Devil's Knot (2013) Poster


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Very well done but the documentary might be something you're looking for if you want all the details.
MartinHafer30 April 2014
"Devil's Knot" is a slightly fictionalized account of a famous triple murder that happened in West Memphis, Arkansas back in 1993. Three young men were convicted of killing three small children and much of the evidence presented in court was testimony that the alleged perpetrators were young, listened to heavy metal music and had an interest in the occult...along with about 10,000,000 other teens at that time! The film talks a lot about the conflicting evidence, recanted testimony and holes in the case. And, it gives two other possible perpetrators who were never prosecuted. But, because the community was looking for convictions and because there was a strong cultural belief in the existence of satanic murder cults, folks seemed more than willing to see these three teens convicted…and so they were.

The film does work very well in convincing the audience and providing an entertaining film. Your heart will certainly get caught up in the film and it will have a strong impact on viewers. The director, production staff and everyone associated with the film did quite well. When it comes to the acting, it was also very good all around. I was particularly impressed by Colin Firth--who sounded amazingly NON-British in the movie. This came as a bit surprise.

If you are looking for a thorough examination of the killings, the folks involved and subsequent trial, this film may leave you a bit cold, unfortunately. For dramatic reasons, the film chose to focus on one particular mother (probably because she was played by Reese Witherspoon) and completely ignored the other two grieving families--a very, very odd omission to say the least and something that seems a bit offensive. If you are interested in all the details of the case, then see "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills", "Paradise Lost 2: Revelations", and "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory"—three documentaries about the infamous 'Memphis Three' directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky

Overall, the movie is a good, well-constructed drama and a reasonably fair representation of the case--albeit far from a perfect one. It's worth seeing and entertaining but not a film for kids to see because of the subject matter. And, if you do watch, you might want to keep some Kleenex has a few gut-wrenching moments.
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What to Expect: Devil's Knot
Film Watchin Fool15 April 2014
Why You Might Like It: This movie is an above average murder mystery/courtroom drama. It is based on real events, which is something that definitely makes the film more intriguing and interesting. The cast is well put together and the acting is on par for the most part. Witherspoon and Firth deliver solid performances and the supporting cast do a fine job. I thought the movie had a nice flow to it and the some of the cinematography was well done. I do give the director credit for some of the scenes in the film that are a little troubling to watch because I believe it is important to the final product. I don't believe I would make the trip to the theater to see it, but it is well worth a rental.

Why You Might Not Like It: I will say that the content is disturbing and there are parts of the movie that are really hard to watch. Afterall, this movie is about the brutal murder of three young kids. This isn't something that is depicted off camera, but instead there are parts and images shown in plain view that will bother most viewers. There are a couple of the roles in the movie that seem to be a little overacted and stereotyped, but that is just my opinion. I also thought there were a few spots in the movie that were a little choppy, which had a minor effect on the way the film plays out.

Acting/Casting: 7*

Directing/Cinematography/Technical: 6.5*

Plot/Characters: 7*

Entertainment Value: 6.5*

Total - 7+6.5+7+6.5 = 27/4 = 6.75* - Well worth a rental
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"There's power in the blood"
doug_park200118 June 2014
Based on the book by the same title, DEVIL's KNOT is a docu-drama about the 1993 ritual murders of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. This film does not contain any basic information that is not already covered in the documentaries PARADISE LOST and WEST of MEMPHIS. It does, however, provide some fairly interesting reenacted personal perspectives of the various parties: victims' families, the accused "Memphis 3" and certain of their friends, the police and prosecution, the defense teams, etc. DEVIL's KNOT makes for a compelling enough show and is expertly filmed with decent but not great acting. Though I'm sure that there are some misrepresentations of certain details, it is faithful to the basic events of this case. The biggest limitation is that those who have read the various books and seen earlier films will not find anything terribly new here while casual viewers who are unfamiliar with the case will find all the various characters and shifting perspectives confusing.

Colin Firth gives a nice performance as private investigator for the defense Ron Lax; ditto for Reese Witherspoon as Pam Hobbs. DEVIL's KNOT might have worked better with a stricter focus on one or maybe both of these characters, even if that meant ignoring certain other people and factors in the case.

Regardless, this film is very revealing of how incompetent police work, selective use of evidence by the prosecution, and public hysteria in this rather superstitious Bible Belt community led to the denial of reasonable doubt for the accused "Memphis 3." Without telling you what to think or pointing the finger unduly, it also cursorily examines other potential suspects. There are some brief bits of courtroom drama, but again, the focus changes just as things get really interesting.

In short, DEVIL's KNOT is quite watchable, but the attempt to tell the entire story in a narrative of less than two hours is inadequate and dissatisfying.

WARNING: Though there's not a lot of gore, there are some brief and graphic post mortem shots of the young victims.
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Flawed but decent account of a comparatively recent case
davideo-224 June 2014
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

In 1993, three young boys were found murdered in the river of a southern town in America. The finger of suspicion fell on several heavy metal obsessed teenagers, who were suspected of being involved in devil worship. On learning that the death penalty was being considered, attorney Ron Lax (Colin Firth) springs in to action, assembling a legal team to represent the boys in court and overcome the hysteria of the town. While desperate for closure and keeping a narrow grip on her sanity, Pam (Reese Witherspoon), one of the bereaved mothers, is also unable to clear herself of doubt over the boys guilt.

