OBSESSED WITH THE ATROCITIES WAR CRIMINAL KURT DUSSANDER COMMITTED DURING THE WAR, YOUNG TODD BOWDEN BEGINS A GAME OF PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE WHICH SPIRALS OUT OF CONTROL AND PRODUCES TERRIFYING RESULTS.
CHRISTOPHER M. from BELLA VISTA, AR Reviewed on 7/29/2011...
A very sharp, intelligent film! A novella by Stephen King, originally published in the 1982 novella collection Different Seasons, subtitled "Summer of Corruption". Great actors and acting, truly believed every moment.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Chad B. (abrnt1) from CABERY, IL Reviewed on 2/15/2010...
One of the darkest and most disturbing stories by Stephen King. Bryan Singer does an amazing job. The concept of a high school student discovering an SS concentration camp commander and foring the man to tell him about his experiences is chilling. Brad Renfro's character is the true monster. Intelligent horror.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
When you dine with the devil, take a long spoon
Rabbi Yonassan Gershom | Minnesota, USA | 01/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie quickly disappeared from the theaters, which is really too bad, because it's an excellent film. Those reviewers who disliked it because it didn't have enough "Stephen King" have missed the point. Good horror doesn't always depend on lots of supernatural gore. Sometimes the most frightening things are the terrible possibilities we find within ourselves -- if we dare to look. Much of this film consists of psychological games, but that doesn't make it any less terrifying. If you have ever wondered how ordinary good citizens (like yourself???) could have ended up serving the Nazi genocide machine, then this movie is a chillingly real answer. An excellent study in how seemingly moral people can be manipulated by fear and seduced by power. What starts out as an honor student's curiousity about a dark chapter in history soon degenerates into cruelty and manipulation on both sides. The student begins by blackmailing an old Nazi war criminal into telling him all about the concentration camps -- and that means EVERYTHING -- or else he will turn him over to the authorities. The old Nazi, fearing arrest, complies. But the boy soon goes beyond curiousity, as he begins to enjoy having absolute power over another human being. At this point, the student is the sadist, and I actually found myself feeling sorry for the old man. But wait -- the Nazi still has a few tricks up his sleeve, and the tables are soon turned... To tell you more would be a spoiler. Just remember: when you dine with the devil, the spoon is never long enough."
Dark Mechanicus JSG | Fortified Bunker, USSA | 10/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Once upon a time many years ago, a fictional French baroness smirked as her paramour pronounced his undying devotion to his Lady Fair: his dedication to her, his wonderment in the face of her not inconsiderable charms. His---Love.
To which she replied, tartly: "Love---I don't like the word 'Love'. I prefer the word 'Cruelty'.
So do I. And so does the world, if the genocide raging through Africa is any kind of case in point. We live in a world where terrorists ram planes into skyscrapers because of grievances, and the question raised by our 'elites' is not "how do we destroy these barbarians", but rather a whining, sniveling "why do hey hate us?"?
Is not Cruelty, then, our due?
The real question is not why the Holocaust happened, but, in the words of Max von Sydow's artist in "Hannah and her Sisters", why it doesn't happen more often. "Apt Pupil" is one of the most harrowing, horrifying, repulsive films I have ever watched.
The blood doesn't flow like claret and the gore doesn't cake the walls, but a warning: "Apt Pupil" is not for the faint of heart.
That said, Singer has an exceedingly subtle touch with distills one of Stephen King's best short stories into an engaging and particularly nasty piece of cinema that bores deep into the fundamental cruelty that feeds and nourishes human evil.
Tod Bowden (played with understatement and sublime nastiness by Brad Renfro) is a high school student who discovers that an elderly German man---who might just be an infamous Nazi war criminal---is living in his quiet Southern California neighborhood. Bowden confronts his reclusive neighbor, presents evidence of his past as the notorious Gestapo officer Kurt Dussander (impeccably played by Sir Ian McKellen, in a kind of decrepit stepladder of Evil), and by degrees blackmails, coerces, and ultimately flatters the old man into telling him about his atrocities during the war.
The movie that follows is a superbly paced and increasingly psycho-sexual ballet between the boy and the old Nazi, who is at once Bowden's mentor, idol, victim, and catalyst. Both Renfro and McKellen are so perfectly cast and so competent in their roles that the viewer is made uneasy by the way the two seem to feed off each other, glutting themselves with stories of past horrors---and growing stronger with the telling.
Particularly awful is the scene where Bowden buys Dussander an SS costume as a 'present', and then cajoles him into dressing in it and marching. What initially begins as an embarrassed reluctance to even don the uniform turns into a manic peformance, and as Bowden demands that Dussander stop, the old man whispers "be careful boy---you're playing with fire." Indeed.
Isn't it amazing how the grey terrible ringlets of age, the coils of venerability, fall off, boiled down to the core of a psychotic creature willing, able, and gleeful---to maim, torture, and destroy?
The brilliance of "Apt Pupil" is in the way the film distills the essence of cruelty, particularly in two scenes. While I will not spoil the film by talking about either scene, both involve McKellen and Renfro in acts of shocking, amoral, sociopathic savagery to a wounded bird and a cat.
When I watched the scenes, I had an epiphany---the source of depravities like the Holocaust, or the Stalinist purges, or the genocide in Rwanda has never been about race, or religion, or politics, or tribe---all of it stems from a dark desire by some men to inflict brutality on the weak, for no better reason than they derive pleasure from doing it.
Because they can get away with it. Because they take all they can grab.
