‘American Nightmare’ Recap & Ending: Was Denise Huskins A Real-Life Gone Girl?

Netflix kicks off the new year with a three-part crime documentary series titled American Nightmare, which revolves around the kidnapping of Denise Huskins, who was abducted from her house in Vallejo, California. The entire suspicion fell on her current boyfriend, Aaron Quinn. However, the local detective later attached a Gone Girl theory to the case and put the entire blame on the kidnapped victim, calling her a pathological liar and the true perpetrator of the crime. Many outlandish theories and speculations emerged from this kidnapping incident. But when the truth was revealed, it came out as a tight slap in the face to the flawed police department of Vallejo.


Spoilers Ahead

How Did The Kidnappers Took Away Denise Huskins?

A twenty-nine-year-old physiotherapist, Denise Huskins, was kidnapped from her boyfriend’s house. On the night of March 23, 2015, Aaron and Denise were sleeping peacefully in their bed when a group of men barged into their house in Vallejo, California. They asked Aaron to lie face down while they instructed Denise to tie him up. Terrified to death, Denise did what she was told. The kidnappers then drugged the couple and took Denise to their car outside the house, while Aaron remained helpless with his hands tied up behind his back. Both Aaron and Denise were blindfolded by these kidnappers, so they couldn’t see their faces. The kidnappers put Denise inside the trunk of their car and took her to a desolate place. Aaron managed to untie himself, but he was too terrified to call the police. The kidnappers had told him that if he tried to call the police, it would be the end for Denise. However, mustering up his courage, Aaron finally called 911 in the morning and described the kidnapping of his girlfriend. The police soon brought Aaron into custody while also informing Denise’s parents.


Why Did Aaron Quinn Become A Suspect?

Aaron thoroughly described the whole scenario and also told the police that he had managed to overhear the conversation between the kidnappers, saying that their actual target was Aaron’s ex-fiancee, Andrea. Andrea was also a physical therapist who was a colleague of Aaron and Denise in the same hospital. After Aaron found out that Andrea was cheating on him, he decided to leave her and go for a relationship with Denise. However, Aaron wasn’t completely over Andrea, as he always tried to find a way to get back to her, which caused a huge problem in his relationship with Denise. Aaron told the interrogating officer everything about the conflicts in their relationship, hoping that he’d be able to cooperate with the police with as much information he could give them, but his efforts to help find his girlfriend went in vain when the police officer suspected Aaron as the perpetrator of the crime. They believed Aaron was cooking up a story to hide his own crimes. They came up with the theory that probably Aaron had killed Denise and buried her somewhere, and now to come up clean, he was fabricating a story of her kidnapping.

Even the officer who performed a lie detector test on Aaron told him that he had failed the test miserably, while the test came up with unknown results. Aaron broke down and wanted someone to believe him. He appointed a lawyer who put his faith in Aaron and dug deeper into the case. Finally, the suspicion from Aaron lifted off when an anonymous sender sent a voice recording of Denise, which clarified that she was alive. The police could have easily traced the call to find Denise, but the Vallejo PD was filled with a bunch of lazy law enforcement officers who just wanted to minimize their investigation by putting the entire blame on the victims. Finally, weeks after Denise’s kidnapping, her father received a call from his neighborhood and found out that his daughter had come back to his house. Denise was dropped off at her father’s place by the kidnapper, but Denise’s return stirred up a whole lot of bizarre theories that gained media attention. Some people believed that it was Denise who’d staged her kidnapping to get revenge on her boyfriend, just like Amy Dunne (portrayed by Rosamund Pike) did in David Fincher’s Gone Girl. As Denise returned home safe and alive, the police almost confirmed that it was merely a hoax committed by Denise herself. Therefore, shortly after Denise’s return, a press conference was held where a police officer publicly declared Aaron and Denise liars.


Was Denise Huskins A Real-Life Gone Girl?

In the second episode of this enthralling series, we saw Denise Huskins facing the camera, telling the truth about what happened to her. Her description matched the one Aaron Quinn had given to the authorities. Denise continued telling a horrific story of how she was captive in a desolate cabin, where she found that the kidnapper was an individual who was the mastermind of this plan. This man was an ex-military who told Denise that he had kidnapped her for ransom, but it wasn’t her who was his target. Initially, the kidnapper was a little bit easy on her, but soon he revealed his true intentions. He demanded to have sex with Denise and record it so that Denise couldn’t go to the police after that. Denise was extremely terrified, and all she wanted was to get out of this place, so she couldn’t resist the man and complied with his demands. She was sexually assaulted by her captor twice, just to survive and get out of his grasp.

