Tag Archives: School-Centric Rampages

Bang Bang You’re Dead (2002)

"Shouldn't I be shooting grenades out of my wings?"The writers/directors of Duck! The Carbine High Massacre warned us this would happen. Bang Bang You’re Dead is just the “‘made for TV’ movie” the opening title card for their little school-centric rampage picture warned us about. Based on the one act play of the same name by Eugene, Oregon resident William Mastrosimone, Bang Bang You’re Dead attempts to combine the maudlin sentimentality of an ABC After School Special (and, in fact, won a Daytime Emmy Award for its apparent success at just that) with a bit of social realism that’s strictly safe-for-cable. The results are pick-n-mixed to an astonishing degree…but I’ll be damned if the film didn’t almost get me.

Thankfully it doesn’t take long for Bang Bang to remind me of its origins. This is, first a foremost, a Showtime Original Picture (suppress your shudders), produced in association with Viacom, the international media octopus which owns Showtime, Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, and a whole host of other criminal corporations hell-bent on reducing all of us to uncritical “entertainment consumers.” Few things are more insulting than a film with its own Study Guide…save when that film comes to you from the director of The Babysitter (1995) and the people who own MTV. {More}

Elephant (2003)

"Okay. You take the two hundred on the left, I'll take the two hundred on the right."Most commentators believe the title refers to that elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. Director Gus Van Sant claims that it refers to that poor pachyderm from the Chinese proverb, the one getting groped by five blind men, each of whom believes he has something different under his hand. The very subjectivity of that ambiguous, titular word epitomizes Elephant‘s problems with subjectivity as a whole. By attempting to present a subjective view of one (fictional) American high school shooting Van Sant, quite unawares, paints himself into corner. So with us all.

This film is, as far as I or the IMDB can tell you, the first “straight” cinematic attempt to deal with this subject by a famous (as opposed to infamous) director (we’ll discuss Uwe Boll later). Showtime’s 2002 made-for-the-network Bang Bang, You’re Dead doesn’t count for reasons a quick Google search will easily reveal. Winning a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Special didn’t help that film out. This picture won a Palm d’Or at Cannes, of all fucking places, but don’t let that scare or surprise you. Gus Van Sant loves him some European, impressionist film, a fact that becomes self-evident as soon as the Elephant opens up. In this he shares much with the board at Cannes, and I say, Good for both of them, reinforcing each other tastes. I, on the other hand, prefer the occasional shred of meat with my potatoes. {More}

Zero Day (2003)

"What? We're kids, and we ain't all right. What about it?"Conceived in the wake of Columbine and completed in 2001, Zero Day sat on a shelf for two years before it saw the light of day. Something happened in the fall of 2001, on some date I can never quite remember, despite the gnawing sensation that we, as a nation, swore never to forget. In any case, The Event (whatever it was) panicked Zero Day‘s distributors into canceling the film’s release. Undeterred, writer/director Ben Coccio used the time to do what all serious creative people do with their stalled projects: tinker. The result gained a limited release in 2003. The fact that I only heard about this film last week should tell you just how “limited.” I like to believe that, even in the midst of 2003’s War Fever, I would’ve noticed a “school shooter” movie opening up down the street. Yet, in the course of researching my next novel (goddamn that feels good to type) I’ve discovered three from that year alone. (Thanks, Variety–you industry rag, you). So here we are, with the first.

A pseudo-documentary from the first great post-Blair Witch wave, Zero Day, is another testament to the effective use of limited resources. Like a good insurgency, it turns its weaknesses into strengths, luring the viewer into a subjective, cinematic Venus flytrap with its hyper-realist atmosphere, achieved without professional actors or equipment. Coccio goes so far as to cast real teenagers and their real families, and while I’ll argue that the film is decidedly ambiguous, and take it to task for (I believe the technical term is) “pussying out,” I want to salute the film’s hypnotic effectiveness right off the bat. {More}