Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory Reviews

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Super Reviewer
August 12, 2012
Third Paradise Lost film brings new development to the WM3 case. This is a brilliant conclusion. In this third film, new evidence has surfaced that proves the innocence of the WM3. This is a brilliant and powerful documentary. This film further proves the innocence of the three men wrongly convicted of the murders. In 1993 filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky direct a terrific third part that gives us more information about the infamous WM3 murder case. After nearly 18 years, there's some new development in the case. This film presents a closing chapter in the controversial case and presents the courts with new evidence that the WM3 are innocent of the crimes. Brilliant, shocking and disturbing, this third film is a must see for those who enjoy a good documentary. This is a fine film that concludes the nearly twenty year old ordeal of the WM3. This is a well put together documentary with terrific insight into the case and it introduces new proof to their innocence. These three films are superb in showing the holes in the Judiciary system. What really stood out in this film is how far people wrongly convicted of a crime they did not commit. This is a great documentary that is sure to please people who have seen the first two films. Paradise Lost 3 is a powerful documentary, and one that shows that some people directly involved in the tragedy have come around and questioned the guilt of the three men. This is a remarkable film that is brilliant, poignant and ultimately redeeming.
Super Reviewer
April 12, 2012
Good for what it is, and bad for same. But I can't understand how they released it in 2009 with those interviews from 2010 & 2011!!! Hope the rectifications will be made sooner than later, although it's nothing of great concern (and so I'm not taking efforts to report it).
Super Reviewer
February 20, 2012
A great documentary about a larger than life situation involving a backwards justice system that even a novelist couldn't have written better. Getting to hear the West Memphis 3 talk, getting to hear those involved with the prosecution talk compared to their statements during the trials, and seeing the disturbing images attached to this case, really make for a powerful documentary.
Super Reviewer
April 23, 2016
Very frustrating end to the story. It's sad how flawed the judicial system can be.
Super Reviewer
½ May 21, 2012
The incredible conclusion to the real-life story of three teenagers convicted of murdering three 8-year old boys in 1994. It is 15 years later and forensic advancements, particularly DNA analysis, might produce new evidence to overturn their sentences including Damien Echols' stay on death row.

The original Paradise Lost ranks among the best documentaries ever assembled. I did not see Part 2, but the events that transpire here in Part 3 probably render it inessential, I did not feel I missed anything significant. This conclusion not only offers closure but also provides stunning new insight about who the real killer(s) may be. Equally astonishing are the changes some of the key interviewees from Part 1 have undergone, particularly John Mark Beyers stepfather to one of the victims who was among the most bloodthirsty to condemn the Three and was actually cast by the filmmakers under suspicion as the actual killer. Now 15 years later, he is among the most vocal supporters in favor of releasing them!

Just like Part 1, another incredible human drama that exceeds the reach of any fiction, these films should be required viewing for every law student and law enforcement professional as a cautionary reminder of the very real lives at stake beyond names on a court document.
Super Reviewer
October 14, 2011
Each Paradise Lost sequel has assumed that the viewer is unfamiliar with the story from the first film, and has relied heavily on recaps and flashbacks to bring the audience up to speed. Paradise lost 2 did this by just showing scenes from part 1 and lots of on-screen text telling you what has happened. Paradise Lost 3 begins with a long and very well done recap of the highlights of the first 2 films told through news reports and interviews. Some footage is stuff we've seen, some is old footage we've never seen, all mixed in with new footage. Having just watched Paradise Lost 1 & 2 in preparation for this screening, I was impressed by how well this was put together. Filmmaking and editing wise, this is the best of the 3 films. Although it doesn't replace the earlier films, it does stand very well on it's own. Paradise Lost 1 has all the detail of the trials. Part 2 casts more doubt and shows the impact of the documentary on the public perception of the convicted kids, and part 3 gets to show the entire story, and really shows the passage of time and how the people involved have changed over the last 18 years. A great ender to a great series.
January 30, 2016
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory ends with Metallica's 'The Day That Never Comes', which I assume, aside from of course featuring the trilogy's mainstay composers Metallica, is meant as possibly a semi-ironic statement from the filmmakers (one of the repeated lyrics in the song is 'no, the sunshine never comes', which could be a sort of reference to Damien Echols and how, over 17 years, didn't get any time outside while on death row). For me, I almost wondered if they would've been better off with the song 'Bittersweet Symphony', though that'd be hitting on the head a bit harsher, so the choice may have been correct.

