Entertainment Weekly - 10/11/1996
"...Mesmerizing....A gothic backwoods RASHOMON, PARADISE LOST inspires a gripping sense of moral vertigo..." -- Rating: A
Film Comment - 03/01/1996
"...It captures thought-provoking moments with serious implications..."
Los Angeles Times - 10/31/1996
"...What Berlinger and Sinofsky prove again is their unmatched talent for gaining access to people caught up in tragedy....PARADISE LOST is as important a film as will be seen this year..."
Chicago Sun-Times - 09/27/1996
"...Unique among courtroom documentaries..."
Uncut - 07/01/2005
Film Comment - 11/01/2005
"[The filmmakers] introduce us to one of the most terrifying, and suspicious human beings ever to appear on screen."
In 1993, three eight-year-old boys were found brutally murdered in the woods of West Memphis, Arkansas. Though the evidence suggested the masterwork and skill of a seasoned killer, the police hastily assigned the blame to three alienated boys with a predilection for heavy metal music and black clothing. The directors' omnipresent yet unobtrusive camera draws the viewer into an intensely gripping trial and investigation, during which an atmosphere of small town "Satanic panic" and a case filled with holes reveals itself. All sides of the story are carefully explored--the emotions and opinions of victims' families, lawyers, and the boys themselves--as the trial slowly builds to its shocking outcome. The masterful editing of Berlinger and Sinofsky transforms the often dry courtroom documentary into smooth and compelling storytelling, and the most articulate of the condemned boys, Damien Echols, emerges as the fascinating centerpiece. Effective use is made of heavy metal band Metallica's early music, which gives an audio soundtrack to the alienation and hopelessness of the accused boys. Powerful and often heartwrenching, this award-winning documentary is, in the fact of its reality, more frightening, tragic, and unforgettable than many works of fiction.
Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, Jessie Miskelley Jr., Gary Gitchell, John Mark Byers, Melissa Byers, and Pam Hobbs are featured in the film.