Into the Abyss

Overview

Acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog uses a disturbing triple homicide that took place in Conroe, Texas, as a springboard to exploring capital punishment in this challenging, thought-provoking documentary. In late 2001, Texas teens Jason Burkett and Michael Perry were arrested for a pair of murders related to a car theft gone horribly awry. Ten years later, Perry sits on death row awaiting execution, and Burkett languishes in prison with a lifetime sentence. Through interviews with the condemned man, his ...
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Overview

Acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog uses a disturbing triple homicide that took place in Conroe, Texas, as a springboard to exploring capital punishment in this challenging, thought-provoking documentary. In late 2001, Texas teens Jason Burkett and Michael Perry were arrested for a pair of murders related to a car theft gone horribly awry. Ten years later, Perry sits on death row awaiting execution, and Burkett languishes in prison with a lifetime sentence. Through interviews with the condemned man, his partner-in-crime, friends and relatives of both, local policemen, and the prison official in charge of carrying out executions, Herzog presents an unflinching portrait of the capital-punishment process, one that raises numerous questions about the high price we pay in our quest for justice.
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Special Features

Trailer
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Jason Buchanan
Werner Herzog fans know well that the prolific and versatile filmmaker is equally as effective at drawing thoughtful, insightful answers from his documentary interview subjects as he is at coaxing great performances from his actors. That ability to elicit vivid responses and primal emotions has resulted in an impressive and varied body of work, and in Into the Abyss -- a meditative exploration of capital punishment centered on a haunting homicide case -- the filmmaker uses his medium to pose challenging questions about the complex nature of morality as related to our quest for justice or, perhaps more accurately, revenge. In late 2001, Texas teens Jason Burkett and Michael Perry were arrested for a pair of murders related to a car theft gone horribly awry. A decade later, Perry sits on death row awaiting execution, and Burkett languishes in prison with a lifetime sentence. Through interviews with the condemned man, his partner-in-crime, friends and relatives of both, local policemen, and the prison official in charge of carrying out executions, Herzog presents an unflinching portrait of the capital-punishment process -- one that raises profound questions about the true cost of seeking "an eye for an eye." Using official police video and sober narration, Herzog walks viewers through the grisly case early in the film. The crime he presents is senseless and shocking, but the real tragedy, Herzog posits, is the way society responds to it. The director makes no attempt to mask his ardent opposition to the death penalty, and over the course of extensive conversations with Burkett and Perry, the reasons for his stance become increasingly clear. Not everyone who watches Into the Abyss will agree with Herzog's position on the controversial topic, but his humanistic approach to the subject is both well-thought-out and certain to raise challenging questions for those who may find themselves on the fence or oppose his views outright. Through the course of these conversations, Herzog sidesteps the superficial arguments and searches for true substance -- and he finds that substance in some of the most unlikely of places. A discussion with a minister in a cemetery of unmarked graves leads to an emotional anecdote about an encounter with a squirrel on a golf course; a story told by Burkett's father also serving an extended prison sentence turns surprisingly powerful as the remorseful parent recalls his own desperate and ultimately successful plea to spare his son the death penalty; and a quiet moment in the living room of the executioner himself leads to a deeply affecting story of the moment he realized he could never conduct another lethal injection, even though it would mean giving up his pension. Capital punishment can be an incredibly emotional subject, and by embracing these factors rather than avoiding them, Herzog avoids allowing the topic to become as cut-and-dried as some proponents would paint it. Some filmmakers use their abilities to entertain; Herzog uses his to challenge. Though Into the Abyss is often just as desolate and depressing as its title implies, it holds a mirror up to our values and forces us to study the reflection as we weigh our priorities as a society. Whether or not Into the Abyss will change anyone's opinion on the topic of capital punishment may be impossible to tell, but here more than ever, it's obvious that Herzog feels an intense obligation to use his talents for a greater good. And even if supporters of capital punishment take nothing more than a brief pause to reconsider their stance on the topic, he's still accomplished something that most directors never will: getting his viewers to look deep inside themselves for answers to one of society's most-difficult questions.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 4/10/2012
  • UPC: 030306934594
  • Original Release: 2011
  • Rating:

  • Source: Ifc Independent Film
  • Region Code: 1
  • Time: 1:47:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 39,467

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Richard Lopez Participant
Michael Perry Participant
Damon Hall Participant
Lisa Stotler-Balloun Participant
Charles Richardson Participant
Jason Burkett Participant
Jared Talbert Participant
Amanda West Participant
Delbert Burkett Participant
Melyssa Thompson-Burkett Participant
Fred Allen Participant
Technical Credits
Werner Herzog Director, Screenwriter
Mark Degli Antoni Score Composer
Joe Bini Editor
Amy Briamonte Executive Producer
Jeff Duncan Sound/Sound Designer
Randy Foster Sound/Sound Designer
Dave Harding Executive Producer
Sara Kozak Executive Producer
Michael Lile Sound/Sound Designer
Al McGuire Sound/Sound Designer
Erik Nelson Producer
Steve Osmon Sound/Sound Designer
Henry Schleiff Executive Producer
Andre Singer Executive Producer
Eric Spitzer Sound/Sound Designer
Lucki Stipetic Executive Producer
Peter Zeitlinger Cinematographer
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Into the Abyss
1. Opening [7:13]
2. "Home or Home" [8:59]
3. "Everyone Was Gone" [9:04]
4. "Me and Him Against the World" [7:43]
5. "Balls to the Walls!" [7:03]
6. The Dark Side of Conroe [8:26]
7. Everglades by Canoe [6:53]
8. "You got 'em" [4:41]
9. The Red Camaro [3:22]
10. A Glimmer of Hope [8:06]
11. "8 Days, 7 Days, 9 Days..." [6:52]
12. "I Can't do 'em No More" [6:24]
13. "I'm Really Glad I Went" [8:21]
14. End Credits [11:46]
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Menu

Disc #1 -- Into the Abyss
   Play
   Chapters
   Trailer
   Setup
      Subtitles: English SDH
      Subtitles: Spanish
      Subtitles: Off
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