Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills

paradise lost“People are gonna talk about me for years.”

The Scoop: 1996 documentary, directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky.

Tagline: It’s frightening to think they did it. It’s terrifying to think they didn’t.

Summary Capsule: Back in the day, before we knew Marilyn Manson was a joke.

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Clare’s Rating: a must see for any true crime enthusiast

Clare’s Review: Emmy award winning documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills chronicles the reaction of a small town after three local second grade boys were found murdered in the bottom of a creek bed in West Memphis, AR on May 6, 1993. Be forewarned that the film makers who documented the unfolding of the investigation and subsequent trials of the accused do not protect the viewer from the reality of this crime. There are crime scene photos and video in the film which are very explicit and unsettling. They are shown mostly in the first 20 minutes of the movie when the bodies are found and identified. I’m certain the filmmakers decided to include the crime scene images purposely in order to pull the audience into the rest of the film and to show, right up front, the horror that the victims must have endured in the last hours of their lives. Once the audience is brought into the film that deeply that quickly, it’s nearly impossible to stop watching. Who could have done such a monstrous and horrible thing to three innocent children and why?

Very quickly after the boys’ bodies are found, the police decide that the murders must have been part of a Satanic ritual. They make this determination based largely on the positioning of the bodies when they were found and because one of the victims had been castrated. It’s easy to understand why cops in a rural town in Arkansas, with little experience working homicides, much less a triple homicide against children, would jump to this conclusion. Once the police make their determination public, the community of West Memphis Arkansas grabs hold of it and won’t let go. It’s understandable that a tight knit community, with no other available answers to explain how this would have happened in their town, would easily believe that only a force of pure evil could have perpetrated these crimes.

What unfolds after the police arrest three teenaged boys for the murders is a fascinating study of how perception can determine judgment and how heartbreak can lead to pandemonium. The only thing more disturbing than following the events as they play out is the cold knowledge that every second of it is true.

While Paradise Lost is no longer being shown on HBO, it is available for sale online and can usually be found, with a little digging, at most non-crappy, non-corporate owned, non-cookie cutter video stores. Translation: You can try looking for it at Blockbuster, but I’ll take bets you won’t find it anywhere within a 6 block radius.

Although this is extremely tough subject matter, Paradise Lost is a documentary that deserves your attention.

Memorable Dialogue

Damien Echols: I knew from when I was real small people were gonna know who I was, I always had that feeling… I just never knew how they were gonna learn. I kind of enjoy it now because even after I die, people are gonna remember me forever. People are gonna talk about me for years. People in West Memphis will tell their kids stories… It’ll be sorta like I’m the West Memphis boogie man. Little kids will be looking under their beds – “Damien might be under there!”

Intermission!

  • Who knew Metallica has what it takes to be truly haunting? I’m not much of a fan, but many of their songs are used here to great effect.

If you enjoyed this, try:

  • Paradise Lost 2: Revelations
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