April 2, 2018  (Web Review)

Unseen

(2017) 77 min. DVD: $19.95, Blu-ray: $24.95. FilmRise (avail. from www.amazon.com).

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Laura Paglin’s documentary focuses on an astonishing crime spree that metastasized for years before ending with a gruesome discovery. In 2009, Cleveland police found 11 bodies in the home of Anthony Sowell, which turned out to be the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Sowell would later be convicted of 84 criminal counts, including for murder, kidnapping, and rape. For years, local residents had complained in vain to law enforcement about both the smell coming from the Sowell residence and the disappearance of young women in the neighborhood. Unseen offers compelling testimonies from women who survived their encounters with Sowell, as well as comments from family members of several victims. The main lure that Sowell used for his victims was crack, carefully selecting women addicted to the drug. Perhaps the most haunting interview is with Anthony Dozier, the son of Sowell’s first victim, Crystal Dozier, who recalls his mother’s failure to kick her drug habit, lamenting that “she wanted to be normal.” Paglin does a commendable job of presenting this story without veering into exploitation, although there are no answers here regarding the police department’s initial lethargy in responding to the missing persons cases and suspicions about the Sowell house. An intelligent and disturbing true-crime documentary, this is recommended. Aud: C, P. (P. Hall)