Devil’s Knot tells the true story of The Memphis Three – three boys accused of the heinous murders of three eight year old boys, as part of a Satanic Cult activity.
The real story is now quite famous and one of the most significant cases in the history of the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” hysteria. Devil’s Knot is based on the book of the same name, by Mara Leveritt and stars Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth. The movie is loyal to the true story that it is drawn from and engages the viewer with a mix of emotions that run from shock to anger.
Witherspoon’s performance is starkly legitimate, portraying the mother of one of the murdered boys. Though her character is not explored in depth, her screen time is well used as she embodies both the grieving mother out for justice and then later dealing with the turmoil of inner conflict as she begins to question the truth of the claims being made.
Firth gives a sedate, yet honest performance, of a man driven to uncover the truth, yet frustrated by a failing justice system. Though his character is a distinctly quiet and restrained man, he nonetheless shows us clearly that the evidence surrounding the crimes is in serious contrast to the accusations being levied against the three alleged killers.
The most noteworthy performance, though, comes from James Hamrick who, despite limited screen time and lines, very convincingly plays the loner outsider with an interest in the occult, that becomes the primary target of the Satanic cult allegations.
One cannot say that the story is “good”, as the reality of the crimes and injustices involved are just too terrible. But the depiction of these things is remarkably well done and very engaging, taking the audience through a number of emotions beginning in sadness at the initial crime and then anger at what follows.
The authorities attempt to use everything from Wicca to Aleister Crowley in their attempts to convict the accused teenagers and in many ways one cannot help but feel very lucky that Pagans these days are far less likely to experience these kinds of injustices, at least in the UK.
This movie is good, not merely as entertainment, but as a way to understand the depth of the Satanic Ritual Abuse hysteria and how insidiously it infiltrated both society and the legal system of the United States.
We have to give Devil’s Knot a high rating, not because the story, acting or directing are especially brilliant, but because they are all so true to the real events of the Memphis Three incident. It could almost be called a bio-pic, rather than a crime thriller.
Either way, it is valuable viewing for Pagans, both in terms of history and appreciating the improved religious freedoms that we have today.