While not what could be called a fact is stranger than fiction piece of work, Devil's Knot also has a more engaging quality somehow on the grounds that it's based on a true story, serving as it does as an examination of the legal system, and of people's small mindedness and tendency towards knee jerk reactions in the face of acts of over- whelming evil. In as unflinching a style as one can expect from modern films, it dramatizes the true horror and subsequent raw emotions of a small town on the edge. It's helped no end by reliably stellar performances from the lead stars and supporting cast, and it's all pretty on the level, but it's also sadly not the sum of it's parts.

As well as staging it all pretty well, director Atom Egoyan also strives to keep the authenticity to a high standard, with Firth delivering a fine American accent, at the top of every other little minor detail. Somehow, though, he manages to muddle the pace up, delivering a film that while telling a compelling story, is detailed in a slightly meandering, plodding fashion that stops it being the sum of it's parts. The parts this effects most is the conclusion, delivering a pay off that could have been electrifying, but as a result is merely perfunctory.

Still, it's a riveting, interesting real life thriller, boosted no ends from great turns by two reliable lead performers. ***
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Paradise Lost series makes this a little flat
Tcarts7630 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"The Devil's Knot" is the true story of the Robin Hood Hills murder. The movie itself kind of falls flat for me compared to the documentary series that followed the story all the way through.

Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth are strong actors, but this story is well documented from start to finish and it was only a matter of time before a movie was made, especially because people in Hollywood got involved in this one early.

I don't think there was really anything wrong with the movie itself. It is a compelling story and needs to be told. It is just that the "Paradise Lost," series that followed the real players in the story was full of twists and turns that Hollywood's top writers couldn't make this stuff up.

I watched the first documentary when it came out and I was a kid (I was a Metallica fan and their music was used). A couple of years ago I watched the 2 follow ons. If you haven't watched those I say watch this one first. I say that because the series were absolutely captivating when you get into it, and if you watch this first I think you will feel that this falls flat to the real deal. I say the documentaries are captivating, I know that sounds bad given the real crime involved, but it was kind of unbelievable. Then again it is good to illustrate these to a new generation that don't know much about this story. So maybe I am too old to appreciate this movie.

The child's voice narration in this movie just really should have been something they cut in this movie. I understand why it was inserted, but it really wasn't handled very well. It was out of place. If it was done to unnerve people and highlight something, it did, but not exactly in the way that it was meant to do. It's something that has to be done perfectly otherwise cut it, In my opinion, it should have been cut out.

WARNING: Do not read beyond this point if you don't know the story, because this may be a spoiler.

I am still a proponent of the death penalty after the details of what happened here. The system is broken in many ways but it is the best we have. I think some of the appeals process needs to be fixed, and a lot of convicts that were convicted before a lot of the DNA and forensic science that we have now today should be allotted more consideration/appeal hearings in order to be sure of their guilt or innocence as well.

The big part of the system that failed here in my eyes is that the Appeals process just continued to go back to the same Judge. I have all the respect in the world for the occupation Judges serve in and the incredible pressures put on them and the difficult job they do. BUT sometimes when you have that kind of power it is easy to remember you are a human being and can and do make mistakes. If the same Judge gets to handle an appeal he is essentially being asked to admit the prosecutor, jury, or he, himself made a mistake. That's a tall order.
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Worth seeing but if you get a chance read & watch anything else on the West Memphis 3, you'll be more informed & more interested
Tony Heck11 May 2014
"If you don't have a strong case the state is gonna kill 3 young men and I can't stand by and watch that happen." In 1993 three 8 year old boys were savagely murdered. The state tried three teenagers as adults for the killings and claimed they were murdered as part of a satanic cult ritual. This is the story of the trial and how Ron Lax (Firth) tried to help the defense and how one of the mother's (Witherspoon) dealt with the loss and aftermath. I knew very little of the actual story going in. This is a movie that reminded me of the Aviator in the way that I watched a documentary and read more about the events after it was over and found those to be better and more interesting then the movie. The cast is great and has many big names as well as 3 Oscar winners, but at best this felt like a made-for-TV movie. I found it hard to really get into and was disappointed especially with this cast. I'm not saying it's not worth seeing but if you get a chance read and watch anything else on the West Memphis Three, you will be more informed and more interested then you would if you watch this movie. Overall, not bad but could have been so much better. I give this a B-.
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a decent summary of the defense's case
pmcguireumc16 June 2014
I have seen a lot of people trash this film, and if you are looking for something on the level of Angelina Jolie's "Changeling", you will be disappointed. If though, you are tolerant of a low budget but effective dramatization of a very tangled, disturbing, and tragic story about 3 young boys losing their lives to murder and 3 young men losing their lives to a group of detectives and justice system blinded by emotion, you will appreciate this film. Reece is fantastic as the mom of one of the victims. She is the big name in the film, though you will recognize several actors who are not quite up to her level of star power. I am a bit of a junkie on this case, and I was not disappointed. I think it does a fair job of presenting the defense's perspective. Granted, if you think they are guilty, and there are many who do, then you will be angered by its presentation. Nonetheless, I was very pleased with it.
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Truth is stranger than fiction . . . and that's the problem.
The_Film_Cricket17 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Atom Egoyan's Devil's Knot is a wholly unnecessary exercise. Here is a fictionalized recreation of the brutal 1993 murders of three elementary school boys from West Memphis Arkansas that has already been documented in Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's brilliant 1996 documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills and its three subsequent follow-ups. If you've seen those films then you already know all the players. Those films were intricately detailed portraits of West Memphis with all its oddball characters and bizarre hysterical theories that led to the conviction three teenagers that the community believed were serving the devil. By this point, what can Egoyan's fictional narrative tell us that we don't already know? The short answer: not much.

