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 onscreen, 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.
A few extra features are included for the DVD version of "Devil's Knot." Two featurettes delve into "The Making of 'Devil's Knot'" and "Getting into Character: The Cast of 'Devil's Knot.'" It also contains deleted scenes from the film.
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.
For more articles by Eric Shirey that don't fit on Moviepilot, check out his official website.