TTCFF 2018: ‘The Sandman’ Offers A Look Into Capital Punishment

Whether or not you agree with it, capital punishment happens in the United States. As a matter of fact, 31 out of 50 US states practice capital punishment. Surprisingly, only 17 of those states require a physician to be present during an execution of any kind. Since all major medical associations oppose physician participation, doctors who feel the need to provide assistance must do so anonymously. In Lauren Knapp’s documentary, The Sandman, we get an indepth look at the emotional roller coaster ridden by Dr. Carlo A. Musso, the emergency room physician and capital punishment opponent who also happens to provide final healthcare for the men and women on Georgia’s Death Row during their executions.

Dr. Carlo A Musso, The Sandman
Dr. Carlo A. Musso

“I’ve thought a lot about giving this interview… and actually about writing a book, I already have a title for the book in mind. It’s “The Sandman.” When I show up, someone is being put to sleep.” — Dr. Carlo A. Musso

The Sandman‘s Official Synopsis:

Dr. Carlo Musso has been helping the state of Georgia execute inmates via lethal injection since 2003. The medical community strongly and unanimously opposes the use of medicine for executions. Yet, most states practicing lethal injection require a physician presence. In exchange, they offer a cloak of anonymity. The Sandman explores Dr. Musso’s own moral equivocation and justification for providing “end of life care” within the correctional environment, while personally opposing capital punishment.

A passion project for documentarian Lauren Knapp (Lockdown 2015), The Sandman was directed, produced, written, edited and shot by this filmmaking powerhouse. Despite the fact that, for the most part, only two people appear on screen – Dr. Musso and his wife, Teresa – this 21-minute story of one man’s balancing act between wanting to do good for his patients and despising the capital punishment law is an emotional head-turner. No matter what side of the coin you find yourself on, you can’t help but feel the stirring affectivity behind Dr. Musso’s struggles with compassion and belief.

Now, The Sandman will not try to shift your own opinion on capital punishment one way or another. We never see inmates try to plead their case or the conditions in which they live. However, I will say that the updates on the last few minutes of inmate Travis Hittson’s life were incredibly moving, despite the fact that nothing of his death was shown and the information was given in an objective, unemotional way. Despite knowing what he did to land on Death Row, his own demise in a clinical, matter-of-fact environment made the whole thing so much worse.

The Sandman was shown at this year’s Toronto True Crime Film Festival, and as a horror movie review, I can only ask that you take a look at this short documentary if you get the chance. For more information on this controversial subject, visit the film’s website here. You can watch a ten minute version of the film here.

About Tracy Allen

As the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of, Tracy has learned a lot about independent horror films and the people who love them. Now an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes, she hopes the masses will follow her reviews back to PopHorror and learn more about the creativity and uniqueness of indie horror movies.

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