The addition of the iconoclastic documentary "Paradise Lost" to AltDoc had been a long time coming, and luckily, a mention of the movie in a recent conversation reminded us that we were long overdue.
For those unfamiliar with this great film, we are--for the first time in the history of writing synopses--not going to give away too much, nor are we going to reveal too many precious details...we hope. It's a story about a ghoulish homicide committed in an itty-bitty town called West Memphis (located in Arkansas, not Tennessee) that basically brings to light all the nightmarish stereotypes, archetypes, and notions that many people have about little communities in the southern United States: the hatred, the bigotry, the violence and the small-mindedness; the corruption, the denial, the desperation, and the depravity. (This is to say nothing of the dialects and, allow us this, the dentistry.)
Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky do a superb job of following the persecution and prosecution of three stunned teenagers who stand accused of viciously committing murder and performing mutilations with no motive apart from the fact that they occasionally dress in black and listen to Metallica. The ubiquitous stepfather of one of the victims, John Mark Byers, presents himself as one of the most terrifying, inscrutable characters throughout the film, and viewers can conjure up their own ideas about his role in this entire nightmare.
This is an intense, unapologetic look at a most horrendous crime against the most innocent of innocents (you may want to turn your head away during the display of the murder photos), and the unblinking, observational approach implemented by the filmmakers leaves us with a movie where no opinions or points of view are being foisted on the viewer. Instead, the words and actions of each character involved lead you to your own conclusions.
(An enormous spoiler could be included in these parentheses, but we feel it best if you simply click off that lamp, grab a blanket, settle back for a viewing, and thank your version of God that you don't live in an environment like West Memphis. And if you do? God obviously has something very special planned for you.)
added by: nadya