Updated: Nov 23
STRONG WARNING: Graphic descriptions and images of crimes against children
FTC Rating: 3 out of 5
Three outcasts with a love a heavy metal and an interest in magic, are charged and convicted of the mutilation and murder of three eight-year-old boys in a small Arkansas town. Will these teens, guilty only of not being “All American Boys”, find justice after eighteen years behind bars?
Strengths: -Features Steve Drizin Law Professor, Northwestern University and Laura Nirider, Staff Attorney for the Center of Wrongful Convictions of Youth (some of you may recall their involvement the Brendan Dassey appeal, one of the subjects highlighted in Making a Murderer 2). They expertly explain why police often obtain false confessions from youth offenders. -Discusses the appeal process in detail -A touching love story -Interviews with music and film legends supporting the West Memphis 3
Weaknesses: -Structure is odd, if you are not familiar with this case, it takes some time to understand the full picture -Damien is the obvious focus so the stories of Jason and Jesse are overshadowed -At times, I feel the family and friends of Stevie Branch are exploited for the film, particularly his drug-addicted daughter
Should you wish to dig deeper into this tragedy, the three-part docuseries “Paradise Lost” (available on HBO) provides a raw, in depth account of the crime, trials, and people implicated. I cannot in good conscience recommend it without a strong warning because it contains explicit crime scene footage, particularly in the opening five minutes.
Final thought: Damien and Jason remind me so much of my high school days. I had multiple friends who could have been accused with these crimes if we lived in a small town and not a big, diverse city.