Paradise Lost: Collector's Edition Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky

They say that "justice is for all” but whoever proclaimed that surely never met the West Memphis Three. Back in 1993, three young boys were brutally tortured and then murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas. Without much of an investigation, fingers were pointed at three teenagers — Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Miskelly — mostly because they were local outcasts who dressed in black, listened to heavy metal and showed an interest in the occult. The WM3, as they were dubbed, were immediately arrested, tried and convicted, then sentenced to life in prison, with the exception of Echols, who received the death sentence. When filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky caught wind of the case, they grabbed their cameras and shot what would become 1996’s Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, an eye-opening, award-winning documentary produced by HBO. Filled with stomach-turning images from the crime scene, as well as candid interviews with the accused, the victims’ parents, local authorities, experts and the attorneys for all sides, Berlinger and Sinofsky made a film designed to alarm the viewer, showing just how ineptly this investigation was handled, most likely in the hopes that people would take action. And it worked because four years later they made a follow-up, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, giving updates on the Three’s progress in getting retried based on new revelations (a bite mark on the forehead of a victim that doesn’t match their teeth, and the fact that there still is no actual evidence), while demonstrating the passionate WM3 support group that arose and grew as a result of the first film, and revealing the dramatic decline in the mental health of John Mark Byers, the stepfather of victim Christopher Byers, who to many is the case’s real prime suspect. This newly packaged two-disc set joins the films together appropriately but considering the time that has passed since Revelations and that there are no new extras or, more importantly, updates on the activity since, this edition feels a bit stale. For instance, the case has become an American phenomenon that has inspired protests and benefits by celebrities such as Pearl Jam, Winona Ryder, Henry Rollins and the Dixie Chicks, not to mention Metallica, who gave the filmmakers the freedom to use their music gratis. In addition, there’s the fact that Byers has since done a complete 180, admitting to the press that he now believes the WM3 are indeed innocent. Perhaps a third volume is hanging by the thread that is their case’s overturning, regardless, both films make for some of most arresting, jaw-dropping cinema imaginable, all reinforced by the fact that this multi-levelled atrocity is as real as it gets. (Paradox)