Throughout the time she was in captivity, she was blindfolded, so she couldn’t even see the kidnapper’s face properly. However, one day, when the kidnapper found a video of Denise’s father getting interviewed and talking about his daughter, he took Denise outside and dropped her off at her father’s place. However, before leaving her, he threatened Denise not to mention to the police about his involvement in the military or the fact that he had sexually assaulted her; otherwise, the next time he would come for her entire family. Terrified and depressed, Denise couldn’t talk to anyone from the authorities about what exactly happened to her, but her defense lawyer, Doug, encouraged her to speak the truth. He asked Denise not to give in to these kidnappers because all they wanted was to create control over some weak people. He encouraged Denise to become stronger and speak to the police about the truth. Denise finally went to the police and talked about the sexual assault and the kidnapper’s past job as a military officer. But the authorities still didn’t believe Denise and continued calling her a Gone Girl. The negligence of the police left both Aaron and Denise in shock, so they decided not to trust the authorities anymore. However, Aaron and Denise finally got back together, as Aaron was afraid that he might lose her again. He vowed to be truthful to her and work on their relationship, which at least gave Denise a sense of relief and happiness.


Who Was The Main Culprit Behind The Kidnapping?

No one can ever suppress the truth forever, as it will eventually come out. During this time, in Dublin, there was another home invasion, which was quickly reported by the wife in the house. The police followed a lead and managed to capture a man named Matthew Muller, who was an ex-marine as well as a former immigrant lawyer. Matthew was dealing with bipolar disorder as well as Gulf War syndrome, which gravely affected his psyche, making him a sociopathic maniac. Matthew had previously intruded on a house in Palo Alto and was also the infamous Mare Island Creeper, who used to peep into the windows of houses to spy on women. During the investigation, a police officer in Dublin named Mitsy Caruso discovered swimming goggles with duct tape attached to them from Matthew’s belongings. These goggles also had a single strand of long blonde hair, which made Mitsy worried. She dug deeper into Matthew’s history and collected data on all of his victims, but none of them had long blonde hair. Finally, after making some phone calls here and there, Mitsy came to know about the Gone Girl case in Vallejo. She quickly ran a search on Google and found Denise Huskins, who had long blond hair that matched the hair strand on Matthew’s goggles. Soon, Mitsy communicated with the Vallejo PD, who asked her to contact the FBI, who was now handling this case. The FBI finally paid attention to what Mitsy told them and managed to connect the dots to conclude that it was Matthew Muller who had kidnapped Denise Huskins on March 23 at midnight.

The truth was ultimately revealed, slapping in the face of some of the laziest law enforcement officers, who’d pointed their fingers at Denise by calling her a hoaxer. Denise and Aaron were finally satisfied that they had been able to prove themselves true. They couldn’t thank Mitsy enough for her contribution to this investigation to hunt down the criminal. From the very beginning, Aaron and Denise wanted to trust the authorities and call someone from the lawmen their hero, but they couldn’t because of the misbehavior they had received from the police department. They could finally call someone like Mitsy Caruso their hero, who saved them from these false rumors and gossip around them. 


Matthew Muller was arrested and found guilty of his crimes because of which he was sent to prison for 40 long years. Not only Matthew Muller, but the law enforcement officers who had wronged Denise and Aaron suffered for their mistakes. The couple sued the Vallejo PD for their false accusations about the victims, and the chief of the police, Andrew Bidou, who was the main culprit behind the press conference and the official announcement of Denise being a liar, was sued by the couple. However, Andrew maintained his innocence and said that he had never intended to say anything wrong to Denise or Aaron. However, Denise and Aaron are now a married couple, with two children living their lives and leaving their past traumas behind. This documentary series is an engaging watch not only because of the thrill it produces by depicting these real-life stories but also because it shows the flaws of justice and the real side of a law enforcement department that intended to make spicy gossip out of a serious case instead of trying to find out the truth.

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Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda hails from a medical background, yet her journey is to cross the boundaries of medicine and survive in the cinematic world. The surrealistic beauty of cinema and art has attracted her from a very young age. She loves to write poems, songs, and stories, but her dream is to write films someday. She has also worked as a painter, but nothing attracts her more than cinema. Through her writings, she wants to explore the world of cinema more and more and take her readers on the same ride.

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