The point is that by the end of this series of films by Joe Berlinger and (sadly the late) Bruce Sinofsky, we have gone through a long journey full of missed (or more accurately botched) opportunities by the Arkansas legal system on multiple fronts to find the three men (at the time teenagers) innocent. And it's hard to argue that they were, despite what comes out at the end, but I'll come to that in a moment.

Part three is mostly set ten to eleven years after the events of the second 'Paradise Lost' movie, and a lot has changed in the years since the new millennium came around and things like new statutes in the state and new evidence peaks its head into existence (and better legal defenses for the three as well). But there are many surprises; the greatest and most unexpected one is a complete 180 from how one saw John Mark Byers. It may speak to the potential for the filmmakers being manipulative, going from positing him as a villain to something of a redeemed person, but it seems a little more complex than that. One may forget watching this film (it isn't mentioned directly) that at the end of part 2 Byers was off to prison. Maybe that changed him. Or just ten years and that monumental press conference with the host of legal experts - one from the FBI and one involved in the Ted Bundy case - can change a person's mind. But one of the things that's so absorbing this time around is how Byers, previously a Character with a capital C (one may or may not think watching part 2 he'd be capable of the crimes, it's left up in the air almost by how forceful he was in it), uses his knack for being outspoken for the side of the innocent, which he believes now they are (the dead wife is not mentioned, but that's another story altogether).

If there's one small criticism of the film is that there's a lot of footage from the past two films, with the first one shown from the original negatives (hence why they look so scratchy). But I think it's a necessary narrative angle since by this point there may be people coming to this documentary who may have not seen the other films in a while (or, presumably given the nature of channel-flipping TV and ADD) to bring things up and make it a complete narrative. I actually appreciated the use of footage here more than in part 2, and it helped to make a point-counter-point method for the first half of the film; so much time has passed, after all, that the new experts and lawyers and people of that nature could comment on this or that that was presented before, from the alleged occult symbols (basically debunked here as BS) or, most of all, the lack of DNA.

There's so much that comes down in this film that if one comes away at the end and still thinks Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley killed all three of the boys in 1993 then, well, at the least there's little room for any reasonable doubt in your mind based on ALL of the evidence (and as the chapter heading goes here, All is All). But perhaps the thing that will make me revisit this film over time is the fact that the potential - actual - killer comes up as a *different* father, Terry Hobbs, and while on the surface seeming to be less of a Force of Nature like Mark, he's actually an even more fascinating person to just stare at. Which, by the way, you get a lot of time for; via deposition videos, the audience basically gets to see up front what this guy is all about as far as his actual character. I really loved how the filmmakers didn't have to dig too deep to find moments that revealed this person in a whole new light than one saw in part 1; indeed I want to revisit that first part almost immediately to see if any of the signs were there (those little smirks, the bullish expressions) and if they were hard to miss.

Ultimately the West Memphis 3 were freed, but it was based in layman's terms on the justice system saying 'eh, get the hell out of here.' The Alford Plea let the men out, all now in their 30's, but the catch is that they can say they're innocent but plead guilty. One of the things that makes the form of documentary filmmaking so unpredictable and so vital and, in moments like these, so highly charged that it would be difficult to possibly take as a drama, are the turns a story could take. And yet in the Paradise Lost series, all the way through the end of this saga, there's this sense that the entire Justice system, from the police to the prosecutors (probably they come off not quite AS bad as everyone else, but close enough), to the jurors (or that one juror for sure) to the unmovable judge himself, it's all set up to say 'we are right, and you are wrong.'

