The late 90s were the most influential film years of my life. I was living in Canada and discovered a new realm of cinema that seemed foreign to me at the time. I was consumed with films like Roadkill, The Hanging Garden and City Of Lost Children. As a 16 year old I had my driver's licence and would take myself to art house cinemas to absorb as much of it as I could... it was at the 1997 Vancouver Film Festival that I saw Paradise Lost: The Child Murders At Robin Hood Hills. It told the story of the West Memphis Three, three teenagers who were convicted of murdering three young boys as part of satanic rituals. The film meticulously revealed the entire case to be one of hysteria and fear and through rational examination, it all but proved the three to be innocent. The film generated national outrage and support for the WM3 and it was followed by a sequel in 2000. This second film brought even more evidence to light that absolutely excluded the WM3 as suspects, let alone perpetrators. Over the years I have kept a keen eye on the case and introduced it to as many people as I could here in Australia. At the time I was in Canada I strongly identified with the WM3. I wore dark clothes, watched horror movies and was particularly obsessed with Marilyn Manson, Nick Cave, Tim Burton and various other dark artists. Back here in Aus I held various fundraising efforts including a double feature of the first two films, which I suppose is where a lot of you were introduced to the case.
Cut to 2011 and the WM3 are freed! It was a sudden and unexpected turn of events. After 18 years the three men were removed from their cells and escorted to a court room where they were instructed that they would be released under the rare motion of an Alford Plea. This meant that they would walk free with the freedom to maintain their innocence all the while admitting guilt on the record. It's a stupid legal avenue that is essentially a court's way of recognising their own wrongdoing while saving face (and money). The world can see that. For the 12 or so months before their release Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger were filming their 3rd film "Purgatory". Of course they had no idea that their film would end with the WM3 walking free and it was fortunate that they were able to capture this in time, giving the trilogy a proper conclusion. The film continues the fight and introduces even MORE evidence that proves innocence and actually discovers DNA evidence that strongly implicates Terry Hobbs, a step father of one of the victims. The details of the case are too deep to get into but I encourage anyone to research the case. The fight continues and not only do the WM3 continue their crusade to clear their names unequivocally, but they also strive to catch the real killer. I can definitely see a Paradise Lost 4 in the future. Peter Jackson was recently revealed to have been a silent donator of the defence fund for the past decade and no doubt his financial contributions have made all of the scientific profiling possible. He has also produced a new documentary called West Of Memphis which focuses tightly on the forensic side of the evidence. I cannot wait to see it. And of course Hollywood have got their grubby mitts on the story and a feature film, Devil's Knot is being made with Canadian director Atom Egoyan in charge (I can't think of a more suited director).
Anyhow, Paradise Lost 3 is yet again another astonishing entry into the West Memphis Three case. Of course by the time I saw the film I knew most of it's content from maintaining a close eye on the case. Nevertheless there is a lot of unearthed footage from the original trials and new interviews, particularly with Hobbs, that beg belief. This film was robbed at the Oscars this year when it lost out to some sport-themed documentary. These 3 films have single handedly exposed the American justice system and freed three men from prison (one from death row)... now surely that is cause for accolade!??