Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory Reviews

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Super Reviewer
September 22, 2016
Even though the first half seems more like a recap of the previous two movies, this is a well-structured and objective documentary that shows us what "beyond any reasonable doubt" should mean in a place where people can't let go of their own preconceived opinions.
May 14, 2016
A shocking conclusion to the lives of a small town thrown into constant media scrutiny after the murder of three children. Never expected where life for these people end up, but that's probably why this is more shocking and unpredictable to most mysteries.
Super Reviewer
April 24, 2016
Very frustrating end to the story. It's sad how flawed the judicial system can be.
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.
June 5, 2015
Excellent use of first person video archives to bring the viewer up to date regarding the crime, it's casualties, and developments. Smashing use of new video interviews, study of involvement and final results of the entire episode surrounding the three accused in this criminal case. The documentary is well put together. Video and sound are excellent.American documentary filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinosfsky's third documentary feature about the The Robin Hood Hills Murders which took place in West Memphis, Arkansas in USA in early May 1993, was preceded by "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills" (1996) and "Paradise Lost 2: Revelations" (2000). It premiered in the Real to Reel section at the 36th Toronto International Film Festival in 2011 and is an American production which the directors co-produced with producer and director Jonathan Silberberg.This scrutinizing documentary which is as judicial as it is humane, leads this shocking, provocative and heartrending true story which gained worldwide recognition in the late 1990s closer to the truth, and confirms the invaluable importance of critical journalism and documentary filmmaking. A commendable, poignant and to a certain extent liberating non-fictional feature about solidarity, survival and human greatness which shows how much people are willing to do and how far they are willing to go for the sake of someone else.
September 9, 2014
A testament to the power of film. Berlinger and Sinofsky aren't just filmmakers; in my book, they're heroes.
July 26, 2014
Filmed twenty years after the first instalment, thank goodness for the Alford Plea no matter how stupid it is. Let's hope there's a 4th instalment that shows the real killer's trial.
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.
January 10, 2014
This set of Documentaries is a must watch for everyone!
September 11, 2013
after watching all three documentaries of this very horrific crime and how three innocent young men , known to th media as the Memphis 3 were finally allowed to enter new evidence into their trial to have their sentences overturn. but at th end even though they are now free, under the Arkansas law, they are still guilty thru innocent time served. It just a sad story for everyone involved including the victims, the families and the mess up judicial process.
September 3, 2013
Excellent.....there were six real victims here.....
½ May 20, 2013
This film is almost as much about the effects of previous two film, as the actual crime mystery. The Memphis 3 is "fortunate" to have the filmmaker telling their side of stories, but it also begs the question, how many more were wrongly convicted, not being heard
April 11, 2013
i'm ashamed of myself for the judgement i made based on the previous two documentaries in the series. What Jason Baldwin said at the end of the film inspired me enourmously. I'm still not 100% convinced, but i think what they went through, and how they were treated, have served enough of the justice.
½ April 2, 2013
Sorry, but did I miss something. You claim to be innocent and they put you on death row but then you plead guilty to the horrendous murder of 3 young boys and they instantly let you go. The U S of A, you really are FUBAR.
April 1, 2013
This whole series of documentaries about a sensational crime in Arkansas, the trial and conviction of three teenagers for the crime and their long incarceration continues in this installment. This film resolves the issue of the three people who were convicted of the crime, the West Memphis Three, and introduces another plausible killer with a fresh look at the old evidence as well as some new evidence.
½ March 7, 2013
This final chapter looks back at all the evidence (or lack thereof) that convicted these three young men (or boys even) and the flawed justice system that allowed it to happen. As a standalone documentary it doesn't work as well. The previous films have to be seen to understand the full scale of the crazy allegations - but as a closing statement it does what it's supposed to do. Powerful stuff.
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 January 5, 2013
The first two films in this war to free the unjustly convicted West Memphis 3 were better. The redemption of this film is its following through to their release, the changed heart of a step-father, and new evidence that makes you angry all over again. The failure of this film is the re-use of old footage and retelling the story to pad it's length, and the disturbing, tasteless use of crime scene photos showing three murdered and mutilated young boys. It was not done, that I can remember, in the first two films. There was no reason to do it repeatedly here.
December 31, 2012
This is the third in a series of HBO documentaries regarding three wrongly convicted teenage boys who spent more than 18 years in prison for a crime they definitely did not commit. The three innocents have been coined The West Memphis 3.

Although the documentary was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature (2012), it lost out to "Undefeated."

For those who have the time, the entire series of HBO documentaries on this case are worth watching, but for those with time constraints, at least watch the latest in the series. For those who want even more details about the horrific crime and the innocent young men (teens at the time of sentencing), the most detailed account can be found in journalist Mara Levitt's excellent book "Devil's Knot" (now in production as a feature film).
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