“American Nightmare” on Netflix … True Crime That Seems Unreal

Have you watched American Nightmare on Netflix?

If you know a woman who can recite all the lyrics to “Ice, Ice Baby,” knows how to put film (it’s this stuff that… never mind) in a camera, and is constantly searching for the perfect night serum, then odds are pretty good that she’s into “true crime” documentaries, too.

I know this because I count myself in their ranks.

There is very little I enjoy more than snuggling up with a warm mug of coffee in the broad daylight (so as not to poop my little pants) and maybe a snack and indulging myself in other people’s problems that are WAAAAY worse than mine. The mom did it, the nanny did it, a stranger did it; I’ve seen it all, and so have you, you know what I’m talking about.

In most of these shows, at one point or another, one of the talking heads (that’s what we in the community call the experts and witnesses they interview) will say “This was like NOTHING I’d ever seen!” And I roll my eyes and sip my coffee calmly because it’s a lot like a lot of things I’ve seen.

Well, not this one. This one had me so floored that after I watched it, I did some pretty heavy bargaining with my husband to get him to watch it as I joined him and gave it a re-viewing. And – sleep apnea be damned – he sat transfixed the entire time, all three episodes. While watching it the second time, I did notice little things that could have been considered hints to the eventual ending, but my husband, who is in law enforcement, noticed things right away.

I am hesitant to give away any of the meat of the story, even with a spoiler alert, because I think this is an important story, well told – but I’ll give you a portion that is repeated over and over in the first episode.

A young man and his girlfriend were awakened from a deep sleep by a group of strange men dressed in black and masks in their house. A bright light was shone on them, lasers pointed at them. They were forced to drink NyQuil with diazepam and bound with zip ties. They shoved a blindfold on their heads, fashioned from swim goggles and duct tape. They set up a camera in the corner and told the young man they would be watching him. Then- they grabbed the young woman up, crammed her into the man’s trunk, and drove off into the night. The sedatives then kicked in, and he passed out, not to awaken until morning.

And, to give insight that doesn’t exactly spoil the movie, but does dive a little deeper: the above tortuous agony is NOT the biggest nightmare they endured. What ended up being documented was a sobering look at what protection and service really mean – and what role bias plays in it. It serves as a harsh reminder that there’s still a lot of work to do when it comes to classifying violent crime – who commits it, and who is the true victim of it.

At one point, a survivor recalls when an officer interviewed her, she was assaulted in a similar way, a home break-in, bound by zip ties, the same goggles and duct tape. He asked, “Are you sure you weren’t dreaming?” Stunned, she recounts presenting her bruised wrists. “How could I be dreaming?” she asks. He then asked her boyfriend if she was prone to exaggeration.

Again, I don’t want to ruin the story for you, because though it is true, it is a story, told with care and compassion by Bernadette Higgins, creator of “The Tinder Swindler” and Felicity Morris, of “Tinder Swindler” and “Don’t F**k with Cats.” If you’re the aforementioned pre-middle aged woman, you know these docus like the back of your hand.

This one, however, is worth a watch even by those who are NOT true crime junkies. The lessons hopefully learned by the guilty (and I’m using that term broadly) are lessons that the viewer can learn without making the same mistakes and ruining people’s lives. It’s one of the reasons I encouraged my husband in law enforcement to watch it. Indeed, all men should, as should all women who have any influence over men, or anyone. Because not all nightmares happen while you’re sleeping.

Jeanne Rougelot
Jeanne is a proud Westbanker and wife, full time working parent, and middle child. She and her insanely handsome husband of 20 years have 2 daughters, aged 15 and 7. Her hobbies include cake decorating, reading, devouring movies, and slowly turning into her mother. When they are not patronizing local restaurants, she and her family enjoy driving around to take in the surroundings of their home, from Lafitte to Folsom, and all points in between. She is a passionate advocate for Ovarian Cancer Awareness.


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