Beyond Fright Review: DEVIL’S KNOT


It’s never easy to separate the truth from fiction, or at times, understand why some biopic films make the decision to focus on the wrong individuals instead of the people whose lives were truly affected. While the film itself is somewhat well done in the whole scheme of filmmaking and is an effective court-drama, DEVIL’S KNOT ultimately fails in its priorities, focusing too much on the wrong characters, all while missing the opportunity to spread awareness and shed light on one of American’s biggest judicial mess-ups.

While the story of the 1993 murders of three little boys in West Memphis, Arkansas is widely known at this point, the case which resulted in what many people consider a modern day witch-hunt and a wrongful conviction of three outcast teens, has just now made its way to a narrative film. While the true crime book and four documentaries (the Peter Jackson produced WEST OF MEMPHIS documentary is quite the watch) focused on the “West Memphis Three”, the trio of teenage metal-heads who were tried and convicted without much (or any) physical evidence whatsoever, DEVIL’S KNOT instead shifts the focus on Ron Lax (Colin Firth), a private investigator who makes it mission to prove (unsuccessfully) that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. were not only innocent, but were made to be scapegoats to a small-town’s fear and “Satanic Panic”.

As a narrative film, it hits its marks, the tone being intense and the film boasts some memorable performances by Firth, as well as Reese Witherspoon as the mother of one of the young boys found murdered in the Robin Hood woods. While it seems natural to spend some time focusing on Witherspoon’s character, where the film suffers, is in its lack of really being about the trio of young men who ended up spending eighteen years of their lives behind bars (Echols on Death Row), all due to fear and a slew of lies from people who in reality, have openly admitted to falsifying information.

As someone who has followed the case pretty closely, it’s next to impossible to bring myself to enjoy the film’s portrayal of Echols as a grandiloquent teen without a care in the world, and its spending the majority of the film stuck on a private investigator’s inner turmoil of how bad he wants to prove the innocence of three people whose only appearances in the movie, are scenes that portray them as unlikable people. As a viewer without any knowledge of the case, it could very well be an entertaining court procedural, but being a real story about a real tragedy, it just misses so many opportunities to really show just how screwed up the judicial system can be, sending three young men to prison fora crime that has over time gathered so much evidence pointing in every direction EXCEPT towards them. While it might be worth a watch if you’re looking for a Grisham-like film, if you’re expecting an examination of the West Memphis Three, your desires will be reduced to a few closing subtitles ending the film.

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  1. […] of the trial and wrongful conviction of three boys based on their love for metal and the occult here , which would say exactly what it is: a film that while full of great performances, just seems […]

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