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Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000)

Unrated | | Documentary, Crime | TV Movie 12 March 2001
The case of the West Memphis Three, its questionable circumstances and the parties involved are followed up years later.
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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 wins. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Himself
Melissa Byers ...
Herself (archive footage)
Norris Deajon ...
Himself
Tim Sullivan ...
Himself (archive sound)
Chris Worthington ...
Himself
John Mark Byers ...
Himself
Kathy Bakken ...
Herself
Burk Sauls ...
Himself
...
Himself
...
Himself (as Jessie Miskelly)
Debra Shue ...
Herself
Grove Pashley ...
Himself
Anna Masek ...
Herself
Ruth Carter ...
Herself
Bill Pritcherson ...
Himself
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Storyline

In 1994, three nonconformist boys in West Memphis, Arkansas were convicted for a horrific triple child murder. However, the original film shows how questionable evidence and a prejudiced community instead led to an apparent miscarriage of justice. The producers return to West Memphis to meet the Three again and the grassroots movement that has arisen to exonerate the Three. However, the father of one of the victims, John Mark Byers, is profiled as well as he belligerently asserts the three's guilt even as new evidence and his own criminal record draws suspicion on himself. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

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Genres:

Documentary | Crime

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Release Date:

12 March 2001 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Revelations: Paradise Lost 2  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

The only film of the trilogy to be a TV project instead of receive a theatrical release. See more »

Goofs

At one point the on-screen date for a trial scene is listed as January of 1993. The murders didn't occur until May of that year. See more »


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Fixxer
By Metallica
Written by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Kirk Hammett
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User Reviews

 
one of the eeriest documentaries I've ever seen, though taken within its context
29 January 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It's strange to come to write about Paradise Lost 2: Revelations having watch some (though not all) of the third and final entry from 2011, part 3 Purgatory (which was made the same year the West Memphis 3 - Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr., and Jason Baldwin - were finally released from prison due to an unusual 'plea' deal). I say this because by the time one watches that film, shot some 12/13 years after the second entry which was shot four years after the original Paradise Lost (93/94 in Arkansas), a key character (and I use the word Character I should say with a capital C) with John Mark Byers has changed. Hindsight is always 20/20 as the saying goes, but it is still captivating and kind of horrifying to see how Byers, and not necessarily the three (at the time) convicted killers, becomes the main character here.

I have to wonder if the filmmakers went into the project knowing exactly what they would do; part of the impetus was to go back to the area in Arkansas as Echols in 1998/99 was facing a very urgent appeal process in court (with the original judge in the case, I'd say unfortunately), and also by this time the effect of the first Paradise Lost doc was such that the film itself was available as evidence for the defense. Ironically though because of the notoriety, the filmmakers Berlinger and Sinofsky weren't allowed in the courtroom, and the parents of the victims (seen in part 1) declined to be interviewed... except for Byers' stepfather, and his mother by this point had died. What did she die from? Well, that's kind of a funny story...

Although the filmmakers here have access to the West Memphis 3 (Echols seems to get the most time since it's his appeals process as the focus), as well as one of the defense lawyers and a special investigator who can spot things that should have been clear to the cops at the time of the killings, and there is the group that formed to help free men and how they set up the website and (as a running thing in the movie) having an online chat for people on the site with Echols, the lack of being in the courtroom and certain subjects makes things a little more limited.

It's through no fault of their own, but the filmmakers probably had to scramble to find some way to make the film more compelling. Needless to say, Mr. Mark Byers ended up, through his own sense of either mania or ego, said 'I'm here!' The running thing with Byers is that certain people around him - neighbors, especially those who, for example, claim (rightfully so) that he and his formerly-living wife stole things from their homes, or just people in town - don't trust him.

More to the point, Byers is looked at as an outside-probably-yeah suspect as the actual murderer of the kids (the step-father of one, and the kid had a history of abuse that wasn't really put forward until this doc). No real attempts are made by the authorities to go after him, which seems about right given how steadfast the chief (retired) officer is with the results of the case), but all the same Byers, who does things like YELL into the camera in full close-up for his enemies and doubters to go to hell and so on and keeps getting into confrontations with the Free West Memphis people (who aren't looking for any confrontation and want to ask simple questions), isn't having it.

So how about a polygraph test? This latter part makes for the most compelling and darkly twisted (for me) part of the documentary. Arguably there's a moment, in an informal conversation with the tester before the actual polygraph, where Byers admits to murdering his wife (Freudian slip one might say, but it's a 'whoa whoa WHOA' moment), and he says to the tester that he's on a mixture of pills to fight his 'brain tumor' (does he have it for real, who knows). But this makes for a chilling centerpiece to what is otherwise a kind of warped piece of theater for Byers. He is someone who PLAYS to the camera, whether he knows it or not; he mostly does know it, you can tell, in a way where it's kind of either bad acting, or a level of just 'he does believe this, but what's in his head?' He becomes one of the most striking personas I've seen in a modern documentary, and whether you think he's a killer or not, as he WAS a criminal (at the end of the film the text says he's arrested and put to jail for some time for drug dealing to a narc) and it makes for an ambiguous treatment.

The focus on the case itself is sharp and interesting too,, the new evidence all the more troubling, albeit at times there's a reliance a bit much on footage from the past movie. But it's sad just how much of a miscarriage of justice went on, through perception of young people, Wiccans and the "Occult" (which the expert on camera refutes and it's easy to see from the pictures too), and throughout people like Echols make for the opposite side of someone like Byers: a lucid, calm, but seemingly decent person who has been put into a position where it really is LIFE or DEATH. The viewing experience may be slightly colored by what comes in part 3, or just what happened in the real world to the West Memphis 3, but it doesn't diminish the impact of this documentary with this real force of nature in the ultimate hulking-talkative-WTF redneck John Mark Byers. If nothing else, see it for him.


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