Saturday, January 28, 2012

Paradise Lost 2: Revelations

Paradise Lost 2: Revelations is a sequel to the 1996 documentary about the murders that occurred at Robin Hood Hills in West Memphis, Arkansas. Directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, the film explores the aftermath of the trial that accused Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr. of killing three eight-year old boys back in 1993. Notably as Echols faces a death sentence as a support group and lawyers try to help their case out where they uncover new evidence and a possible suspect. The result is a more intriguing yet brooding documentary from Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky.

In the second part of the Paradise Lost trilogy, a support group of the West Memphis 3 try to keep the case open for the public as its alleged ringleader Damien Echols faces a death sentence in 2000. While Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin are currently serving different sentences, both maintain their innocence as Misskelley reveals that his confession was false due to the threats and badgering he received from the police. Misskelley’s attorney from the first case chooses to stay on as he also helps out Echols and Baldwin with help from a defense expert and the support group where they would uncover a piece of evidence overlooked from the previous case.

With the mothers of Echols and Baldwin talking to the filmmakers as well as Misskelley’s father, the one person that is up and front about the case is John Mark Byers. The father of one of the victims in Christopher Byers, Byers is definitely the scene-stealer of the film as he becomes confrontational towards the support group as he becomes a suspect. Particularly as his wife Melissa had died mysteriously in 1996 as her cause of death remained inconclusive. Yet, Byers is also known for various incidents relating to theft and assault while there is a very crazy scene where he returns to the crime scene to make a gravesite for the accused in a very strange ritual with fire.

While Byers is among one of the most interesting people in the film, it is still about the case as a more subdued Damien Echols reflects on the first film and everything else that has happened. Notably as Echols fights for his appeal after he felt the lawyers in the first film didn’t do an adequate job in defending him once the support team, Misskelley’s attorney, and others find evidence that could prove their innocence. What is revealed proved that there wasn’t just a sense of incompetence by the defense attorneys and those who are supposed to look into the autopsy. It also proves that there could be a cover-up.

The direction of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky does repeat some of the same visual traits such as the aerial shots of West Memphis and moving the camera around the actual crime scene. The approach is more different as it utilizes more news footage and material from the previous film to reveal what happened then as the people who were previously interviewed reflecting on the past. There’s scenes where Berlinger and Sinofsky get a chance for Echols to speak via speakerphone for an online chat he has where he briefly gets to talk to his mother. With the help of cinematographer Robert Richman and editor M. Watanabe Milmore, the film’s look and editing approach to the film is still the same but there’s also a much tighter feel to the pacing that keeps it from lagging. The film’s music is once again supplied by Metallica which adds to the film’s haunting quality as Baldwin’s mother finds herself relating to the song Nothing Else Matters which is played a few times in the film.

Paradise Lost 2: Revelations is a mesmerizing yet suspenseful documentary from Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. The film is a brilliant yet superior follow-up to its predecessor as it unveils more clues and secrets about the possible innocence of the West Memphis 3. It also creates a very interesting character in Mark Byers as a man trying to deal with loss as well as maintaining his belief that the three men did kill those kids. It’s also a film that allows someone to go back and watch the first film and see what got overlooked and figure out that there could be more that is missing. In the end, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations is a remarkable yet powerful film from Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky.

Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky Films: (Brother’s Keeper) - Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills - (Where It’s At: The Rolling Stone State of the Union) - Metallica: Some Kind of Monster - Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

© thevoid99 2012

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