It is not for lack of talent. Egoyan is a brilliant filmmaker. His most effective landscape has been the wilderness of his native Canada. His best films like Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter deal with events in The Great White North in a way that never seems generic because the territory seems as familiar to him as the letters in his own name. In stepping outside his usual landscape, he finds himself wading knee-deep in the waters of our expectations. They recreate the events without the intricate details so their film comes off feeling like a barely passable reenactment.

What is presented in Devil's Knot (which is named after the wooded area in which the three boys were found) is a fictional narrative that never comes close to the details presented in Berlinger and Sinofsky's documentary. The monumental task for Egoyan and his screenwriters Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson, is to create the same kind of creepy effectiveness that we got from the documentary. Yet, where the documentary had the advantage of prying into the private lives of the families and the legal team, this docudrama finds its focus on Ronald Lax (Colin Firth), the private investigator who worked with the defense pro bono. In doing so, many of the major players remain off-screen. The three accused teenagers, Jesse Misskelley, Damian Echols and Jason Baldwin remain shadows here. We see them fleetingly, mostly in the backgrounds.

The same goes for the families. There were six families devastated by this crime, but the film focuses almost exclusively on Pamela Hobbs the single mother of one of the victims. She's played by Reese Witherspoon in a performance that feels somehow muted and unfocused, as if the real meat of her performance was left on the cutting room floor.

What is strange is that Egoyan and his screenwriters would focus on the relatively banal figure of Hobbs (from a fictional standpoint anyway) when the most curious mainstay of the case has always been John Mark Byers, the stepfather of Christopher Byers, one of the murder victims. Byers was always the most outspoken of the grieving parents, a creepy and laconic man who spoke passionately about his faith in God while his background contained elements of a life of bitter chaos: DUIs, blackouts, hallucinations, violence, a brain tumor, restraining orders. Plus there was that strange business in 1996 when his wife Melissa (and Christopher's mother) suddenly died of "undetermined causes." Those details are to be found in the documentary. In Egoyan's film, Byers is seen fleetingly in the backgrounds.

Even from the standpoint of filmmaking, Devil's Knot never really breathes with life. Egoyan is the master of his canvas, an expert at knowing how to paint a portrait of a grieving town, as he did in his great 1998 film The Sweet Hereafter about the deaths of several school children when their school bus crash through the ice. The weight of that film came from the community that had to deal with those events. It could reasonably be hoped that he could create the mourning atmosphere of West Memphis, Arkansas that led to the suspicions and hysteria about Satanic cult rituals on which the three teens were accused. Yet, it doesn't work because our brains are so fine-tuned into the real facts and the real people, that any fiction feels phony by comparison.
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A respectful but overly restrained dramatisation of true events - the real story is far more devilish and knotty than the film suggests.
shawneofthedead16 May 2014
For decades now, Hollywood has been mining the headlines for inspiration. It was only a matter of time before studio executives turned their attention to the West Memphis Three: a trio of teenagers who were convicted - most likely wrongfully - of murdering three young boys and sentenced to life in prison. You might imagine that the resulting movie would be every bit as disturbing, tragic and thought- provoking as the actual case itself. But Devil's Knot is more respectful than effective as a film, covering the facts without really getting to the heart of the matter.

On a summer day like any other, Pam Hobbs (Reese Witherspoon) waves goodbye to her little boy Steve as he heads off on his bike with his two friends. It would be the last time she sees him alive. When three bodies turn up in a rain-washed river, the local authorities conclude that the murders bear shades of a Satanic ritual. As a result, other leads - a bloodied man stumbling into a diner near the scene of the crime, a young man (Dane DeHaan) with an odd interest in the boys - fall by the wayside. Instead, three teenagers with an interest in the occult - Damien Echols (James Hamrick), Jason Baldwin (Seth Meriwether) and Jessie Misskelley Jr. (Kristopher Higgins) - become the targets of a community and legal system eager to find answers, even if it means looking in all the wrong places.

It's easy to see why these murders, which took place in 1993, have remained so compelling and fascinating, even twenty years later. Mixed up in the heartbreakingly tragic loss of three young lives are weighty themes of prejudice, religious bias and the miscarriage of justice. With new leads consistently popping up that continue to throw the original judicial decision into doubt, it's small wonder that private investigators like Ron Lax (played by a rather miscast Colin Firth in the film) find themselves turning over and over the facts of the case, trying to figure out how the police narrowed their search in a way that seemed to lead to obvious - and likely erroneous - conclusions.

But Atom Egoyan's film never really delves into the horror and humanity of the story it wants to tell. At some point along the way, the film shifts into documentary mode, hitting the story beats but never really finding its heart. There are a couple of emotional moments that come courtesy of Witherspoon's shell-shocked Pam, but very little insight is otherwise provided into the psyches of the characters. We spend hardly any time with the parents of the other two victims, and we're never really given the opportunity to come to grips with the seemingly stone-cold Damien or his two alleged accomplices - a befuddled Jason and a haplessly confused Jessie.

