Five Favorite Films with West Memphis Three's Damien Echols

With the documentary West of Memphis in theaters, we talk to wrongly-convicted death row inmate -- and now free man -- Damien Wayne Echols about his favorite films, life on the inside, and the strange process of becoming a celebrity.

It's hard to imagine just how surreal Damien Echols' life must have been. In 1994, the teenager was sentenced to death for his alleged part, along with two others, in the gruesome 1993 murder of three boys in Arkansas. Convicted by state prosecutors riding a wave of public and media hysteria, the so-called West Memphis Three spent the next 18 years in prison -- until an accumulation of new evidence raised doubts as to their guilt and, in 2011, they were finally set free.

Having spent most of his adult life incarcerated, Echols has since become something of a celebrity, drawing the support of people like Peter Jackson, Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder, who lent their weight to the campaign to free the falsely-accused men and expose the miscarriage of justice. Jackson also co-produced an extensive new documentary about the case -- Amy Berg's West of Memphis -- and with the film opening theatrically this week, we had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Echols recently.

"That's the reason we're doing this," says Echols of the film, "just to get as many people to see this as possible, to try and get the word out. Cause in the end that's all the state of Arkansas cares about, you know. They don't care about justice or anything else: they only care about how many people are paying attention to what they're doing. I mean, that's what keeps them from getting away with stuff -- how many people are watching."

Behind tinted shades he occasionally removes for a rich, lively laugh, an understandably haunted Echols is also exhausted by the process of promoting a movie. "Burned out doesn't even begin to describe it," Echols sighs. "It gets to the point where you wanna start screaming and throwing sh*t through windows," he laughs. "[I'm] not used to this at all. Even actors get burned out by this stuff. I'm not an actor. At least then, if you're talking to an actor, they're talking about a project they worked on, like a piece of art they created. But when you're having to talk about this for hours -- we're not even talking about something we created, it's more like we're talking about some f**kin' horrible tragedy that was dumped on us. So it's not like you can really take pride in the work that you've done."

Read on for more of the interview, in which Echols talks about life in prison, his admiration for Stephen King, how the support of those famous pals helped save him from death row, and his plans with Depp to produce a screen version of his memoir.

First up, he took a moment to talk about his five favorite films.



The Mothman Prophecies (Mark Pellington, 2001; 53% Tomatometer)

Normally if a movie doesn't have a monster in it, I'm not interested. All I like are horror movies; but I don't like slasher movies. To me, just seeing people getting hurt, that's not entertaining to me. My favorite things of all time, they have to have a supernatural element to them, and there has to be a sense of romance to them, and an otherworldly quality that makes you feel like there's more magic in life. So for me, my five favorite movies of all time are the ones I've watched over and over and over.

Number one, just first and foremost my favorite movie of all time -- The Mothman Prophecies, with Richard Gere and Debra Messing. Have you ever seen that?

I haven't seen it, no. It sounded interesting.

It's great. It's so subtle, but haunting at the same time. So that one...




The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan, 1999; 85% Tomatometer)

...and M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense. That's another one, it's just got that -- it's like the otherworldly and the mundane just clash, and blend together in this way that you can't tell where one ends and the other starts. I love that movie.




The Fourth Kind (Olatunde Osunsanmi, 2009; 19% Tomatometer)

Did you ever see a movie called The Fourth Kind?

You've got me there again. I don't think so.

Milla Jovovich is in it. It's another one of those ones that's based on a true story, like The Mothman Prophecies. They use a lot of found footage in it -- well not found footage, but like cop car cameras and things like that. This is one of those movies that, you know, it will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. It's horrifying.




Bram Stoker's Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola, 1992; 80% Tomatometer)

Bram Stoker's Dracula, that came out in 1992, with Gary Oldman.

Now that movie I love.

I love that movie. I watch that one over and over and over again. I love that one. The costumes, the people... even though the people... like Keanu Reeves, he may not be the greatest actor, but you don't even realize that when you're watching it -- it's like you're so sucked into the world of the romance, and the visuals that are just so rich and decadent. And it makes you wanna live that life, you know. It makes you wanna live in a castle somewhere where you only use candles for lighting.

But no mirrors, of course.

[Laughs] Yeah.

I think Keanu's fine in that film, by the way. He's perfectly hammy, in an almost Hammer horror way.

I do too! But everybody else says he was terrible, that he was horrible in it.


Halloween (Rob Zombie, 2007; 24% Tomatometer)

Now I just said I don't like slasher movies, but this is the exception to that rule -- because it's the exception to horror movies. The Rob Zombie remake of Halloween -- that thing is f**king genius. It's like he violates every rule of horror movie making and makes it work. Most horror movies are atmospheric, they're really dark or they're at night and they're creepy; his is taking place in bright noon sunshine daylight, out in the yard. And the way he goes into the story of the Michael Myers character, you know, the reason why he's making all these masks. That is a great movie.

