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Pathological seeks truth in Holloway case

Finding a fresh spin on a heavily saturated event proves a challenge even in light of recent shifts with the case of Natalee Holloway, the teenager who went missing in Aruba in 2005. Armed with an October 2023 murder confession from Joran Van der Sloot, director Christopher Cassel assembled a mix of new interviews with extensive file footage for Pathological: The Lies of Joran van der Sloot. Finding file footage proves no problem in a case that drew international news coverage plus resulted in other documentaries, a television movie, plus numerous books and podcasts. Producing his project for the Peacock Network gives Cassel access to NBC footage from the day, along with insights of reporter Michelle Kosinski who covered the case for years. Cassel also leans on the authors of a book called Portrait of a Monster as he unveils a string of events that no good writer would ever try for a fictionalized mystery. While those who never read the Portrait book or somehow missed coverage of the case will find a startling and compelling story, the bulk of Pathological rehashes familiar events. As the Pathological title implies, Cassel uses the varied and contradictory stories his subject told as a linking tool for events proceeding from a disappearance to a murder to incarceration and more. But the documentary’s updated revelations come from only a small section towards the end, with reactions caused by van der Sloot’s most recent version of events. Choosing not to interview van der Sloot—saying it only feeds the man’s obsessive need for attention—Cassel’s newest material comes with reactions from victims’ families. These add a layer of interest without providing satisfactory heft or perceptions. Questions remain, leaving the story open to many more retellings.

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