For anyone unfamiliar with the West Memphis Three, Devil's Knot will serve as a good enough primer: it's a dutiful version of the story, with the bare facts alone capable of chilling most people to the bone. But anyone who's more interested in the twists, turns, implications and consequences of the case might be better served by looking elsewhere. There are a few actual documentaries out there - the Paradise Lost series and West Of Memphis (produced by Peter Jackson) - that are considerably more incisive in their approach to these murders.
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Surprisingly poor effort
Falconeer23 May 2014
From a competent director like Atom Egoyan, one would certainly expect a bit more than this sub par effort, that looks and feels like a cheap, made for TV movie, in every way. Filled with dull court scenes, and a preachy vibe throughout, as though the film was made specifically to prove that the 3 boys were innocent of the charges. It is hard to imagine that a movie dealing with such a fascinating subject matter, could actually be boring; but Egoyan and his cast manage to deliver a completely lackluster product. Even Reese Witherspoon, who usually turns in good performances, is just awful in this. Somehow her Southern accent sounds completely fake...even though the actress IS Southern! It felt like the actors didn't put any feeling into their roles, perhaps because even they realized that the script was so uninspiring. And if the people involved in the project can't find inspiration, how is the audience supposed to feel anything at all? The only bright spot in this film is the appearance of the up and coming actor Dane DeHaan, who is usually the best thing about any production he appears in. Unfortunately DeHaan is on screen for less than a total of 10 minutes.

For those interested in the infamous 'West Memphis Three' murders, the documentary "Paradise Lost" is still the most interesting film on the subject. Later this year, there is yet another movie on this subject, due to be released in November 2014. Hopefully that film will handle the material better than this lackluster effort..
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Poor representation of a very complex murder case
emmaline894 May 2014
This movie is based on a real murder case, and that case is simply far too complex to jam it all in to a logical movie of 2 something hours. The film makers simply missed the mark on this and did a very poor job of turning this murder case into a story line for a film.

As a movie, it felt extremely disjointed. They flicked between different time points very quickly, which made it difficult to grasp how much time had actually passed between events. There is very little character development so viewers are left without any idea of who most of the people actually are, which is especially sad given that there are real people behind every character. In terms of the case details, they had some very odd choices in what to include and what to leave out, and they dramatized certain things but down played others. I feel they misrepresented certain people and certain relationships, and didn't seem to present much of a story.

Overall it was just a terrible movie. Such a shame that they managed to do such a poor job given that this movie is based on a real murder case with plenty of very interesting people.
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So much potential lost in a messy effort
Robert W.16 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
When I first heard about Devil's Knot I was surprised that I hadn't been hearing more from it. It looks and sounds like Oscar winning gold. A first rate cast, a very well respected director, an incredibly compelling I was cautiously optimistic that this would be a really great hidden gem. It has all the right ingredients and yet this story is far too complex and spans far too long a period to be effectively told in the confines of a single average length movie. Sometimes I like to quote other IMDb reviewers when I read something and think to myself "EXACTLY!" Well someone did that. This is a direct quote from emmaline89, "They flicked between different time points very quickly, which made it difficult to grasp how much time had actually passed between events. There is very little character development so viewers are left without any idea of who most of the people actually are, which is especially sad given that there are real people behind every character." I could not have said it better myself. You want to know so much more about these obviously complex characters but the script gives you virtually nothing. There are characters that pop in and out that I'm certain are vital to the overall story but there is far too much to cram into one movie. The "Paradise Lost/West Memphis" Documentary series which I have not watched yet spans decades and goes into intense details on this case. Devil's Knot doesn't even scratch the surface.

Its unfortunate because I thought performance wise Reese Witherspoon was excellent. She shows flashes of brilliance to a completely under developed character. She has the class and talent to actually make the role far meatier than what it written for her. She deserved better than this because she gave it her all and is the best part of the movie. Colin Firth (who is already very hit and miss to me) is a total miss in this. He does nothing with his character which is almost not needed in the story. He is literally just sort of there and most of the time you won't even understand why. He is downright boring in the role which is only partially his fault and partially the fault of the writer. Dane DeHaan gives an alright performance but again, like Witherspoon I think he could have knocked this out of the park, but the script is weak. Still he does the best he can with the material given to him. Kevin Durand was also very good in his role as John Mark Byers. I understand his character is absolutely vital to this case and Byers is generally considered one of the most ominous figures in the case and yet he is severely reduced to barely a supporting person. The chemistry between he and Witherspoon is good and they have a few really great scenes together but nothing ever quite takes off.

Essentially the plot is a mess. It was like they got over-excited and passionate about the story and tried to cram everything in there completely forgetting that for many of us we only know bits and pieces or even less about this story. Visually the film is very well shot. The initial scene of them bringing one of the boys' bodies out of the river was literally heart wrenching. I can't say I'm personally familiar with director Atom Egoyan's work but he is a director that people are always raving about. I certainly don't blame him for the lack of success in this film. I think his style shows and he tries very hard. Instead we turn to our writers. Paul Harris Boardman has formerly penned films like "Hellraiser Inferno" and "Urban Legends: Final Cut." His co-writer worked on the same films. Why in the hell would anyone take such an important and potentially amazing film and put the script in the hands of B-Movie horror writers? I'm furious!! If not for Egoyan's direction, Witherspoon, Dehaan and Duran's performance and their honest effort to squeeze something redeemable out of would have been a complete disaster. Instead we have a sub par telling of what looks like one of the fascinating real crime stories in history. Average in every way. 6/10
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Leaves heartbreaking mystery for viewers to 'solve'
maraleveritt10 September 2013
Director Egoyan personalizes the murders of three eight-year-old boys, drawing in tight on the grief of Pam Hobbs (Witherspoon), the mother of one of the victims. At the same time, by pulling back to the POV of savvy private investigator Ron Lax (Firth), who volunteers to assist attorneys for the three teenagers charged with the crime, Egoyan portrays with a cold eye the mistakes, maneuvers and mayhem that shaped its aftermath. For viewers, the result is a creeping sense of dread that this mystery, based closely on true events, is about to veer into even darker territory than that of the crime scene itself.

