West of Memphis

DOCUMENTARY; 2hr 27min


Framed: from left, Echols and Baldwin

In 1994, when Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were imprisoned for the sexual mutilation murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, the pervading belief was that the teenagers were members of a satanic cult. Echols was given the death penalty, Baldwin sentenced to life and Misskelley to life and two 20-year terms. They would each end up serving 18 years.


Had justice been done? Petitioning for the release of the West Memphis 3, a groundswell of celebrity-bolstered support — notably by New Zealand film-maker Peter Jackson and his partner, Fran Walsh — forcefully contended that it had not, citing a coerced confession, inaccurate evidence and ignored alibis. Director Amy Berg revisits the horrendous crime and subsequent trial, fleshing out what went down with present-day perspectives. The exhaustive detail is edifying and fascinating, a revelation in its laser exposure of sickness and deceit, and bone-chilling in its indication that the actual killer is still out there.