WEST OF MEMPHIS A brilliant distillation of a decade-spanning legal travesty.
As a diehard fan of Joe Berlinger's and Bruce Sinofsky's ParadiseLostTrilogy, I greeted news of Amy Berg's West of Memphis with trepidation. Not only had I already spent nine hours swimming through the West Memphis 3 saga, but the Berlinger/Sinofsky trilogy proved to be one of the most profound film experiences of my life. The brain-exploder from me was the transition from the second film—which appeared to make it very, very clear who the real killer might be—to the third film, which decisively exonerates the "obvious suspect" of the second film while pointing toward another, even more likely "real killer." It's a stunning turn of events, and one that put us, the viewers, in the exact same boat as all the West Memphis citizens who "knew" deep in their hearts that those three devil-worshipping teens were murderers. It's a mind-fucking, deeply humbling experience I'll never forget, and I imagine my resistance to Berg's new film is in part based on fear that no one will ever take the full 9-hour plunge of Paradise Lost ever again.
As it it, Berg's West of Memphis is a brilliant addition to Paradise Lost, summarizing the basics of the trilogy (with the great benefit of hindsight) in the first 45 minutes before diving into new territory: the glorious release of the West Memphis 3, and it's contingency on a stomach-churning Alford plea (explained in full in my interview with the WM3's Jason Baldwin here.) It's a terrific, infuriating movie, and you can read Denis C. Theriault's Stranger review of it here.