In November 2005 in Haditha, Iraq, twenty-four unarmed men, women, and children were killed by US Marines. ‘House Two’ was the official name of the dwelling where civilian women and children were gunned down at close range in their beds. There was no investigation into why US Marines were shooting children in the head in a sun-drenched bedroom until Time broke the story six months later. The trial — the largest and most expensive criminal investigation in Marine history — centered on a single solider: Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the highest-ranking officer on site.
For his new film, House Two, award-winning Director Michael Epstein interviews and observes Wuterich and his legal team as they prepare the case. He obtains detailed recollections with the two NCIS special agents assigned to the case, as well as an interview with the one surviving girl from the house. As the investigation deepens, Frank swears he doesn’t remember anything that happened. Every other soldier on the team is given immunity. The NCIS special agents spend months recreating the scene with photographs of the crime scene, discovering horrific realities about how they died, but no one saw the direction the case would go.
The images uncovered in House Two are profoundly chilling, among the worst imaginable because of the scene they create, where the soldiers who did this intentionally murdered a mother and her children. The scenes with Wuterich let him be as he is — an enigmatic figure. He’s a hands-on father who admittedly suppresses all his emotions, clearly upset about the investigation, but seemingly not about anything that actually happened in Iraq. Does he really not remember?
The monumental delicacy of making a documentary film about this trial is clear. Epstein’s mastery as a filmmaker makes a devastating topic a necessary film to watch. The quiet, steady pacing draws the audience into this nightmarish story to where it’s impossible to look away. Favoring a quiet meticulous script over sensationalism, House Two tells a complete and deeply haunting story.