Into the Abyss is a documentary film written and directed by Werner Herzog, a German filmmaker well known for hands off documentaries, presenting material with little to no narration, leaving the films open to interpretation by his audience. The film centers around Michael Perry and Jason Burkett, both convicted of triple homicide that has taken place in Conroe, Texas.
The film premiered on September 3, 2011, at the Telluride Film Festival. The film sparked so much interest in capital punishment in the United States states that Herzog was able to push it to a theatrical release, enabling it to receive a wider audience.
The film explores different elements of the murder, including Perry's past offenses, both of the men's personal lives, possible motivations for the murder, a tour of the crime scene, as well as the daily lives of the victim's families.
Herzog often asks personal questions of the two young offenders to give the audience an idea of their personalities and possible motives. During these short interviews, both men blame each other and claim to have changed. In Michael Perry's case, he believes that he will find peace in heaven after his death because he has found God. In Burkett's case, he believes he has been given a second chance because of his wife and their child on the way. Burkett's father also appears in the documentary, a man who has also made several bad choices in his life, resulting in a life sentence. Throughout the film, he shows regret that his son has chosen a similar path, and blames his son's actions on himself.
The victims families are also interviewed, and Herzog explores the different ways in which they deal with their grief and continue on with their daily lives. Herzog also interviews them about their feelings about Perry and Burkett, and whether or not the two young men deserve capital punishment or another chance.