Review: American Murder: The Family Next Door

Netflix documentary explores the tragic story of the Watts family


Screenshot from the official Netflix trailer

Lizzie Kallal, Veteran Reporter

Netflix released the documentary, American Murder: The Family Next Door, Sept. 30. The film covers the bone-chilling story of Chris Watts, exploring just how unhinged the husband-next-door can really be.

The scene is set by an alarming call from Nickole Atkinson, a very close friend of  Watts’ wife, Shanann. Atkinson was repetitively asking where Shanann and her young kids (4-year-old Bella, 3-year-old Celeste and unborn son, Nico) were, never receiving an answer. Atkinson soon met the Weld County Police at the Watts’ family home, where Chris shortly arrived. 

The scene is meant to grab the attention of the viewer, utilizing bodycam videos from police and voicemails from Atkinson. The next clip introduces Watts’ neighbor, who showed the police security footage from his home. His neighbor immediately told the police that Watts was acting very out of character, creating a suspicion of Chris being a suspect. By now, my mind was turning.

The story takes a turning point, getting into an investigation after Shanann and the kids have been missing for days. While there are police investigating the situation, the viewer is following the love story of Chris and Shanann—the good, the bad and the affair. 

Watts confesses to having an affair while Shannan and the kids were visiting family in North Carolina, deriving from recent relationship issues with Shanann. As the movie goes on, more and more points led to Chris being involved with the girls missing. Shortly after, Chris fails a polygraph test involving the girls’ status, resulting in Watts admitting to committing to the murder of his family, giving the viewer that “I knew it!” moment we had been waiting for. 

While I do think that Netflix did a very good job of setting the dark and unsure tone to the story, I feel that there is a lot of missing details to the story. After watching, the stars didn’t completely align for me. 

The documentary definitely left me questioning, wondering if there was more to the story that we didn’t know. I wanted more on his mistress, more on if Chris had ever talked about his mental health. 

I think this documentary was very good, but definitely left me questioning.