What Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills is all about
Also well-known as the case of the West Memphis Three, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills is a three-part documentary film series about murder of three children: Steve Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers. They, however, are not what is known as the West Memphis Three. The accused trio of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin are in that group. The first is known as The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. The second has the subtitle Revelations. The third is Purgatory.
Is this a case of a false confession from Misskelley due to police interrogation tactics? Or did these three teenagers from West Memphis commit a brutal and Satanic killing?
Paradise Lost is a trial-based film series–or at least it begins that way. Each part takes place years apart with a different purpose. The story comes down to whether or not the accused are guilty or innocent of some of the most heinous murders imaginable.
Did you know anything about the Paradise Lost story before watching?
I was familiar with the story from an episode of the podcast True Crime All The Time and news stories about the eventual outcome of the case. Paradise Lost was in my Netflix queue for years back when they actually mailed DVDs. I never did have it delivered, though. True crime wasn’t something I really delved into at the time. Usually some other random independent film would take the lead.
I knew the entire story of Paradise Lost before I finally did get around to watching it. It lived up to the hype.
Will this Paradise Lost make people feel uncomfortable?
Paradise Lost might be the most haunting of true crime documentaries I have seen so far. Within the first ten minutes, we see the three nude dead bodies that were pulled from the water. Paradise Lost uses a lot of crime scene footage both in video and picture.
Further details throughout the film about how they were killed paint a different kind of dark picture. It’s grotesque in every way possible which might be a reason why it became such a well-known film series. You can’t watch Paradise Lost and not feel a deep cut in your soul.
What was good about Paradise Lost?
Is everything a suitable answer? Paradise Lost has absolutely everything needed for a perfect true crime film. If you could only watch one, this is it. The fact that it extends over decades and has three different films following the same story adds to the lore. The first in the series is great, but what makes this truly astonishing is how we jump between different decades. The films were released in 1996, 2000, and 2011.
The overhead shots of West Memphis, Arkansas as Metallica plays are mesmerizing. It’s a haunting film series that takes the closest of looks behind the scenes. There’s never really any one perspective it takes. Because the first film came out so soon before the final outcome of the case, it doesn’t dive as much into the potential evidence of innocence against the accused. Instead, it focuses mostly on facts.
The way the Paradise Lost series weaves from film to film is unmatched. By the end of the first film, it seems as if one of the fathers of the dead children might be a suspect. A lot of those thoughts are confirmed in the second part. The goal of that film seems to be to make him, John Mark Byers, look insane. By the conclusion, we have yet another suspect.
As far as filmmaking goes, this is a masterclass on how to make a true crime documentary. It grows into becoming heavily biased in favor of the three accused boys who by the second film look much more like men. The filmmakers never loses sight of the fact that maybe they did do it.
Paradise Lost features some of the greatest characters in true crime documentary history. John Mark Byers is outrageous. He is the precursor to the world of Tiger King. His antics are unexplainable. And yet it’s Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of Steve Branch, who comes away as an even more likely suspect. Many still cling to theories about him being the one behind the murders.
The case is one of the most fascinating out there. You’re doing yourself a favor by watching it.
What could have made Paradise Lost better?
There isn’t much of anything Paradise Lost could have done to be better than to actually come to a definitive conclusion in a fourth part. Viewers are left with a bit of a cliffhanger by the end. We’ll have to blame the investigator who lost the blood samples from the Bojangles restaurant for this.
Is Paradise Lost worth watching?
Not only is Paradise Lost worth watching, it’s worth re-watching. It needs a second viewing to digest everything. As I watched it, I felt certain parts were, no pun intented, lost.
I couldn’t appreciate all aspects. One viewing should be used to follow the story. The next should be to see what you may have missed. Minor moments can be more greatly appreciated.
At the risk of sounding like a hack, this is my favorite true crime documentary. It might be because there are three parts and each of them is a long journey toward the truth. There wasn’t a moment I wanted to look away. It’s a joy to every sense and a sickening story we all want to find an answer to.
Overall Score: 10 out of 10
There is a reason why after all of these years Paradise Lost remains a popular true crime documentary. Set aside a weekend and watch them all.
Interested in watching Paradise Lost or learning more about the case? Below you will find affiliate links to the series as well as other information about this case. By using this links, I may receive a small commission of any purchase you may make.
Watch Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills on Amazon (Part 1)
Watch Paradise Lost: Revelations on Amazon (Part 2)
Watch Paradise Lost: Purgatory on Amazon (Part 3)
Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three by Mara Leveritt
Abomination: Devil Worship and Deception in the West Memphis Three Murders by William Ramsey
If you have a series or film you want to know my opinion on, please leave a comment below. I may have already written about it. I can save you some time from watching a dud.