Movie Review: West of Memphis (2012)

A documentary about murders of three 8-year-old boys in one of the towns buried in the Bible-Belt of US. Three naked bodies were found in a shallow swamp; one suggested sexual mutilation, and the other two with brutal knife’s marks on their bodies. It was an usual school night, Wednesday, three kids out playing before dinnertime, but they never returned. Police narrowed their investigation as a satanic cult killings, and arrested their alleged murderers: three misfit teenagers. One a weirdo into heavy rock, Gothic outfits, another mentally challenged, third a quiet nerdy loner. Damien Wayne EcholsJessie Misskelley,and Jason Baldwin, respectively.



The fascinating part was that if you didn’t follow and watch the 1996 release of the HBO Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky documentary, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (Wikipedia), you would have no idea about the case, like me. Apparently, it got international crowdfunding to appeal the case up to the Arkansas’ Supreme Court. It even has it own website: Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Johny Depp and Dixie Chicks, were their supporters.

As in murder cases, reasonable doubts are the keys to set alleged murderer(s) free. In this case, Echols was sentenced to death penalty, and the other two life imprisonment. As the camera rolled, it told us briefly the prosecutor version of the convictions: how these teenagers were coerced to admit their guilt of the crimes. The prosecutor was successful in building a case of satanic ritual where an eight-year-old genital’s was mutilated, blood drank, and testicles crushed. The jury concurred and found all three guilty.

The documentary was very successful in creating reasonable doubts! It questioned the step-fathers of at least two kids, who usually were likely perpetrators of a crime that involved kids: family members. One of them, Terry Hobbs, became the main suspect of this alternative theory.

I felt I was buckled in my safety harness of a roller coaster, so I was on a ride designed by the film-makers, in this case, one of the producers was Peter Jackson (Lords of the Ring), and another, Damien Wayne Echols. At that point, when I saw the credits rolled, I felt I was a bit let down, cause the idea of objectivity just went out of the windows. On one hand, I felt being totally manipulated; on the other hand, it was compelling to believe that the truth was right there with those corrupted ambitious right-wing police and politicians. 

Those teenagers were exonerated, the climax of the film, with their Alford plea, but the fact remains, who actually killed those innocent kids. More importantly, has Justice been served?

I really don’t know!

WATCH…and make your own conclusion.


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