There are incredible and serious implications and questions that are raised due to what can be read very easily in this story, and a lot of it has to do with class (would these men have been put away if they came from families outside of trailer parks and low-incomes) and status (the 'black-Satan-occult BS). Hindsight is 20/20, but perception is 9/10th's of the law. It's a sobering, harrowing, tragic story, and it's all told by these directors with clarity and focus and urgency.
August 16, 2015
The last nails in the coffin. Even though its being played faulty and dirty, state of Arkansas steps in the right direction.
April 30, 2014
The true story is incredible, and justice is served to it by the documentary Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory. Tension boils as your suspicion shifts first from the "West Memphis 3" to Mr. Bojangles to John Mark Byers, and ultimately to Terry Hobbs. Their story is a real life thriller, equal parts heartwrenching, inspiring, infuriating, and again motivating. It is a strange tale, taking place in a tiny, close-minded town in Arkansas, where it seems that every person involved is guilty of something. You will find no saints in this story, and this feeling that everyone is hiding something confuses the picture even further. At the end of the day, we must realize that the purpose of an investigation is solely to incriminate the person who committed the brutal murders. And towards this greater goal, it takes quite a bit of gall to ignore some very despicable faults in the various characters along the way. But this is what partly what makes the story so interesting and challenging. It is easy to love an angel; it is far harder to show compassion and give your full attention towards sorting out a troubled soul.
There are some unlikely heroic elements to this story: the HBO documentary film crew, for one, who raised public awareness; Damien's strangeness--which oddly both led to his conviction, yet also drew viewers into his story who related to him; the incredible legal representation who changed Arkansas state law at the supreme court, and finally the all star cast of scientists who provided the fundamental new scientific evidence and testimony.
It makes one shudder to know that a murderous beast still lurks about in society, or that a state court system can exert so much power to force innocent people to admit guilt under the threat of death. However, the incredible transformation of the West Memphis three (i.e. Damien and Jason) into respectable young men of ideals and initiative, in the face of dire injustice, still sows a hopeful and almost happy ending to this gripping tale.
½ January 17, 2013
After countless hours of research, which included watching Larry Joe Campbell's new film 'Dogman,' I've come to the conclusion that the killer is indeed - Mark Byars, who hired Damien, Jason, Jessie to do the deed, but who needed the assistance of Gary Gitchell's professional investigative researching to get the attention of HBO films, who then bribed Metallica for their permission to include their highly inspiring, yet terrible music, into their solid, yet tiring documentary about three hillbilles who murdered three hillbilly children, that no one really gives a damn about.

