"Intriguing Murder Case"
What You Need To Know:
The evidence in this crime is rather complex. Even so, WEST OF MEMPHIS does a good job making its case. It doesn’t cover everything, so its viewpoint could still be wrong. Also, there’s plenty of strong foul language, gruesome images, and references to the lewd nature of some of the evidence. So, extreme caution is warranted for WEST OF MEMPHIS.
(B, O, FR, LL, VVV, SS, NN, AA, D, MM) Light moral worldview about seeking justice in a controversial, gruesome murder case about the deaths of three young boys that makes a case for one side over the other, but in a convincing way, though the parents of the three murder victims are actually still split on what actually happened, some mention of Satanism being behind the murders, but that’s only the prosecution’s contention and the evidence for or against that contention is not thoroughly examined, and a reference to a Buddhist wedding in prison; 19 obscenities and profanities (including seven or eight “f” words); some rather gruesome crime photos shown of dead nude bodies of young males though the “blunt-force” trauma on them is not shown and there was some drowning related to the three murders, some close-ups of minor wounds could be animal bites and one man shows marks on his arm that a snapping turtle leaves; a couple verbal references to possible sodomy and several references to prosecution’s allegation that one accused killer bit one of the victim’s private parts, put private parts in his mouth, and sucked victim’s blood but evidences is presented that the injuries could have been done by water animals and this led investigators to try to prove some kind of bizarre Satanic ritual, plus brief talk about possible incest and pedophilia related to the case; nude bodies of murdered boys shown, including rear male nudity; drunkenness alluded to; people smoke on camera; and, lying alleged against prosecutor in gruesome murder case, movie alleges police conducted long, unjust interrogation of borderline mentally handicapped teenagers to get confession but movie doesn’t mention that boy also confessed to police with a lawyer present, woman recants her testimony, and allegations of physical abuse by one of the victims’ stepfather who is accused of perhaps committing the murders.
WEST OF MEMPHIS is an intense, often disturbing documentary about the murder of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993. Three teenagers were convicted of the heinous crime, but were later released under a bizarre plea deal allowing them to maintain their innocence. The documentary argues for their innocence. Also, it points the finger at one of the victims’ stepfather, whose DNA was found on the shoestrings used to tie up his stepson.
The documentary uses extensive courtroom footage and many interviews with witnesses and experts. Filmmaker Peter Jackson (of LORD OF THE RINGS fame) helps fund the later defense of the accused killers and the documentary. The filmmakers also interview Peter as he explains why he thinks the men are innocent and deserve another trial. The prosecutors originally argued that some superficial wounds on the victims were part of a Satanic ritual. However, other forensic experts brought into the case by Jackson and his team convince the viewer that the wounds are animal bites. The bodies were dumped in a marshy stream in the woods known for aquatic turtles, including snapping turtles.
WEST OF MEMPHIS is especially compelling in its presentation of new forensic and DNA evidence. It successfully points a finger at one of the murdered boys’ stepfather, whose DNA was found at the crime scene. The stepfather uses a friend for an alibi, but the friend tells a different story. Even so, the stepfather has filed at least one letter with his stepson’s biological father and two parents of one of the other boys stating their belief that the three original defendants are guilty. The mother and the stepfather of one of the other boys disagree, however. They think the other stepfather probably did the crime.
In 2011, after years of appeals and red tape, the three convicted suspects were released on a bizarre plea agreement that allowed them to plead guilty but still maintain their innocence. The documentary argues that Arkansas officials are unwilling to overturn the original convictions, set a new trial, or investigate any “new” evidence or allegations.
WEST OF MEMPHIS makes compelling arguments for its viewpoint. However, it’s very long and sometimes slow. Also, some of the footage lets the three convicted suspects and their supporters talk at length emotionally about the things they’ve gone through. Ideally, the movie should have eschewed emotional appeals by all sides in its investigation. That said, it’s hard to eliminate all emotion from such a tragic case, whatever the truth turns out to be about who’s guilty or not guilty. It must be said, however, that the new suspect in the case, the stepfather, is not very convincing.
Though the evidence in this heinous crime can be rather complex, WEST OF MEMPHIS does a good job making its case. It doesn’t cover everything, however, so its viewpoint could still be totally wrong, or at least strongly skewed. Also, there’s plenty of strong foul language, some gruesome images, and references to the lewd nature of some of the alleged evidence. So, extreme caution is warranted for WEST OF MEMPHIS.