Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – The Killing of America

the killing of americaMy notes on The Killing of America (1981)


The intent of this seems slightly more serious than most mondo documentary horrorshows – it tries for political or sociological points beyond the average Faces of Death episode, and is (slightly) more reticent about putting real gore on the screen.  Its chills probably come from the way assassin Sirhan Sirhan and serial killer Ed Kemper are seen being friendly and seemingly reasonable in retrospective interviews, as they talk – with obvious dissociation – about what they did.  It begins with assassinations (JFK, MLK, RFK) then shifts to mass killings (Charles Whitman, surprisingly little Manson), unexceptional crimes included just because there happens to be news film (a rejected loan applicant holding a shotgun to a banker’s head for days during what he treats as a freeform press conference, a convenience store hold-up killing) to a ‘70s rash of serial killings (Bundy, Bianchi/Buono, Gacy) and a the lone gunman resurgence (Hinckley, Chapman).  It ends with a vigil for just-murdered John Lennon and ‘Imagine’, not yet denuded of all meaning by overuse and repetition.  Scripted by Chieko and Leonard Schrader – with Schrader reputedly co-directing with Sheldon Renan, though what a directorial credit actually means on a compilation film is moot (Lee Percy is the creidted editor) – and narrated, in stentorian style, by Chuck Riley.  It’s shocking and thought-provoking, of course – but now also a time capsule, in that it’s even possible to hear Buffalo Springfield’s 1966 hit ‘For What It’s Worth’ (‘Stop children, what’s that sound – everybody look what’s going down’) as nostalgia rather than an anthem for the period when the 1960s started to turn horribly dangerous.  It touches, briefly, on the proliferation of ‘unregistered guns’, but this was before the NRA rose to become essentially the pro-mass-murder lobby and insisted that it was every American’s right to assemble a spree-killer arsenal on a par with Whitman’s.  America, after all, is still being killed …





  1. Pingback: FrightFest 2016 – review round-up | The Kim Newman Web Site - August 17, 2017

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