This philosophy underscores "Apt Pupil", and is, in my opinion, the reason the film succeeds so well at painting a realistic picture of human horror. Renfro's Tod Bowden is not a young Nazi; like the killers at Columbine High School, he is a bored coward with too much time on his hands and a decidedly cruel streak.
The acting is excellent throughout, with David Schwimmer (of Friends) perfectly cast as hapless Jewish high school guidance counselor, and Elias Koteas taking on yet another repulsive role as one of McKellen's vagrant victims. Like "American Psycho", "Apt Pupil" is not an exit, and the film offers no easy answers, leaving the uneasy viewer with a disturbing coda which prompts a question: is cruelty a force that can be harnessed for power?
And ultimately, in an empty universe, where the voice of God is silent, why not?
A powerful adaptation of King's most compelling story
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 11/09/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have always regarded Apt Pupil as one of Stephen King's greatest and most compelling pieces of fiction. The film adaptation was a long time coming; years ago, a version starring Ricky Schroeder as Todd Bowden was stopped just as production began, and rumors and speculations about a possible movie frittered around for years-until 1998. While this movie is not quite as powerful as King's novella and substitutes a brand new conclusion to the story, it is still an incredible exploration of evil. Brad Renfro is effective as the disturbingly curious Todd, but it is Ian McKellen's superlative performance as Dussander/Danker that makes this movie an unforgettable psychological thriller. I also like to pay tribute to animals who contribute their talents to films without even a mention in the credits. There is a cat that appears in one powerful scene of this movie, conveying vivid emotions of curiosity, helplessness, and fear before delivering a truly frenzied, physically impressive, action-packed performance of high caliber indeed.Todd Bowden is an intelligent, fairly normal teenager whose interest in the Third Reich mutates into a dangerous obsession when he locates and identifies an old German war criminal living in his own neighborhood. Confronting the old man, he convinces him to admit who he is, promising him that he will tell no one his secret as long as Dussander does one thing for him. Todd wants to know everything about the Holocaust, what Dussander did, how he did it, how he felt, etc. A very strange bond develops between this odd couple, each character holding information that could destroy the other's very world, each seeking to gain the upper hand; it is a power struggle between two ruthlessly cunning individuals. As time goes on, both Dussander and Todd begin to change, affected by the evil that is their constant topic of conversation. The tension builds up throughout the film, culminating in a very satisfying conclusion (although I still prefer King's original conclusion).This is not a horror movie so much as a movie about horror and, in particular, obsession. There are some disturbing events in the movie, and one has to question which character is more evil than the other. It is difficult to really like either leading character, but one is intensely interested in the final outcome that must inevitably come; true evil can be hidden only so long. When I first learned of this movie's release, I was thrilled to finally see the story brought to life, yet the movie seemed to come and go with little fanfare. This is one of the best Stephen King adaptations out there, and I feel this movie deserves much more attention and acclaim than it has received. The message of Apt Pupil speaks to everyone, not just horror fans, providing a very real warning about the dangers of obsession. Evil can be borne anywhere, even in the heart of Middle America."
R. Suarez Giacoman | Mc Allen, Texas United States | 07/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Based on a Stephen King novel, `Apt pupil' directed by Brian Singer tells the story of a hunted Nazi who is identified by a sixteen year old student. The student rather than reporting to authorities his discovery, attempts to blackmail the old man: he won't tell anyone if he tells him stories from the dead camp he was in charge of.
This incredible thriller takes some surprising twists as the story unfolds. The acting is superb, Ian McKellen as Dussander (the Nazi fugitive) and Brad Renfro deliver some of the most disturbing sequences of the film, from the stories being told by McKellen (excellent flashback scenes) to the sequence in which he wears the Nazi uniform again, the performance delivered by these two actors is one of the highlights of the film.
A story of how evil may present in the less expected ways and how a teenager falls under the clutches of the Nazi killer he thought he had under control. The directorial style of Singer is all over the film, the score composed by John Ottman is the perfect complement in some of the key scenes. Some of Singer `regulars' are here on brief cameos and there is the special appearance of David Schwimmer (even though he tries to portray a serious character, the stigma of Ross Geller won't leave him) Bottom-line, an excellent thriller filled with surprising twists, excellent sequences from the Nazi's dead camps and a shocking ending.
The DVD comes in both Widescreen and Full screen versions. Special features in the DVD are a `making of' documentary, cast and bios and the theatrical trailer. English 5.1 and Dolby surround available with subtitles in English only. "
Thought provoking; The evil that men do can rub off...
R. Gawlitta | Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA | 04/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are a few Stephen King adaptations that are good, though most missed the mark. I thought Bryan Singer's vision of "Apt Pupil" left in (and left out) everything that was approprate. I admire Ian McKellan no end, and he did not disappoint. I always thought that Brad Renfro's auspicious debut in "The Client" would lead to great things. Here, he succeeds. It's a layered performance of unsettling discovery, conflict & resolution...and a few surprises. Elias Koteas, in a small role, was best of all. His role as street person/hustler was complete, and I must admit that his final scene lef me a bit unsettled, very sad. I will not blab anyhing away, but I thought this to be a fine and very upsetting film. I'm somewhat amused at the controversy involving Singer's shower room scene, where he asked a number of young males to appear nude (they signed affidavits of approval). No one really cared, except one guy sued him for misreprentation or whatever. (How humiliating was that for him?) This was a 1998 film. Brian de Palma's "Carrie" with Oscar-nominee Sissy Spacek (1976) had a brutal shower scene, full-frontal, the whole 9 yards, and nobody made issue. Nudity doesn't bother me, if it makes sense. I don't understand the fuss."