Egoyan knows--as will many viewers--that the state of Arkansas considers this chilling case solved. He challenges that certainty by allowing a spider of doubt to enter and move insidiously from one scene to another, until viewers are caught in the web of this case--one that, two decades later, still holds almost everyone who's encountered it. This is "The Crucible" of our time, only here, the hysteria is felt, not seen, and the persecution continues. By understating his story, Egoyan lets a legion of details--factual and emotional--bedevil it.
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Nicely details characters, environment, and impact
Steve Pulaski12 May 2014
There was definitely no immediate need for a dramatization of the "West Memphis Three" court case and the brutal murders of Robin Hills, but that doesn't mean we should write off a film that makes an earnest attempt at doing such a thing and doing a damn good job. Devil's Knot is a surprisingly compelling film, working to establish a complete understanding of the tragic murders of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993, the three adolescents convicted almost entirely on assumption and fear-mongering, and a long, grueling, and emotional trial.

The story was heavily publicized and brought to mainstream attention thanks to three brilliant HBO documentaries by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky titled Paradise Lost. The documentaries are nothing short of journalistic brilliance; ones that show access to a great deal of interviews, personal moments of grief amongst family members, and court footage we probably never should've seen. I'd label all three films - with the most recent documentary made in 2012 showing the three boys now as adults entering Alford Pleas and being released from prison - three of the best documentaries I have yet to see.

I'll be the first to say I wouldn't want to be the one making a dramatized film on this case. The case covers a long stretch of time, can often be confusing, there's still questions we don't have answered, and there are a plethora of characters that one needs to include that could easily get lost in a shuffle of information. Simply on the basis that director Atom Egoyan and writers Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson were able to craft a film and encompass most of the significant elements surrounding the case is nothing short of commendable and worth a great deal of praise.

The film shows what happened the day the three young boys went missing, which occurred around suppertime before prompting a countywide search for the young boys. Eventually, the boys were found beaten, mutilated, and appeared to once be hogtied in a shallow creek in Robin Hood Hills, located in a woodsy area in West Memphis. The remaining issue, now, was trying to adequately piece together the information of what happened to the boys and who committed such an ugly, heinous crime.

After an interview with a young boy, who was an apparent witness to the crime, it had been decided that three teenagers - Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., and Jason Baldwin - were the ones who committed the crime and were arrested not only after the bodies were discovered. The rationale for choosing them was that the boys were rather shady in some aspects, wore black clothing, didn't seem to pray or worship the same almighty God the god-fearing town of West Memphis did, and looked beyond religions like Christian and Catholic in favor of Wiccan studies.

It also didn't help that around the time of this case, fear was being peddled by local churches and townspeople about the presence of "Satanism" and "Satanic worships/sacrifices" in Arkansas. Because of this, people and police officers seemed to put names with faces and faces with names, assuming involvement and spreading fear rather than information.

Returning to the film at hand, Devil's Knot hires a wide variety of actors for the laundry-list of roles, whom all do a wonderful job at conveying their characters. The most notable of the bunch is Reese Witherspoon playing Pamela Hobbs, the mother of Stevie Branch, who makes her character more than the distraught mother who has lost her baby, but a distraught mother deprived of answers and active in trying to get to the bottom of the investigation. Witherspoon gives her role strong leverage in the face of roles featuring other distraught women who stew in their own sadness and pity.

Another great performance of the hour comes from the unexpected Colin Firth as Ron Lax, the case's private investigator, who becomes watchful of everyone's actions simply because he can't see an "eye for an eye" case for the three boys who don't seem to be guilty. He hates seeing the town react to killing the three boys to solve/remedy the fact that three other young boys are dead.

One of the many things that struck me about Devil's Knot was the beautiful cinematography, making the film look like more than a Lifetime/primetime, biographical film. Egoyan's cinematographer Paul Sarossy is employed with great effect, beautifully depicting the working class south, paying attention to every detail from the mannerisms and the values to the humidity of the environment at hand.

Devil's Knot concludes with the open-endedness that it needed in order to convey the ambiguity that still plagues this case to this day. Questions are still unanswered, people are still grieving, and the question that still remains is 'if not Echols, Misskelley, Jr., and Baldwin, then who killed the three boys?'. The film does a beautiful job at portraying characters, environment, and impact that a case like this can have, and despite four documentaries (three of which part of a trilogy) being made to showcase the case, having a dramatization exist poses really no harm at all - especially a nicely done one at that.

Starring: Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Mireille Enos, Dane DeHaan, Kevin Durand, Bruce Greenwood, Stephen Moyer, Elias Koteas, Amy Ryan, Alessandro Nivola, James Hamrick, Kristopher Higgins, and Seth Meriwether. Directed by: Atom Egoyan.
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A tool to expose and tell the story to new people
ersinkdotcom6 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
First off, I never gave much thought to the controversy surrounding the West Memphis Three. I was always around bands who protested their sentencing and read about the objections to their trials, but never gave it any more thought than that. I never watched or reviewed any of the "Paradise Lost" documentaries so I didn't feel like I had the right to take a side on the subject. All I knew was three little boys were murdered and it was a horrible tragedy.

In 1993, three young boys go into the woods of a small town in West Memphis, Arkansas. After their bodies are found in the river, the entire region is turned upside down as the murderer is tracked down. Three teenage locals accused of being Satanists are suspects in the killings. Have the authorities found the killers or is there more to the story that we've never heard?

