Judge Daryl Loomis once had a nightmare about Las Cruces in which he had to visit Las Cruces.
One of the most notorious unsolved crimes in history.
Early on the morning of February 10, 1990, the city of Las Cruces, NM, was torn apart when two gunmen walked into a bowling alley and shot seven people, adults and children both, execution style. If not for the courage of one young victim, they all might have perished, but her 911 call saved her life and the lives of two others. The four who perished were grieved and mourned by many, but their killers were never brought to justice. A Nightmare in Las Cruces revisits this incident two decades later to search for some kind of truth in the tragedy.
In spite of its unfortunate packaging, which suggests some kind of unseemly true crime horror cheapie, A Nightmare in Las Cruces is actually a well-told, straightforward documentary intended to bring the horrible incident back into people's minds and, hopefully, give these families a little closure. Through interviews, reenactments, and archival footage; director Charlie Minn lays out a compelling picture. Unflinching in his depiction of this event, Minn shows us the original crime scene video and plays for us the emergency call that saved three lives. All of that is quite chilling, but thankfully not exploitative. We do get a little bit of cheesy dramatizations, but not more so than in your average episode of Unsolved Mysteries. They don't take up much time, so are a minor distraction.
The real star of the show is Melissia Repass. At 12 years old, shot five times, and with the room on fire; she still had the composure to call 911 and save the lives of her mother and another woman, in addition to her's. Her words still exude sadness and, for good reason, she is very emotional in her interviews. As much as what happened changed her, she has still been able to make a good life for herself. Not so for everybody involved who have worked tirelessly to find a lead to the killers. We hear from the mother of the two dead children (two and six) whose husband brought them to work and died himself, as well as his brother. She has been the main advocate for these victims for the last two decades. The survivors have managed to live as best they can, but their lives have become consumed by the tragedy. Until the day they die, they'll never have it out of their heads, and that's the saddest part of the film.
A Nightmare in Las Cruces comes to us from Lionsgate in a simple but effective package. The box art is misleading, but I otherwise can't complain. For a cheap documentary, the image looks good. The footage is from mixed sources, but the new footage, which includes the interviews and dramatizations, is very strong. The old stuff doesn't look so great, but that's expected. The sound fares pretty much the same: a no-frills surround mix that gets the job done and nothing more. Our only extra is an audio commentary with the director, which is worth a listen. Minn gives a little more background on the incident but, more interestingly, also lets us in on his take on the elusive question of why these killers, seemingly there to rob the place, laid down such a brutal massacre. In his opinion, this was no accident, but he admits that he has no way to prove anything.
Maybe A Nightmare in Las Cruces will help locate the scumbags who shot seven people, including babies, on that terrible February day. The case, so long cold, is unlikely ever to result in an arrest but, at the very least, the film can serve as a memorial to the people whose lives were forever changed by their actions.
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