Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Horrific Documentary That Does Not Go Deep Enough: "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills" (1996)

I am the father of two boys, and the opening scenes of the police video of the three murdered children moved me to tears. However, an almost equally shocking omission is made by the film makers- the true victims in this case.

The documentary covers the murders of three young boys and the "weird" teens brought to justice for the crime. The film makers were granted unlimited access by all sides involved, and they bring many hard hitting images to the screen.

This film is full of morons. This film is a vivid illustration of moronic behavior on the part of the subjects. The idea that three children were tortured and murdered is often forgotten as some parents become sanctimonious in their desire to see the convicted murderers raped and killed in prison. Two fathers shoot guns into a pumpkin, verbally wishing it was the teens who killed their children. I hope to never understand the horror these parents went through, and I can see their anger, but consistently stooping to the level of these teenage murdering idiots is beyond me.

The three teens convicted of murder do not come off any better. Despite the directors' efforts to show they were convicted on the basis of their heavy metal/goth appearance, watching the main ringleader, Damien, primp in front of a mirror and talk about the giant marijuana joint he is going to smoke after he is found not guilty made my stomach turn. He obviously loves the attention, planning to become hometown West Memphis' answer to the boogey man. The entire situation is tinged with stupidity.

I am a big supporter of the "knowledge is power" school of thought. I am not saying reading Dickens would have saved these children, but many of these parents and the children were on multiple marriages and different last names, and I began to lose track of who was related to who. I am divorced, but the children here were obviously lost in the parental shuffles. The prosecuting lawyer were the only group of people who seemed to have a brain in their collective heads, as the defense attorneys made so many missteps I though I was watching a bad episode of "Matlock."

The film should have spent more time on the prosecution's evidence. There is a scene where the prosecutor tells the grieving parents what they have, and it is unbelievable they did not have any more.

If anything, this film will make you want to talk about today's justice system, and many other topics. What everyone keeps forgetting, parents and murderers and film makers alike, is that three eight year old boys were slaughtered and beaten. Imagine their pain and suffering, then watch the "heartsick" mother of one of the boys have a smoke at his gravesite. A lot of this film features play-to-the-camera scenes like that.

I recommend "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills," but I will never forget what should have been the main subjects- the murdered children. (* * * *) out of five stars.