Long story short - Miss Scarlet did it, with help from the maid, Yvette.
½ December 5, 2012
It's pretty flawed and didn't keep my complete interest but raised a lot of questions and found myself thinking about it a while after I finished it.
August 11, 2012
A gripping and tense resolution to the story of West Memphis 3. Almost two decades in making. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
May 16, 2012
The final chapter of this spanning documentary makes the "Paradise Lost" trilogy one of the best documentaries ever made. The third documentary captures maturity: the maturity of all the subjects on all sides, the maturity of the filmmakers, and the maturity of a society emerging from a witch hunt mentality. I highly recommend these films. I also recommend you take a look at another astonishing HBO documentary that takes place in the criminal justice system: "Murder on a Sunday".
½ March 14, 2012
This informative series of documentaries comes to an end & accomplishes the task of telling us one of the most controversial & tragic stories in our broken justice system's history. But most importantly it gave these three men a voice.
½ April 17, 2012
Whats so unnerving about this film is that in the end, you not sure if justice has been done or an even greater crime has been committed. Still, this is a satisfying conclusion to this controversial series
March 29, 2012
U get a lot of footage from the first two movies, but if you've seen the two you physically can't miss this one. just crying after seeing Jason. what a story. and seeing moore's stepdad turning around, maaaan, greatest moment in documentary history.
January 20, 2012
It's well-done and compelling. This isn't a documentary that is easily forgotten. Baldwin ends up being the true hero of the film, by giving up his right to fight for his innocence in order to let a man on death row go free. This made me cry, a lot.
February 23, 2012
Having followed the other two documentaries in the series -- the first being eye-opening and infuriating (even with awareness to the topic beforehand) while the follow-up is an unremarkable addition made simply to keep the topic and its subjects (!!!) alive -- PL3: Purgatory finally has something more to discuss as the fates of the three innocents framed of a ghastly, grisly triple murder of minor boys in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993 is finally revealed. The unbelievable case -- well documented in the first Lost feature -- gained plenty of noteriety and the support of some Hollywood hard-hitters (such as Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh of The Lord of the Rings fame) which probably helped these boys -- now men nearly 20 years later!!! -- overcome a corrupt system by allowing them to enter an Alford plea, an unusual judicial anamoly that allows them to assert their innocence of the case while "acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict" which keeps these victims from ever being able to see resititution for the state/county/courts for their wronged AND stolen lives! The West Memphis 3 have gotten a lot of press over the years as it is one of the most visible cases of blantent framing of three misunderstood youths (who looked different than us, liked to wear black and listened to loud music etc!) who became a scapegoat for an unimaginable evil -- that MOST disturbinly -- is still out there! Nobody is now behind bars for the horrific murder of three very young boys although there appears to be ample evidence to put someone away (one of the boy's stepfathers has mounds of evidence pointing his way!). To borrow a summation from What Culture's Shaun Munro, "the third film, an inarguably powerful knockout punch, reminds us of the documentary film's power to changed people's lives." We oftentimes think of a documentary being about a musician or a dancer or an unspeakable war; but Purgatory shows us that lives can be changed and altered with well-intentioned use of a camera! The subject matter is still disturbing and still upsetting but it does provide "some" closure for a loyal viewer of what is/was to become the Three. Justice has not come about and been served for the real murderers; but that will be another story.
December 17, 2011
A fantastic end to the documentary trilogy by Berlinger and Sinofsky about the West Memphis 3. I can't help but think this film would've sadly been like the 2nd movie if the boys didn't get released from prison, especially under the circumstances(Alford Plea? Are you fucking kidding me? I love this country but my god!) The films closure of the trilogy is well done and you get a real sense at the lives these people have lived since this tragedy happened in Arkansas.
½ February 20, 2012
It's been 16 years and two sequels since I saw the first Paradise Lost documentary at the Film Forum in New York City. I'm glad the wrongfully accused are set free but I still feel the truth rots a in dark, incarcerated place. I remember that the first documentary, a compelling story of wrong compounded by wrong, was also a frustratingly unthorough piece of journalism. The synopsis is that in 1993 three eight year old boys were murdered and thrown in a ditch in West Memphis, Arkansas. Three teenage boys, to be nicknamed the West Memphis 3, were convicted of the murders under highly questionable investigatory and judicial procedures. The first film fell well short for me in providing a sufficient account of the prosecution's so called case. A year after seeing the first PL the friend I went to see it with called me up and said, "I heard those documentary guys made it all up to make the teenagers look good. When you hear the whole story they are totally guilty." Really? What's your source? None, really. Is there a whole story? I have always been convinced that the teenagers were railroaded. But after years of sequels, cult-like public outrage, websites, Eddie Vedder and Johnny Depp I still have no idea what happened back in 1993. If the WM3 were not murdering cub scouts that night in 1993, where were they? None of these films have ever discussed an alibi. If a documentary is presenting itself as the balanced account of its subject matter and one side of the argument is being left out, there must be a reason. I can't speculate the reason because facts in this case have always been overshadowed by emotions, self-righteousness on behalf of the WM3 supporters, stubborn obfuscation by law enforcement, and repeated attempts by the filmmakers to offer alternative accusations that frankly are as shoddy and irresponsible as the lousy case against the teenagers. There is another feature documentary ,West Of Memphis, in circulation as well as many tv magazine pieces which may provide more information. I'd like to know if there is more to know about what happened the night those young boys were murdered, and I'd like to know more about what the police actually had on the WM3. In Purgatory the defense has gone to all the trouble of pulling together world renown criminal profilers and DNA experts. Yet the new documentary doesn't reveal one thing we didn't already know. These films succeeded in calling attention to injustice perpetrated on the accused and the fact that the real killer will never be brought to justice. The Arkansas court system created an outcome in which the case will never be reopened. The whole story is fascinating and sad, but these movies aren't very good either.
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