I guess I also like it because of the outside scenes. You know, when they show people walking down the sidewalk or something -- it feels like Autumn. You see leaves skitter across the sidewalk as the wind blows 'em, and you feel Halloween when you're watching 'em. I remember the first time I saw that was when we were in prison. They'll show movies on holidays just to take the tension out of the air a little bit -- and that was the movie we got to see on Christmas. On Christmas they showed us Halloween. And when it was over -- it was Christmas night, about 9 o'clock -- as soon as it went off I went into such a deep state of mourning, because it was like my favorite time of year was gone. From the Equinox to Christmas morning, that is like the richest, most velvety, delicious time of year.

People always ask me, you know, they would say, "How would you describe heaven -- in this perfect atmosphere where everything is exactly how you wanted it, how would it be?" And I say, "It would always be December." So I realized that time of year was over, it was gone, and I was going to have to wait all the way around the will of the year to get back to Autumn and Halloween again. And seeing it in that movie, I just sat down and started crying when it was over, because I realized I was gonna have to make it through another long, hot, brutal summer, you know -- prison guards torturing you, there's nothing to look forward to. It was a horrible feeling. It feels like there's a hole in you or something. But I can watch that movie now, and automatically feel that time of year again.





Next, find out what movies they won't play in prison -- and just how many times Echols has seen The Shawshank Redemption. Plus, his thoughts on writing, the support of Depp and Vedder, and playing laser tag with the cast and crew of The Hobbit.

Comments

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

Dracula, & The Sixth sense are the only good films I see on this list. I refuse to watch the Rob Zombie Halloween movies (though they can't be as bad as Resurrection).

Dec 25 - 06:39 PM

Andrew Perry

Andrew Perry

You're right...THERE WORSE!

Dec 26 - 03:01 AM

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

Learn to spell before responding in ALL CAPS!

Dec 26 - 04:42 PM

Will Bigelow

Will Bigelow

He was backing up your point, so way to be a pompous jerk for no reason.

Dec 26 - 07:21 PM

Clarita Semenza

Clarita Semenza

Love my job, since i have been transportation in $82h? I sit reception, music enjoying whereas I add front of my new iMac that I got currently that i am creating it online,, www.Buzz80.com

Mar 21 - 02:50 PM

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

@Will
Doesn't matter to me.

@Lance
Learn that anyone who refuses to type properly on the Internet is an incompetent moron. Want to type like shit? Then do it at school.

Dec 28 - 03:27 AM

Matt Cowan

Matt Cowan

^agreed.
This is shit you learn when you're 6 or 7...not that hard.

Dec 28 - 06:41 AM

Nick Wright

Nick Wright

yes it's very important to demonstrate proper typing abilities to other retards on the internet, especially when he's backing up your point, what a douche rofl

Dec 28 - 04:23 PM

Jim Miles

Jim Miles

@George
Firstly, Andrew Perry did not respond in "all caps", his first two words included both upper and lower case letters. Secondly, the definition of incompetence is the lack of necessary skills to do something successfully, not the refusal to apply those skills. If you're saying that he refused to use them, he must possess them and is therefore not incompetent, if you're implying that he is incompetent, he could not have refused to use skills he does not have. Just sayin'.

Dec 29 - 02:45 PM

Jim Miles

Jim Miles

P.S.
Personally I think that school, a place where one is more often than not judged on spelling and grammar, is one of the worst places to type incorrectly.

Dec 29 - 02:47 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

@Matt Cowan, you forgot to capitalize "Agreed".

@George plenty of extremely smart people don't type well in chat rooms because it's not necessary to convey your point, hence the advent of text speak. Anyone who get's that wrapped up about a mistaken There/They are situation is wrapped too tight for life, needs to take a pill and calm down before they go on a rampage at their local McDonald's because the check out girl gave them the wrong change.

Jan 2 - 06:30 PM

Billy Skelly

Billy Skelly

rob zombie horror flicks are insanely genius... especially devil's rejects.... and i would say the halloween reboot was amazing as well

Dec 30 - 11:29 PM

Dick Travis

Mick Travis

This was a way more interesting list than Ted's. I actually thought THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES was more than watchable; not for everyone, true, but it still creeped me out at times. I liked THE SIXTH SENSE but haven't been compelled to return to it; I actually have seen its dark cousin released the same week, STIR OF ECHOES, more times. THE FOURTH KIND and HALLOWEEN are rather negligible, but the guy obviously loves horror. BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA is fucking awesome though, arguably the best adaptation of the book next to Bela Lugosi's 1931 version.

Dec 25 - 07:27 PM

seanmprd78

Sean Guyon

Stir of Echoes is easily one of my favorite movies.

Dec 27 - 07:26 PM

Andrew Perry

Andrew Perry

You're right...THERE WORSE!

Dec 26 - 03:01 AM

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

Learn to spell before responding in ALL CAPS!

Dec 26 - 04:42 PM

Will Bigelow

Will Bigelow

He was backing up your point, so way to be a pompous jerk for no reason.

Dec 26 - 07:21 PM

Clarita Semenza

Clarita Semenza

Love my job, since i have been transportation in $82h? I sit reception, music enjoying whereas I add front of my new iMac that I got currently that i am creating it online,, www.Buzz80.com

Mar 21 - 02:50 PM

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

@Will
Doesn't matter to me.