When I saw a movie was being made based on the murders at Robin Hood Hill in West Memphis, Arkansas, I didn't even entertain seeing it. Not that I'm an unfeeling human being. I just try to put my focus on certain types of films and stick within those parameters because of time constraints. My mind was changed when I found out Scott Derrickson co- wrote and executive produced "Devil's Knot."

Scott Derrickson is a Hollywood director who shares many of the same Christian beliefs I do. It just so happens he wrote and directed what is in my opinion one of the finest examples of a supernatural horror film in 2013 - "Sinister." He also directed "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," "The Day the Earth Stood Still" remake, "Hellraiser: Inferno," and the upcoming "Deliver Us from Evil." Recently, Derrickson announced he's attached to helm the upcoming "Doctor Strange" movie for Marvel and Disney. Needless to say, I have a deep respect for his work and anything he puts his name on.

Director Atom Egoyan's "Devil's Knot" isn't meant to break any new ground in the investigations of the West Memphis killings. I see it as a tool to expose and tell the story to new people who might not be interested in watching documentaries or reading pages of case studies. It's an easy way to get people educated about one of the most infamous murder trials in American history.

"Devil's Knot" encouraged me to do some research on the killings. As soon as the credits rolled on screen, I hit the internet and compared what I'd seen to the actual evidence and professional conjecture I found. It's safe to say Egoyan's movie doesn't embellish much and sticks to the facts.

I was very impressed by the cast assembled for the indie film. "Devil's Knot" boasts Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth as the two lead characters. Supporting actors include Stephen Moyer, Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas, and Alessandro Nivola. It's obvious they all took the movie seriously and put their heart and souls into their performance.

"Devil's Knot" was never rated for the U.S. and contains disturbing images, language, and nudity. The crime scene photographs and sequences were enough to make me cringe and look away at points and I'm a horror film fanatic. It's just something about knowing this was based on true events that made me uneasy watching those scenes. The only nudity is of the bodies of the three murder victims. Trust me, there's nothing gratifying or attractive in what we are shown. It's purely used to display the severity of the perverse and sick nature of the crimes.

If you're uneducated on the events surrounding the murders at Robin Hood Hill in West Memphis, Arkansas, I highly recommend you seeing "Devil's Knot." If you've seen all the "Paradise Lost" documentaries, chances are you'll feel like you're seeing a basic retread of the information already shared in those films. According to my research, it seems to be the perfect opportunity to get educated about the tragic murders and the three boys accused of the crimes.
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An average movie with good casting.
neil-arsenal2 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Many are already familiar with this tragic story. What we have here is a dumbed down version of the 'Paradise Lost' series of documentaries. This is a movie review so it's best not to get into opinions here, although it isn't easy with such a delicate, tragic and controversial story and I know I will struggle. What I will say is that there are two sides to every story and not to believe everything Hollywood spoon feeds you. I recommend reading the case files online before forming a concrete opinion.

The movie itself is average. It has the look and feel of a well made TV movie. The subject matter is very complex and obviously dumbed down a little for the audience. The documentaries are much better, although they are pretty biased. In fact in the second edition they blame the murders on one of the fathers. You can even see reviews and comments about him on here from the time of the movie release. This was later proved 100% untrue and the poor man had to suffer years of abuse and suspicion. He still does at times.

In conclusion, this movie is a good way to get a basic background of the case, but it misses a lot out. I must admit that I was impressed with the casting. If you've seen the documentaries you'll see the resemblances, I'm sure. Overall, you would be better advised to watch the 'Paradise Lost' documentaries but also to read the case files which are all online (and include some video interviews). They're very hefty and will take a while to get through, but if you want proof of why you should read them, just look at the reviews on here of Paradise Lost 2. And remember that the man getting so much abuse on here (and all over the internet as well as in real life) was proved innocent.

Despite this, supporters of the convicted (and still guilty) murderers are all too eager to do the same to another father on evidence so flimsy the authorities are not interested. If you have kids at home, how likely is it that one of your hairs will transfer to them? The fact is, it's very likely and he wasn't the only parent with hair at the crime scene, although you'll never get that from Hollywood.

Good casting. Average production. Dumbed down. Hopefully, the parents can get some peace one day when the truth finally outs (if it hasn't already).
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An Outstanding Film About One of the Most Troubling Murder Cases of the Late 20th Century -- Unjustly Snubbed By Critics
classicalsteve7 July 2014
In 1996, HBO produced a documentary, "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills", about the much-publicized murder case of three pre-teen boys, Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers, who were murdered in the wooded creeks called Robin Hood Hills near West Memphis, Arkansas. The local authorities were convinced the murders were enacted by three older male teens, Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., and Jason Baldwin. According to the present film and the HBO documentaries, the local authorities targeted the older teens as suspects in a kind of modern-day witch-hunt because of their interest in the occult, horror films, and Heavy Metal music. Echols was often seen wearing black clothing, an affront to the predominant Christian community of West Memphis. He later admitted to reading about Aleister Crowley but asserted he had never read any of Crowley's actual writings.

