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April 7, 2011

Paradise Lost 2: Revelations

by Franz Patrick


Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000)
★★★ / ★★★★

“Paradise Lost 2: Relevations,” directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, picked up four years later after three former teens were convicted to go to prison–two (Jessie Misskelly, Jason Baldwin) for life and one (Damien Echols) on death row. Most of the victims’ families declined to participate in the documentary except for the stepfather (John Byers) of one of the slain kids who, after the first movie, people began to suspect for killing the boys. There were a lot of changes that I thought were fascinating. First of all, the three guys who were sent to prison grew up so much and it really made me sad because it showed me that they were essentially just boys when they were convicted. Unlike in the first movie, they were much more willing to talk to the camera and they were much more eloquent. I liked the way the directors showed scenes from the first film such as asking a question to one of the boys and not getting an answer and the way it asked the same question but getting an answer this time around. What’s unfortunate was the fact that the lawyers from both the prosecution and the defense did not allow the filmmakers to record scenes inside courtroom because the first movie gained so much notoriety. It would have been much more compelling if we were actually there alongside scenes where Byers tried to prove his innocence using a lie detector test. I thought the project sometimes became too convoluted because it spent too much time focusing on Byers and his anger. I understood that there was a lot of suspicion surrounding the man and it was important to provide a psychological portrait of him, but I would rather have spent more time watching and hearing more about Misskelly and Baldwin. By showing Byers and his strange mannerisms and tendency to lie on camera, it painted him as a monster. I didn’t think it was a correct decision because what if the man did not have anything to do with the murders? It could possibly lead to another tarnished reputation all for naught. Instead, the movie had to rely on the result of the lie detector test (which had its own red flags) and the overlooked bite marks on the victims’ bodies. Were those really bite marks? How did the medical examiners miss such critical information that could have helped exonerate the three so-called satanists? Was there some kind of a conspiracy within the small town that they were willing to withhold important information for the sake of easy answers? I had a million questions and I genuinely worried about the results of the case (I tried not to read too much about it prior to seeing this film) because I believed that Misskelly, Baldwin and Echols did not receive a fair trial. In year 2010, the three guys are still in jail and the real killer–or killers–is still out there. They’ve spent practically half of their lives in jail not because of hard evidence but because of people’s stereotypes. That, too, is another tragedy.

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