My good friend (and H&S official cheerleader) Brian Kongsvik returns to the Halloween Horrors series once again! And once again, he has picked a film which might seem somewhat out of place when taken in consideration with the other films that are to be covered during this series. 

While some of the others may lean more towards creatures of the night, unstoppable killing machines, and other sorts of monstrous horrors, Brian (much like last year’s take on The Ugly ) has once again claimed a film that presents “evil” and “horror” in its human form. 

And hey, it’s based on a story by Stephen King! I’m sure a few folks have heard of him.

One of my favorite Stephen King movies is Apt Pupil, based on a King novella. Not hokey like a lot of his films are (I’m looking at you, Graveyard Shift, Sleepwalkers, etc….), this is a story that could actually happen and maybe has!

The film’s “stars” are Brad Renfro and Ian McKellen.  I’ll call them “Todd {Bowden”) and “Kurt (Dussander)” throughout this review.  Even though Kurt is known as Arthur Denker now that he is a “US citizen”, I will still call him “Kurt”.

After having a history session in high school about World War II and Nazi history, Todd becomes obsessed with Nazi lore. This being 1984, the only source Todd has to learn more is the local library. (What, no cell phones??) About a month later, after studying the Holocaust and WWII, Todd is on a public bus when he spots what could be a former Nazi war criminal.  After a month of taking pictures and dusting for fingerprints on his mailbox, his “personal interest” is confirmed that the man is, in fact, who he thinks he is.

Todd goes to Kurt’s house and blackmails him into telling stories about the Holocaust and “everything they are afraid to show you in school”.  Resistant at first, Kurt knows he is powerless at this point as he is a war criminal that is wanted by the Israeli government and will no doubt, be hanged or shot for what he has done. As the months go by and Kurt tells him the horrific stories of the concentration camp massacres, Todd begins neglecting friends and family as he becomes increasingly obsessed with this history.

Todd buys a Nazi Officer uniform and brings it home to Kurt, ordering him to put it on.  At first, Kurt is obviously resistant, but after a few remarks from Todd about how he has him over the barrel, he puts it on.  Todd orders him to march. Kurt, at first, resists, but soon feels the old feeling coming back again.

“Boy, be careful… You play with fire….”

As the months go by, Todd starts failing at school.  Once an A student, he gets C’s and D’s due to his obsession with Kurt.  He blows off friends and family in order to hear and learn about the horrors of the Holocaust.

He receives his mid-term grades and realizes that he, once a Valedictorian student, is now in danger of losing everything for his future.  Kurt poses as his grandfather and goes to his guidance counselor, who is played by David Schwimmer sporting a tasty 70’s porn stache.  They make a deal that if Todd gets all A’s, the school will get rid of his poor grades and make sure he gets credit for his good grades that he had throughout the year.

Meanwhile, Kurt is feeling the pangs of the Holocaust and what he really is.  He is sitting outside one night when a stray cat jumps into his lounge chair.  After a playful banter, Kurt grabs the cat and goes to kill it by putting it into his oven.  The cat escapes through the window and Kurt laughs.

Later on, Kurt puts on the Nazi uniform again and is turned on by it.  The old feelings begin to get stronger.  He happens to go near his window and hears a noise. Looking to see what is going on, he finds it is a homeless person (Elias Koteas) rummaging through the garbage. He sees Kurt wearing the uniform in the window.

A few nights later, Kurt is approached by the homeless man again.  He is hoping to get money from Kurt in exchange for sex.  Kurt stabs him, throws him down the cellar stairs, and leaves him to die.  Meanwhile, Kurt has a heart attack and calls Todd, asking for help. After hanging up with Todd, Kurt says, “Let’s see what you’re made of!” Todd shows up and Kurt locks him in the cellar with the homeless person.   Todd kills the man with a shovel. Apt Pupil!

Todd ended up getting straight A’s in all his classes and is elected Valedictorian.  Kurt kills himself in the hospital by pulling out his tubes as he knows the police and the Israeli government now know who he is and are waiting for him to get better so they can prosecute.

Is this all there is to this movie?  No, not at all.  The final few minutes where Todd is confronted by Edward French and basically tells him that he’s a child molester and not to mess with him is really good. When I watch this movie, I can’t help but feel how sad it is that Brad Renfro is gone.  Would he have been a leading man in film? No, but he was a damn fine actor (see The Client) that left us too early.  He just couldn’t stay off that H train…….

“Oh, my dear boy.  Don’t you see? We are fucking each other”

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