t revealed at first and it makes it difficult to know what to pay attention to. I’m sure any Brazilian watching this docu-series won’t notice it in the same way.

As someone completely unfamiliar with this true crime, I kept waiting for the most basic facts. A very strange choice in terms of storytelling. Just a quick two-minute rundown could’ve sufficed. Instead, we’re just trying to guess exactly what this woman was in jail for having done.

Sure, we know that she was in jail for the murder of her husband, but a few more details would’ve been nice. It’s definitely a choice by the documentary filmmakers. Just not one I understand or like.

Also, the focus on the perpetrator over the victim is also a bit strange. The victim’s name was Marcos Matsunaga and while he wasn’t exactly a good husband, it’s pretty brutal to have your murderer be the focus of your own true-crime. At least as it’s told from the beginning, where we focus very much on the murderer and not the murdered.

Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime – Netflix Review

The medical examiner in the Matsunaga case

The full title of this Netflix docu-series Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime is, of course, a play on the whole fairytale “Once Upon a Time”-opening. The idea being that Elize Matsunaga was a young woman who married into an extremely wealthy family and had her life turn into a fairytale. Obviously, the fairytale turned into a nightmare and she ended up in jail.

First of all, I’m not a fan of the whole fairytale angle. It belittles both the crime and the circumstances around it.

However, if we are to go down the whole fairytale storytelling, then there is certainly a perfect villain. Or actually, he looks like someone straight out of a horror movie as he talks about his notion that “people are more beautiful on the inside than on the outside”.

And no, we’re not talking about their soul because these words come from the creepiest looking medical examiner ever! With his long white hair, beard, and eyebrows, this old man leans in towards the interviewer and states that people are more beautiful on the inside. Though he also says “I’d never go around cutting people open, of course”.

Well, no, because you don’t need to with the profession you’ve chosen. It is one of the creepiest and downright disgusting moments I’ve ever witnessed in a documentary. Sure, he might be misunderstood and his strange homeless-guy look doesn’t help, but still… Wow!

Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime – Netflix Review

Watch Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime on Netflix now!

Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime is definitely the kind of true-crime story you’ll want to know. From the gory and brutal details about the murder to everything that happened before the actual murder and then everything concerning the case. So many details and so much about culture and background play a big part.

I am a fan of documentaries in general, but I definitely prefer a different style than this one. For me, the basic details about the case should come first and then a chronological walk-through of what happened. Just as was the case with the recently released Netflix true-crime docu-series Sophie: A Murder in West Cork.


Our review of the Netflix production Sophie: A Murder in West Cork here >

In that way, the interview with Elize Matsunaga could’ve been the main focus of the last two episodes instead. Still, as much as I didn’t like the build-up, you’ll want to watch this Brazilian docu-series (org. title Elize Matsunaga: Era Uma Vez Um Crime). Especially for that creepy medical examiner who just might enter my next nightmare!

Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime is out on Netflix from July 8, 2021.


Director: Eliza Capai
Writer: Diana Golts


The crime shocked Brazil: Elize Matsunaga shot and dismembered her rich husband. Featuring her first interview, this docuseries dives deep into the case.

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
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