American Nightmare’s unusual ending, explained by the director

‘We wanted Muller to be a footnote’

The world of true crime documentaries is no stranger to gripping tales, but American Nightmare takes a unique turn, steering away from the conventional narratives of serial killers or unsolved disappearances. The three-part Netflix series delves into the harrowing ordeal of Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn, who in 2015, found themselves in the midst of a bizarre and terrifying kidnapping. As the couple faced skepticism from law enforcement and media, the case garnered comparisons to the infamous Gone Girl saga, leaving viewers intrigued and questioning the credibility of the events.

American Nightmare builds tension throughout its runtime, exploring the consequences of rush-to-judgment culture and the failures of law enforcement. However, as the series concludes, viewers are left with an ending that takes an unexpected and somewhat unsettling turn.

The final episode sheds light on the intricate details of Denise Huskins’ abduction, false imprisonment, and sexual assault by Matthew Muller. Despite the revelation of the truth, the focus of the ending appears to be more on systemic misogyny, police failure, and the victimisation of Denise and Aaron, rather than the legal consequences faced by Muller. Viewers are left with numerous unanswered questions, such as the fate of the ex-fiancée, and the ambiguity surrounding the camera in Aaron’s room—was it a functioning device or a decoy? The most pressing question for viewers revolves around why the series didn’t conclude with Matthew Muller’s sentencing.

via Netflix

So, what has American Nightmare’s director said about the show’s ending?

In an attempt to unravel the mysterious ending of American Nightmare, the directors, Felicity Morris and Bernadette Higgins, have offered insights into their storytelling choices. The directors, known for their previous work on The Tinder Swindler, approached this project with a desire to go beyond the surface of a crime story and explore the nuances of victimhood and law enforcement failures.

Addressing the decision to focus on the victims rather than delve deeply into Matthew Muller’s background, the directors emphasized their commitment to avoiding the glorification of perpetrators. In an interview with GQ Morris stated, “We would rather nobody remembered his name, to be honest with you.”

Higgins clarified the filmmakers’ intent regarding Matthew Muller in an interview with MovieMaker, saying, “It certainly wasn’t ever about fetishising Matthew Muller. We decided very early on that we didn’t want to give him any kind of platform. It wasn’t his story.”

The directors acknowledge the various approaches to storytelling and how they could have chosen to delve into Muller’s background. However, they were resolute in giving Muller only as much screen time as necessary to provide context to Denise and Aaron’s story of survival. “We’re not interested in giving that kind of platform to perpetrators. We think it’s really important that victims are the people that are heard, they’re the people who are the most affected by this,” Higgins explained.

Morris highlighted their reluctance to provide Muller with unnecessary attention, stating, “He was almost angry that he wasn’t getting credit for what he’d done when they were calling Denise a hoaxer. So it would have played absolutely into his hands for us to have a whole episode on him, and who is Matthew Muller, and why did he do this? And we just, we didn’t want to give him that space. He didn’t deserve it.”

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