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Drive-In Massacre's Movie Reviews (43)

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Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills 
the best documentary ever made.
4/4 stars

For me, the 1996 true-crime documentary film, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders of Robin Hood Hills directed by Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, Brothers Keeper) is one of those movies we all come about, that we consider personally "life-changing". For movie geeks...it's one of those movies we'd consider to be in our top 10 or 20.

I rented this rather obscure American documentary a little over a year ago at my local library. I had absolutely no idea what it was about, I had never heard about it in any form, I was simply skimming through the documentary section and thought it could be an interesting little "48 Hours" type of deal to pass the time. What I got instead was what I felt was an astounding film that I would constantly be thinking and talking about every second for at least the following 2 months.


This 150 minute film, is a documentary that has such a signature feel, tone, and look. Everywhere in this Mid-90's Southern-American town seems to have overcast, everything feels cold,distant and strange. To put it short, the documentary is about the horrific, supposed-ritualistic murders of three 8-year old children. Almost immediately the West Memphis police department arrest three 17-19 year old boys (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, Jessie Miskelley, later known as the West Memphis 3) for these murders . I'm not going to get too much more into the story, but through out the film you learn that in more ways than one West Memphis at the time, being afraid of a new Satanist scare, pinned three boys for the murders because of the way they stuck out with their black-clothing and taste for heavy-metal music. It sounds stupid, but it's true.

I can think of almost no other film that was as emotionally-affective. You hear about these films that "make you laugh and cry", but Paradise Lost truly makes the viewer go from laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation, to being utterly confused to frustrated to furious to depressed, and of course being devastated. Devastated by the initial crime that had been committed, devastated with having to watch the victim's parents deal with their losses. Devastated by the arrest of three innocent boys. Devastated because nobody, not the public or the victim's parents have any doubt that the 3 arrested are the true killers. It is really just an extremely powerful film.

As of right now, their are 2 Paradise Lost films (a third in production) and as far as the first one goes, it's really not manipulative. It does give everyone who watches it doubts over the evidence (how could it not), but I've watched it with people who were not sure if the convicted boys were innocent, I've watched with people who truly thought the boys who were convicted did indeed commit the crimes. It's a movie, I can write about for a long, long time (and apparently have), and I can not recommend this film more highly. It is, in my humble opinion, the best documentary film ever.

5/5

...It's free on youtube, check it out.


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