Directed by Atom Egoyan, this film is an authentic telling of Mara Leveritt’s 2002 book of the same title. If you’ve perhaps lived under a rock for the last twenty years, or you’re 12, Devil’s Knot tells the story of thee West Memphis, Arkansas children that were brutally killed in 1993. The investigation quickly pointed to the involvement of of three West Memphis teenagers, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr., portrayed respectively by James Hamrick, Seth Meriwether, Kristopher Higgins. This case focused heavily on the Occult and Satanism, as well as the testimony of children, some of which recounted their eye-witness statements.
Feared due to their black clothes, long hair, and affection for heavy metal, the aptly titled “West Memphis Three” were convicted after the long interrogation of the mentally stunted Jessie Misskelley Jr. Baldwin and Misskelley received life in prison, while Echols earned the death penalty, providing a scapegoat for the community and garnering applause for the local police work. Not everyone was convinced of the guilt of the three boys. Celebrities, musicians, artists, along with native West Memphis residents began protesting their release. As fate would have it, all three were released from prison in August 2011. Always maintaining their evidence, new DNA evidence supported their claims of innocence and a rare Alford plea was reached, releasing the now men with time served.
In perhaps the most shocking turn of events, one of the murdered kids’ father was implicated after several of his hairs were found in the shoelaces used to bind the children.
The real Nichols, Misskelley JR. and Baldwin
Okay, so here’s my main issue with this film. While I find Egoyan to be more than a proficient director, and the actors extremely meticulous and talented, I simply don’t see a reason to create yet another telling of this 20-year-old story. This is painfully real life, and the case is the subject of several superior documentaries. Running like a made-for-television film, Devil’s Knot is filled with uninspired procedural scenes, long-winded dialogue, neither of which propels the film any further. In my opinion, the film ‘Paradise Lost’ is vastly superior. The documentaries are so engaging since they deal strictly with the real people involved in the tragedy. Devil’s Knot just tells the same story once more, but without any real soul to speak of. Those who can’t get enough of the case will surely find this interesting, Horror/thriller fans won’t get any satisfaction, but metal heads like me will enjoy the numerous times the filmmakers chose SLAYER for the film. I wish I could say that wasn’t my favorite part.
The film features a wide array of talent, including Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Kevin Durand, Stephen Moyer, and Amy Ryan. Devil’s Knot is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download on June 10.