Powerful and thought provoking look at US justice, and how we
treat those who are outsiders or 'different'.
When three very young boys are found brutally murdered, and mutilated,
the town of West Memphis demands retribution and closure. So, after
some fruitless weeks of police work, the suspects become three outsider
teen-age boys, who listened to heavy metal, and the oldest of whom dressed
(somewhat) Goth and was interested in Wicca.
A strong indictment of how, at least some of the time in our justice system
'guilty until proved innocent' is the rule.
That said, the film makes some serious miss-steps by not being clearer
about some of the evidence it brings up, but never explores. For
example, we're told early on by the filmmakers that all 3 boys had
alibis for the night of the killing, yet we never hear about it again.
Are their defense lawyers THAT bad, or were the alibis not solid? Two
said they were home with their families, yet the families never mention
being with them that night. Similarly, we are never told why the police
picked up the first of the boys, a borderline mentally retarded kid,
who clearly didn't know what was going on, for questioning. The
implication was that the cops wanted an easy pliable target, but the
issue is never explored either by the defense, or by the film-makers.
In a 150 minute movie, there's no need for those kind of loose ends,
leaving us to question whether we've seen a fair reporting of what went
on, or if there really was more evidence against the kids than we're
Still it's a powerful and important examination of how we often rush to
judgment, socially and legally. Recent history has shown this is far
from an isolated case - people are sent to prison, even death row on
flimsy or incomplete evidence, coerced confessions, and by playing to
society's and a jury's fears and prejudices far more often then we would
all like to believe.