The case against the three teens hinged primarily on the notion that the murders were committed as a kind of sacrifice in a satanic ritual. Also, dubious testimony, particularly that of Vicki Hutcheson and her son Aaron, was later recanted. Hutcheson claimed initially that she had seen the three teens involved in Satanic rituals and that Damien Eckles had bragged about committing the murders at the event. She later said she had been coerced by police to offer false evidence, fearing authorities might take away her son. Her son Aaron in a video-taped interview said he had seen the actual murders, but then later when he was older withdrew his testimony claiming he knew nothing about the crimes. Other evidence, such as the possible involvement of an African-American who ended up in the ladies' room and smeared blood on the walls at Bojangles Restaurant the night of the murders was never adequately followed up on. No actual physical evidence linked the boys with the murders. Their prosecution was mainly based on circumstantial evidence concerning their interest in the occult.

Twenty years after the convictions of the so-called "West Memphis Three" and 17 years after the HBO Documentary "Paradise Lost", the film "the Devil's Knot" based on the book of the same name was released, starring Colin Firth as Ron Lax, a private investigator who became interested in the case, and Reese Witherspoon as Pamela Hobbs, the mother of victim Stevie Branch. First off, the film is beautifully shot. The lush swampy areas portraying the Robin Hood Hills appear almost like photos you might see in a postcard. The night shots are particularly beautiful, although simultaneously horrific as the setting for the brutal murders.

Critics claimed the film didn't add anything new to the understanding of the case, but I don't believe this was the filmmakers' intentions. The point of the film I believe was simply to tell the story in a dramatic/narrative format rather than a documentary. (HBO produced three documentaries in all about the case and probably assisted in the revelation about the poor police investigation, the witch-hunt sensibilities towards members of their community interested in the occult, and the dubious testimonies which led eventually to the release of the West Memphis Three.) Apart from whether or not audiences will believe the West Memphis Three are guilty or innocent, much of the film is about the complexity of such cases. Unless a defendant truthfully confesses to a crime, many questions and strange circumstances surround most cases. In many instances, the whole truth may be nearly unobtainable, such as questions which still surround the JFK Assassination.

An excellent and underrated film. The main reasons "The Devil's Knot" works as well as it does is because of the fine acting, particularly Witherspoon, Firth, and an honorable mention to James Hamrick as Damien Echols, the wonderful direction, and also because of the film's point of view. The film shows both sides of the case. The local authorities were pressured by the community to find the three teens guilty since a rift between conservative Christians and those interested in the occult was growing wider. In the film, one character states that those interested in the occult were bound to become enmeshed in a crime case sooner or later. Of course, the most informative details can be found in the three HBO documentaries, "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills" (1996), "Paradise Lost 2: Revelations" (2000), and "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" (2011).
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'Police records were a mess. To call them disorderly would be putting it mildly.'
gradyharp10 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Atom Egoyan directs a screenplay written by Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson based on the book 'The Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three' written by Mara Leveritt that outlines one of the more gruesome murder stories as well as a gross mismanagement of a judicial trial that makes of a film that grinds at our gut long after the credits detail share the aftermath of this heinous incident.

May 5, 1993 three young boys - Chris Byers (Brandon Spink), Michael Moore (Paul Boardman, Jr) and Stevie Branch (Jet Jurgensmeyer) left together to play in the woods and never returned. Stevie's mother Pam Hobbs (Reese Witherspoon) and father Terry (Alessandro Nivola) are the most involved at searching for their lost son, but the police too soon line up three suspects – Damien Echols (James Hamrick), Jessie Misskelley, Jr (Christopher Higgins) and Jason Baldwin (Seth Meriwether) because of their anti-social behavior and apparent Satanic cult worship (not proved), place them on trial for the murders and convicted them. The process is not unlike the Salem Witch Hunts. An investigator Ron Lax (Colin Firth) loathes the death penalty and works toward discovering the flaws in the investigation, arrest, and trial (led by Judge David Burnett as played by Bruce Greenwood) – evidence that strongly suggests that the three teens arrested were not the true perpetrators, that the real murderer may still be at large.

The Wikipedia summarizes the incident well: 'The West Memphis Three are three men who were tried and convicted as teenagers in 1994 of the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Damien Echols was sentenced to death, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. was sentenced to life imprisonment plus two 20-year sentences, and Jason Baldwin was sentenced to life imprisonment. During the trial, the prosecution asserted that the children were killed as part of a Satanic ritual. A number of documentaries have been based on the case, and celebrities and musicians have held fund raisers in the belief that they are innocent.'

In addition to the excellent performances buy Reese Witherspoon, Alessandro Nivola and Colin Firth, the supporting cast includes such luminaries as Elias Koteas, Kevin Durand, Amy Ryan, and Dane DeHaan who plays a central role as Chris Morgan. The pacing, cinematography and direction are first rate, but th e fact that this hideous crime remains essentially unsolved is the terrifying aspect of this very fine little film.
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What else might we learn about this story?
Lee Eisenberg24 May 2016
I had loosely heard of the West Memphis Three for years, but only now do I understand the full story. I'd say that Atom Egoyan is the proper director, since he specializes in grim topics (a school bus crash, the Armenian Genocide, etc). The preacher's claim that satanic music caused the defendants to commit the murders sounds like the typical stuff that we hear from religious nuts. As for the movie's focus on Stevie Branch's family as opposed to all three families, it was most likely because they cast Reese Witherspoon as the mother.

