Released: 14th April
Seen: 31st May
The crime documentary is definitely having a major resurgence right now, in no small part thanks to Netflix who seems to churn out a new one every other week. This kind of makes sense for a streaming platform desperate for unique content because in theory these are simple things to make. Find a weird murder with a lot of twists and turns, have relatives and police officers describe the events as they remember it, maybe hire some actors to recreate certain elements, wait for the editor to put it all together and you have a movie. What sets them apart is how weird/interesting/disturbing the crime is and the general presentation of the information. So, with a film titled “Why Did You Kill Me?” basically begging for attention, does it deserve it?
Why Did You Kill Me? details the investigation surrounding the murder of 24 year old Crystal Theobald, a young woman who was shot during an altercation between gangs. The investigation would include a series of fake myspace pages, a reliance on members of the 5150 gang turning on each other and a family who seem somewhat hesitant to help the police in their investigation.
Told mostly through a series of talking head interviews, Why Did You Kill Me? is honestly a simple hour and a half documentary where the most interesting element is how easily Crystal’s cousin Jaimie was able to make a series of fake myspace pages and use that in order to get information out of certain gang members, including getting one of them who had a car that was seen on the night of the murder to turn up to her home which would subsequently get that gang member arrested.
This myspace stuff is where the title comes from, “Why did you kill me?” being a phrase that Crystal’s mother Brenda would end up sending to one of the potential murders (a message that, stunningly, only made things harder). There is no really big twist or shock reveal, you kinda know from the beginning that this murder was because of a gang member so there’s no real tension in whodunnit or why. It’s just kind of telling us how they came to the obvious conclusion which isn’t that interesting.
What is weirdly interesting, almost to the point of being comedic, is how they handle the recreations of the night in question. Now, most movies like this would hire actors and just recreate what happened or they’ll use a crude animation style or maybe just a series of photos, something to give the actual big event some kind of visual component to aid the viewer… Why Did You Kill Me? decided against any of those smart ideas and instead had a woman with a giant model of the street that the event took place on and had her drive matchbox cars around, filming those cars in close up so at first glance it looks like a recreation until you notice the gigantic hand on top of the cars. And with that choice goes my ability to take this thing seriously.
Now, not all true crime shows/movies need to be serious, a personal favourite in this genre is a show called ‘Til Death Do Us Part (or Love You To Death in some regions) that did murder recreations like they were elaborate comedy sketches and it was interesting. Why Did You Kill Me? isn’t doing something interesting like that, it’s just made a very weird visual choice that stands out amongst the normal elements of the film.
What kind of makes this interesting is how the film almost makes the victim’s families out to be a problem, arguing that they’re less interested in justice and really just want straight up revenge and slowly learning how that thirst for revenge is only causing problems that will make it harder to find the men who killed their loved one. Hell, the most sympathetic person in the entire film ends up being a member of the 5150, just based on how they’re presented in this context.
At the end of it all thought, Why Did You Kill Me? just doesn’t live up to the potential that its incredible title suggests. It’s a very basic crime recreation with one element of outright weirdness and an accidental swapping of where our sympathies go. It’s not really that remarkable, quotable or even fascinating. It’s one of those crimes that is just not right for this kind of documentary.