Cinema-Maniac: Duck! The Carbine High Massacre (1998) Review

There’s no getting around the fact that this film uses “The Columbine High Massacre” as a backdrop to satirize the media sensitization of the incident. Firstly, a condensed version of the tragedy is in order. On April 20, 1999, in the small, suburban town of Littleton, Colorado, two high-school seniors, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, enacted an all-out assault on Columbine High School during the middle of the school day. The boys’ plan was to kill hundreds of their peers. With guns, knives, and a multitude of bombs, the two boys walked the hallways and killed. When the day was done, twelve students, one teacher, and the two murderers were dead; plus 21 more were injured. This film fictionalize take on the “The Columbine High Massacre” is ridiculous, goofy, and at times cartoonish with a proud sense of black humor. Realism and respect for the victims is not the aimed of the film, but neither is intelligence with its black humor satire of news media sensationalism.

Duck! The Carbine Massacre is about a pair of victimized high-school students embarking on a blood-soaked rampage of furious violence…in the climax that is. A good ninety percent is repetitive re threads to reestablish that the characters are indeed horrible people. Every character in the film is an easy to identified stereotype. The dumb bullies, a Bible-thumping Puritan, the goths, the gearhead (who is shown constantly cleaning his car), the cheerleader and her jock boyfriend, a handicapped student, and a black character who hates white people. That’s not me being racist; the only black character in the film wears a shirt that says “I hate white people” and says stuff like “The internet is for white folks” very angrily. What the characters do is realistic like bullying anyone outside a clique, teachers that don’t prevent bullying, and ignorant parents that just don’t care or refuse to acknowledge anything negative. How these events are depicted are cartoonish. When protagonist Derwin goes to a basketball court alone he receives a bloody beating. One reason behind the beating is because a jock shoved a bleeding Derwin on the gearhead car and presumes on to beat him for getting it dirty. Even after the beating Derwin still gets bullied as he lay on the floor beaten as the rest of the students give him a good kick. It’s a forceful way to get across his hatred towards the other students. At the same time it undermines characterizing any of the characters. They are intentionally written to be hated which lessens the point it was meant to get across. It’s easy to figure out the message because of how narrow minded it characters talk and interact.

As a black comedy the film fails in many areas. Granted it did make me laugh a few time, though those laughs were from random moments. Like when the protagonists go to buy guns, the shady salesman sells them weapons game show host style. Also in the end the mocked media have a theory that it was possibly aliens that committed the act. As a whole there’s not much advantage taken by the writing staff to say anything clever. Since each character is a stereotype so is the limited mindset in the humorous situations. For example, the Christian Puritan pukes on someone when she hears hard rock music. The concept of it could have been funny, but because there’s nothing more to this character the joke failed. All the humor suffer from the one dimensional characters that once expose to prolong period of time overstay their welcome. Plus it’s pretty difficult laugh at a joke where the same gun dealers said earlier to our protagonists “Do you want to F*** a twelve old”. Or the one instance where a policemen shoots a goth student he presume is the shooter after the massacre scene. As for the massacre scene it gets across some solid points on the exclusivity of high school cliques with narrow minded pretext to make sure it does not strike a cord of any sort.

Both William Hellfire and Joey Smack are the directors, stars, writers, producers, and cinematographers of the film. It’s very evident too sporting a home video production look in all the ways you expect. Sound mixing is mixed in quality. In some scenes you can hear dialogue easily, but in others background noises makes it difficult to determine what the actors are saying. It could be the wind or awful rock music that repeat the word kill. Apparently hearing cartoon punches sound effect is more important than whatever the actors were talking about in a given scene. There’s also instances of the boom-mic being visible, though for a $5,000 production it’s not much of a shock. The same applies to the home-video look of it. Images are never crisp and clear and colors don’t appear properly. Everything looks brown even in broad daylight whenever outside or inside brightly lit interior. The acting is atrocious to say the least. All acting comes across as one big rejected rehearsal tape. Not a single line delivery is credible. Finally comes the massacre scene which looks poor due to the budget limitations, but on a technical level shows the crew knew how to handle particle effects. They might look fake (especially a pointless scene involving a giant rocket), the executions of the cheap looking effect is worthy of some merits.

Duck! The Carbine High Massacre is exploitative yes, but not offensive. Unless you consider bad acting and low productions values insulting than offensive it is. It’s a fictional take on a tragic incident taking a bold stance to show the film from the point of view from the shooters not so much the victims. However, that bold move is undermined by the fact that every character is a stereotype that are repetitive in scenes to scenes and narrow minded in it depiction of people. The ideas it has about bullying is realistic and so is being driven to violence by your environments, but gives such ideas a cartoonish depiction . It’s too far removed from decent filmmaking and too far of from reality to portray its theme to be anything other than footnote on exploitation filmmaking.

2/10
Extra:

Despite his last name being Hellfire, William is a nice guy. A somewhat ironic story post the film production was the arrest of William Hellfire and his friend Joey Smack. In their own words they claim to attack the media and how they cover the incident. According to Hellfire there was a news reporter that wanted to orchestrate an arrest on camera instead of interviewing them. When the FBI rejected the reporter request he went to the local police. For a whole month the local police were out looking for William Hellfire and his friend. They got arrested for bringing actual guns onto school ground and in the car a policemen to not worry because they’ll be famous. Famous? Maybe for underground filmmaking scene, but for the general mindset will probably be seen as an anomaly of good taste based on the title alone.

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