Old 10-07-2001, 07:38 PM
"Paradise Lost 2: Revelations" (10/10)

A brief Brock Landers Overview Of A Joe Berlinger Documentary (10/10)

From the director of such great documentaries as "Brother's Keeper" and the original "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills", as well as "Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows" (Joe Berlinger... with Bruce Sinofsky), comes the follow-up to one of the most interesting stories to ever come out of Memphis, Tennessee concerning murder and possible innocence of the imprisoned people it concerns. You see this film not only questions whether or not Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin are in fact the killers in this case, but it shines a spotlight on other prime suspects who could easily be the real killers.

The original film "Paradise Lost" claims that the law singled out the three young men because they liked to wear black, listen to metallica and other headbanger music, and had long hair and were "different", and by the end of the first film we see that they are anything but. "Paradise Lost 2" examines the aftermath of the first and is extremely revealing in its honestly unflinching and uncompromising look at the players in this twisted drama. It sure made me see things differently, and completely changed my mind about the verdict in the original. Berlinger outdoes himself.

This controversial film takes an in-depth look at the savage and brutal sex murders of three small boys in 1993 West Memphis, Arkansas. The poor victimized boys were strangled with their own shoelaces, battered and bruised, and hideously mutilated, a completely horrific crime. After a brief investigation, three young teens were picked up and charged with the slayings... Damien, Jason, and Jessie. The thing that leaves so many questions in my mind is that there was little or no evidence to link the three to the murders, except that the police thought they were in a satanic cult and the murders apparently had satanic ritualistic overtones to them, making them inherently evil, and the town needed scapegoats.

While the film is more about the legal system and the subsequent trial that faced the three, it is also an intimate portrait into the real lives of three misguided boys.

Damien was named the leader of these three, so as such he awaits the sentence of death he was given even to this very day, while the other two, Jason and Jessie received life sentences. And while this film is as objective as a film can be, and I applaud Berlinger's efforts to do so, I still left a recent viewing of this film believing that maybe justice doesn't exist in this world.

Something important to look out for is John Mark Byers, the father of one of the young boys killed. He comes off as a true psycho and the film shows how he could easily be a suspect in the murder just by his erratic and overly-zealous behavior, one moment leading his church congregation in a hymn, the next blowing away fruit with his black powder pistol while he pretends the target is Damien, Jessie and Jason. It is some seriously messed-up backwoods shit. I was extremely convinced that he was the true murderer after watching him rant and rave all through the film, his need to be overly dramatic and eerie, Byers talks to the sky about how he is innocent, self-serving monologues, and performs fucked-up rituals at the crime site with much delirious fervor. Another thing to watch for is the relatives of the suspected murderers, all of who come from extremely poor backgrounds, mostly are trailer park residents, and as Jessie proves, are just a few points away from being retarded on the IQ scale, which was proved in the first film by real tests.

At times, "Paradise Lost 2: Revelations" is nail-bitingly intense, just brimming over with suspense and wierdness, from the displays of forensic evidence to the wierd and whacked-out players in this human drama. Also keep in mind that Berlinger was chosen to direct "Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows" based on how creepy the original "Paradise Lost" film was, and this becomes abundantly self-evident if you watch the beginning of "BW2" and the whole helicopter shot, not to mention the whole "goth" thing, a personal and obvious reference to Damien Echols. Another plus about this film and the first is all of the old Metallica music it plays, back when they really did rock, and before Lars became such a sniveling dick.

Furthermore, this entire saga has become a celebrity cause of sorts... just check out Trey Parker's statement at the 2001 MTV Movie Awards, "FREE THE WEST MEMPHIS THREE!!", and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder wears the "Free The West Memphis Three" T-Shirt at some of his concerts... not to mention bands and performers who did work for the benefit CD, acts like Tom Waits, Steve Earle, Rocket From The Crypt, Kelley Deal, Nashville Pussy, The Supersuckers (with Eddie Vedder), The Longbeach Dub All Stars, and more. The case continues even today. It's one of those stories that repulses at the same time it intrigues. Definitely worth watching if you are into real crime and the legal system, or even just enjoy truly great documentaries.

[This message has been edited by Brock Landers (edited 10-07-2001).]
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Old 10-08-2001, 08:04 PM
cool. i might have to put this on my movies-to-rent list.
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Old 10-09-2001, 12:15 AM
One thing frequently occured to me while watching this movie. Looking at the accused, looking at the "evidence" presented against them, I couldn't help but think that under different circumstances, any one of those them could easily be me. Black clothes, heavy metal, anti-social? I fit the profile. If a kid can be convicted on that basis, frankly I'm a little frightened. I had hoped that this documentary would aid in bringing some semblance of justice for the wrongfully accused teens, but apparently that's not the case. As it stands, it serves as a chilling reminder of how fallable our justice system really can be. The worst part of it is, if these kids didn't do it (and I truly believe that to be the case), then who did?
7/10. Scary stuff.
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