Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996)

Directed by Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky

Starring Tony Brooks, Diana Davis, Terry Wood, Dick Clay


The whole thing starts with shocking, gruesome crime scene footage, and things stay pretty heavy. You see a case from both sides, and the filmmakers take a step back to let the viewer interpret the facts and make their own judgement. I went back and forth a few times myself. Unsolved murder cases are unsettling, aren’t they?

Despite the backcountry setting, this is really well-made. The amount of footage they collected from all parties involved is incredible. It’s thorough, well-organized, nicely shot, and there’s just the right amount of B-roll footage to establish the setting for these events.

But the most amazing thing about this documentary is the access to all parties involved and their indifference to the presence of cameras and a film crew. How can these people having candid conversations, making accusations, revealing things of legal consequence, sharing painful and emotional and intimate moments really not be affected by the presence of a camera a few feet away? Not only are they unaffected, but they don’t even acknowledge the presence of a camera. Or even look at it. Only on two occasions to the accused make gestures to the camera.

I’m almost skeptical. Can everyone really be this honest, this indifferent that there is a camera is a few feet a way? Were they given special instruction, or perhaps paid off, to ignore the cameras? Whatever the circumstances, this sort of cinéma vérité a documentarians dream. It gives this whole thing a very real, very creepy feel.

I’m not sure the Metallica-heavy soundtrack was entirely appropriate. What were the filmmakers trying to say? Why did the band give them the rights? Were they absolutely convinced that the three were innocent?

For those who are interested, read up on Terry Hobbs.

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