Revelation [1999]

Directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky return to the scene of the crime with this urgent follow-up to their harrowing 1996 documentary, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. That profoundly disturbing film chronicles the tragic and twisted case of three young men--Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley--who were convicted of the brutal 1993 murders of three second graders. The film suggests that perhaps their only crime was dressing in black and liking Metallica. To the townspeople, this smacked of Satanism and marked them as made-to-order suspects. Meanwhile, Mark Byars, the stepfather of one of the victims emerged from the film as a "Why-isn't-anyone-following-up-on-this?" suspect. Revelations, which, for those who missed the first film, efficiently recaps the case, and charts the trio's maddening appeals process (police browbeat a confession out of Misskelley, who has an IQ of 71, after 12 hours of questioning), as well as the efforts of a group of Internet advocates to "Free the West Memphis Three." Byers is back as well, and he is infinitely more terrifying than anything in Book of Shadows, Berlinger's Blair Witch sequel. We learn that Byers had all his teeth extracted in the years after the murders (human bite marks are among the new evidence introduced). We also learn that his wife has since died of undetermined causes. When Byers passes a suspect lie detector test, he exults, "I knew I was innocent." A further mystery is why both Paradise Lost films have not garnered the media attention or sparked the outrage that attended Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line, which led to the release of an innocent man who was imprisoned for more than 10 years. Both films give new meaning to the concept of reasonable doubt. --Donald Liebenson

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