Final closure of one of the strangest crime stories of the 20th century. West of Memphis is the fourth time this material has brewed on the West Memphis 3 – Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jason Misskelley, who were charged with murdering three, 8-year old boys in 1993 by method of satanic ritual. Years later, not only were they supported by a sweeping coalition to free them but it was proven that it wasn’t a ritualistic murder in the first place. Amy Berg (“Deliver Us From Evil”) is the director here, whom has constructed striking new arguments and landed candid interviews different from that of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s “Paradise Lost” series.
Through the efforts of filmmakers, defense attorneys and selfless crusaders over the years, the case has revealed holes, planted evidence and cover-ups by a myriad police and justice system. The judge was long unsympathetic to see a re-opening of the case, but by diligence, the case is re-opened 18 years later. Echols has spent all that time on death row as opposed to the other two sentenced to life imprisonment, passing the time by reading books and occasionally seeing his wife (whom married him in prison) in monitored visitation.
Over the years, the true suspect as steered from one individual to the next – but only now do we see, in this film, that individual interrogated in court record. To think, this murderer has held a secret for 18 years, saw three kids barely 18-years old get carted to prison for the rest of their lives, and has no sympathy but for his own hide. There is another sick up-close interview, too, this one with a DA prosecutor who wants to terminate the chances of appeal even though he hardly knows the case himself.
You’re familiar to the story, you say, then this is probably the film you’ve been waiting for. Or you saw “Purgatory” last year and feel it’s enough. This time be known, there are new factual awakenings, and a fresh perspective. The most important shot this time are of bayou turtles and a pig, which stunningly sheds light on the original murders. How does that connect? You’d have to watch this particular documentary to see how. Also note the participation of celebrities Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins, Natalie Maines, Peter Jackson and Johnny Depp to raising awareness to free the West Memphis Three.
If you’re new to this story – you can research it online. My suggestion for newbies is to see 1996’s “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hill” then see “West of Memphis.” And, if you’ve got more than ten hours on hand see them all. Four films on this case.
146 Minutes. Rated R.
DOCUMENTARY / CRIME STORY / LATE NIGHT MYSTERY
Film Cousins: “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hill” (1996); “Paradise Lost 2: Revelations” (2000); “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” (2011).