Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory Movie Review
The third and presumably last documentary in the Paradise Lost series, the Oscar-nominated film Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory takes a continued look at the three teenagers known as the West Memphis Three, who were convicted of murdering three eighty-year-old boys during a satanic cult despite a severe lack of evidence. Unlike the previous two documentaries, the movie ends on a positive note, as the three boys - now in their thirties - are finally released from prison.
The movie was originally set to be released on HBO in November 2011, following a debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. However, on August 19, 2011, a surprise announcement was made: the West Memphis Three, after having served 20 years in prison, would issue Alford Pleas: admitting guilt in the legal sense of the word while maintaining their innocence. The plea deal meant an immediate release, ending one of the most talked about legal sagas in modern history.
As a result, the film was pushed back a couple of months to incorporate post-release footage and interviews. The result is a satisfying conclusion to a trilogy that has always been about facts and common sense and less about presentation. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory looks and feels much like the previous two entries, with lots of archival footage, heavy metal music and a constant reinforcement of a simple statement: there is no evidence to keep these three men behind bars.
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory is a well done movie, but it adds little to the story. While it's interesting to see modern day interviews with the three convicts and hear how their lives have been while incarnated, much of the film just says the same thing over and over again. It's an important message, but it's not a new one.
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, which is now on DVD, tells an important story, but it isn't remarkably different from the previous two iterations. If you follow the news and watched as the West Memphis Three were released from prison, there's not much else to know. Still, it's good to finally see the series end on a positive note.
More compelling, however, would be a forth film that looks at the men's lives now that they've been released. As one admitted while still in prison, he felt as though his life ended when he was a teenager; will these men ever be able to reincorporate into society, and how will society view them?
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.