The movie ends by noting what happened in the years after the trial ended. What's most intriguing is that the man who came into Bojangles's and was never seen again. What secrets do all the people in West Memphis hide? Whatever the case, this sounds like one horrifying event. "Devil's Knot" is not a great movie, but I recommend it. Also starring Colin Firth, Mireille Enos, Alessandro Nivola and Bruce Greenwood.
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A parent's nightmare !!
ZULFIQAR RAJA7 September 2014
This touching and engrossing film is based on the true story of three young boys who are brutally killed and their bodies dumped in a swamp. The small town community is enraged and they begin a hunt for the killers which is abruptly halted when three teenagers are arrested for the killings. The film is compelling as the town cries for justice, believing the accused are part of an occult who offered the three children as part of a satanic ritual. The viewer goes through much of the same emotions as the parents whose world is turned upside down, in fact any parent of young children will relate to the emotions felt by the parents. As the case unfolds, the truth seems to be different than expected. This isn't a classic but it is made from the heart, focusing on the emotional story rather than the legal facts of the case.
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completely enthralled
Raven-19693 August 2014
A bible thumping Arkansas town prosecutes a trio of kids after the brutal murder of three little boys. The police, court and majority of the people make it clear that they won't let anything, including innocence, stand in the way of their eagerness to convict. This Kafkaesque trial actually took place with results that should shock even those, especially those, who are familiar with the U.S. justice system. The extremely talented and convincing duo of Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon, together with a capable supporting cast, an outstanding director, and clever editors, really put the audience in the shoes of the characters without subjecting them to the painfully boring and lethargic actual machinery of the wheels of justice. Only the ending could be improved upon. I was completely enthralled with this story from beginning to end. Even though the U.S. justice system is familiar to me, I was wrong in how I thought things would turn out. The more I live the more I am surprised how people will do anything and everything to get others to say and do what they want them to, regardless of the consequences even for their true interests at heart. Seen at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
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The Most Accurate Portrayal of This Case To Date
Danny Owens18 April 2014
This film is an objective display of the facts of this tragic case. It focuses on Private Investigator Ron Lax and the mother of one of the murdered boys, Pam Hicks. Unlike previous documentaries such as Paradise Lost, which was more matter of fact but focused primarily or the accused, or West of Memphis, which is a thinly veiled propaganda piece lacking in authenticity;this film captures the human emotions of grief,loss, and the obsession of one man to discover the truth. Do not expect this film to guide you towards a conclusion, because like the true case itself, there is none. Kudos to the producers and director for not creating one.
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Complicated Crime Film Based on a True Story
paul david23 December 2014
Like most films of this kind, it is a film based on a true story which happened in Arkansas in 1993. I am English and until watching this film, I had never heard of this story. However, some, if not many, might regard this right up there for notoriety with crimes put to movies such as Ted Bundy and others in the pipeline such as Madeleine McCann and Amanda Knox-Meredith Kercher.

This was a complicated story-line to absorb without knowing the story first and I took the chance to research it a little afterwards. Certainly the film focuses a great deal on Colin Firth as Ron Lax and Reese Witherspoon as Pamela Hobbs in the leading roles but it shows little light (perhaps as in the Knox-Kercher case which is still fresh in our minds) that the Arkansas wanted 'closure' and quickly and they set out fabricating a case against the three guys which only serves to show the sheer ineptitude of American justice or of any civilised country for that matter.

No real acting is required by Colin Firth, he just plays the part while Reese Witherspoon does step up as the emotional Mum grieving her lost Son. The background to the parenting of the three lost boys is not explained in this film.

I find it incredible that the film did not throw more light on the apparent satanic cult which was prevalent in that area at that particular time and which, had that been investigated and questions asked of those who were involved, just as in the McCann case in Portugal from 2007, there is the possibility that the crimes committed could be solved in a professional manner rather than left for people to comment and judge by social media in the present climate following release of the new evidence and the ultimate release of the three convicts in 2011.

I cannot say I enjoyed this film. It is definitely not a film to enjoy but I wonder whether the film could have carried a more subtle focus for a more connecting audience. 20 years on, I sense the film was made for financial reasons but who are the beneficiaries?
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People are too hard on this movie...
Mike Alfonso7 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
First off, I feel the people complaining about things being left out need to realize that it's impossible to cram 5 hours of Paradise Lost footage into 114 minutes. Secondly, this movie was made to tell a story to people unaware of the's no different than movies like "Lone Survivor" or "Rudy" (Spoiler Alert: Players never offered their spot so Rudy could play). Lastly, if anyone actual takes a look at the casting, that may be the brightest spot in the whole movie. Kevin Durand playing John Mark Byers, the actors who portrayed the boys, Dan Stidham and even Dale Griffis...they were all casted perfectly.

I think the two biggest issues are that people expected a Paradise Lost movie and were underwhelmed...but it was more of a movie through the eyes of Ron Lax. Also, people keep bringing up the fact that the movie isn't credible because Damien wouldn't sign off on it...but that's because he's working on his own movie with Johnny Depp. He was also bitter that his wife wasn't made a character in the movie.

Overall, this movie was well done and I could never expect it to live up to the Paradise Lost documentaries.
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Subtle storytelling catching the authentic penumbra of the case
karmaswimswami22 June 2014
"Devil's Knot" has gotten a lukewarm reception from audiences and this is ill-deserved. The film is a perfect-pitch plainsong retelling of the case of the West Memphis Three. Atom Egoyan is a master of understated film-making, but perfectly depicts the aura, atmosphere, cultural inclinations and Bible-belt provincial biases of the participants without being garish. Marvelous performances from Reese Witherspoon, Bruce Greenwood,Colin Firth and several others are on view here. Mireille Enos's lightning-catching turn as Vicki Hutcheson, in which she brilliantly channels uneducated de classe white-trash coarseness, is worth sitting through the entire film. The esteem in which this competent film is held will grow with time.
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