@Lance
Learn that anyone who refuses to type properly on the Internet is an incompetent moron. Want to type like shit? Then do it at school.

Dec 28 - 03:27 AM

Matt Cowan

Matt Cowan

^agreed.
This is shit you learn when you're 6 or 7...not that hard.

Dec 28 - 06:41 AM

Nick Wright

Nick Wright

yes it's very important to demonstrate proper typing abilities to other retards on the internet, especially when he's backing up your point, what a douche rofl

Dec 28 - 04:23 PM

Jim Miles

Jim Miles

@George
Firstly, Andrew Perry did not respond in "all caps", his first two words included both upper and lower case letters. Secondly, the definition of incompetence is the lack of necessary skills to do something successfully, not the refusal to apply those skills. If you're saying that he refused to use them, he must possess them and is therefore not incompetent, if you're implying that he is incompetent, he could not have refused to use skills he does not have. Just sayin'.

Dec 29 - 02:45 PM

Jim Miles

Jim Miles

P.S.
Personally I think that school, a place where one is more often than not judged on spelling and grammar, is one of the worst places to type incorrectly.

Dec 29 - 02:47 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

@Matt Cowan, you forgot to capitalize "Agreed".

@George plenty of extremely smart people don't type well in chat rooms because it's not necessary to convey your point, hence the advent of text speak. Anyone who get's that wrapped up about a mistaken There/They are situation is wrapped too tight for life, needs to take a pill and calm down before they go on a rampage at their local McDonald's because the check out girl gave them the wrong change.

Jan 2 - 06:30 PM

Dave M.

Dave Mart

helluva shit list

Dec 26 - 08:24 AM

Tyler P.

Tyler P

yes man i agree wooo where is taxi driver and godfather and citizen kane and 2001 a spaced odyssey!!! shit list haha!!!

Dec 26 - 09:20 AM

Cole Jaeger

Cole Jaeger

So everyone's 5 favorite movies should include those?

Dec 29 - 08:02 AM

Tyler P.

Tyler P

whats sarcasm?

Jan 1 - 04:49 PM

Tyler P.

Tyler P

yes man i agree wooo where is taxi driver and godfather and citizen kane and 2001 a spaced odyssey!!! shit list haha!!!

Dec 26 - 09:20 AM

Cole Jaeger

Cole Jaeger

So everyone's 5 favorite movies should include those?

Dec 29 - 08:02 AM

Tyler P.

Tyler P

whats sarcasm?

Jan 1 - 04:49 PM

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

Learn to spell before responding in ALL CAPS!

Dec 26 - 04:42 PM

Will Bigelow

Will Bigelow

He was backing up your point, so way to be a pompous jerk for no reason.

Dec 26 - 07:21 PM

Clarita Semenza

Clarita Semenza

Love my job, since i have been transportation in $82h? I sit reception, music enjoying whereas I add front of my new iMac that I got currently that i am creating it online,, www.Buzz80.com

Mar 21 - 02:50 PM

Craig Lumley

Craig Lumley

Coppolas Dracula has it's charms. Especially the opening scenes.

Dec 26 - 06:38 PM

Will Bigelow

Will Bigelow

He was backing up your point, so way to be a pompous jerk for no reason.

Dec 26 - 07:21 PM

rallypoint1

John Curran Jr.

Mediocre.

Dec 27 - 05:34 PM

rallypoint1

John Curran Jr.

Whatever you're opinion of the West Memphis 3 it can be safely said they their leader of sorts has a really questionable taste in movies. The closing arguments can be made by Echols himself with his assessment of Zombie's Halloween. Yeah. But to each his own right?

Dec 27 - 05:48 PM

rallypoint1

John Curran Jr.

That should have read, "your" and not "you're. Dumb auto fill.

Dec 27 - 05:49 PM

seanmprd78

Sean Guyon

Stir of Echoes is easily one of my favorite movies.

Dec 27 - 07:26 PM

Alex Aston

Alex Aston

Don't really think he has that great of taste in movies, Dracula was fine besides the appalling performances from Keenu Reeves and Wiona Rider(have yet to see the sixth sense, but the rest of the the movies he listed were either decent or terrible. Then again, he's not really a movie guy, just a guy in a documentary.

Dec 27 - 08:24 PM

Alex Aston

Alex Aston

I was also a little upset that he put Rob Zombie's Halloween over John Carpenter's Halloween.

Dec 27 - 08:26 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Let's say that his access to films has been somewhat compromised over the years...

Dec 28 - 01:17 AM

Alex Aston

Alex Aston

I was also a little upset that he put Rob Zombie's Halloween over John Carpenter's Halloween.

Dec 27 - 08:26 PM

Andrew Henderson

Andrew Henderson

Lol, The Fourth Kind was not based on a true story...

Dec 27 - 09:40 PM

Ian Brogan

Ian Brogan

Give the guy a break he's been in prison 20 years , got a lot of movie watching to catch up on :)

Dec 27 - 10:11 PM

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