Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

A Cry in the Dark (Evil Angels)

(Australia/USA, 1988)

A few months ago we could have had this movie from Netflix just for the asking, but at it turned out we had to wait many weeks before a copy became available. The reason was that a lot of people had the same bright idea we had, which was to see it again after the announcement that, 32 years after one of the worst atrocities of the Australian legal system (that didn’t involve their horrific treatment of the aboriginals), the name of Lindy Chamberlain was finally cleared with an official coroner’s finding that, yes, her baby was dragged off by a dingo dog and never seen again. This, after her name—and her husband’s—was blackened all across the country by the usual media idiocy and bias, and a truly unbelievable series of errors on the part of prosecutors and so-called forensic experts. She was cleared by the first inquest, by the only judge who seemed to have a head on his shoulders, but then charged with murder by men who seemed bent on finding her guilty, no matter how flimsy and downright insane the so-called “evidence” was. She was found guilty and went to jail. She had her fourth child in prison, and got to see her for one hour. Finally freed in 1985 after new evidence surfaced, the only good thing to come of this massive clusterfuck was that she and her husband were awarded $1,300,000 in compensation for false arrest. But her husband lost his faith, and their marriage broke up under the massive pressure of the publicity. (They were devout Seventh-Day Adventists—he was a preacher, no less—and many thought one reason they were prosecuted was their “weird” religion.)

And how did this all come about? Why, with forensics, a word I’m rapidly beginning to equate to “bullshit.” I’m not saying forensic data can’t be useful, obviously it can. But the virtual deification of these “experts” by bullshit television shows literally by the dozen has led us to believe that anyone who takes the stand is actually qualified to testify. Did you know that there are no accrediting agencies in this country—I don’t know about Australia—that can ensure that the asshole up there on the stand knows his or her field? (There is one agency out there, I can’t recall it’s name, but for a small fee they will accredit you as an expert on anything forensic, and send you a nice certificate to hang on your wall. And that’s all you need. I could buy one tomorrow, and take the stand to testify about bite marks, something I know nothing about.) It is a field packed with charlatans, professional testifiers, people who will find “evidence” for anything you want to prove, prosecution or defense, as long as the price is right. There are entire fields that are little more than witchcraft, speculation, or just plain bullshit.

Don’t get me started. I hate CSI in all its incarnations. I hate Forensic Files. I hate, hate, hate Dayle Hinman, a con artist if I ever saw one.

Okay, a few words about the movie itself. It is very well mounted and edited, pulling you right along though a situation that, step by step, degenerates into a nightmare. Meryl Streep convinced me with her Aussie accent—and most of the people commenting on the IMDb, except some that pointed out it was really a Kiwi accent, which I’m not capable of distinguishing. Sam Neill as her husband is also very good. I recommend it.