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A 20th Century Witch hunt?,
This review is from: Paradise Lost - The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (DVD)
Paradise Lost is not an uneventful documentary to say the least. The backdrop is West Memphis during the early to mid 1990s and concerns the disappearance and murder of three children and the sensational media blitz that followed in the wake of the arrest, trial and conviction of two teenagers and one young adult on the bases of a confession that many doubt the authenticity of, the circumstances of the extraction and the low-IQ of the confessor.
What makes this documentary so interesting is the lack of evidence and demonizing of the accused because of how they dress and the music they listen to and how one of them read books about Wicca. The prosecutors present a satanic panic case in order to make up for being short on the proof they need to agree with the confession to create a solid case. In this respect Paradise Lost does not say that the `West Memphis 3' are innocent, or even if justice has been served, but has the case been properly handled. What you mostly see during the trial is that the prosecutors terrify a fundamentalist Christian community with accusations and hearsay of satanic ritual killings accompanied by very dubious evidence to support that view.
The film makers focus on the lives of the families of the accused, the accused and especially the lawyers, but eventually turn their attention to one particular family member of a victim who eventually has to take the stand after blood stains are discovered on his hunting knife. The blood evidence however is inconclusive.
Even though the documentary is very popular, it does have some failings. It doesn't explain everything about the case and sometimes just jumps right into the events as they unfold without explaining how they got there. That is not to say that the documentary doesn't do a job of putting forward a good argument for injustice, but at the same time it's not just a lynching as some viewers may expect given the notoriety this material has in promoting the innocence of the West Memphis 3. There are certain aspects of the accused behavior that don't always add up, on and off the camera. It is really very hard to come away thinking that the West Memphis 3 are completely innocent, but there is enough oddities to warrant further investigation into how this case was handles. To this extent viewers will probably want to also watch Paradise Lost 2 to discover what else has come to light since this documentary brought the attention of the world to what could be a 20th century witch hunt.
*Note* This documentary contains graphic images some of which is video from the actual crime scene itself.