May 21, 1998, began like any other day in Springfield, Oregon, the sister city of my hometown, Eugene. I remember it being sunny and cloudless outside. I remember being excited about a choir concert at my elementary school that was to take place later that night. And I remember being picked up after school by my mother, so scared and horrified that she could barely tell me what horrific events had transpired only a couple of hours earlier.
I remember being shocked to see the front headline on the national news that night- "Another School Shooting." It had struck in Jonesboro, Pearl, and now it had happened right next to my sleepy little hometown. Kip Kinkel - just another, everyday, run-of-the-mill teen - had gone berserk and killed his parents and two of his classmates at Thurston High.
A few years later, "Frontline" produced this startling documentary. It doesn't really shed any new light on Kinkel - if you followed this kid after the shooting like we did in the following weeks, you already knew everything about him. What it does do, and quite effectively, is attempt to examine the mindset of Kinkel - his fascination with guns and explosives and his particularly chilling obsession with Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo and Juliet." It gives us the elements, but just like the other shootings (including Columbine) and their "explications", nothing really adds up, and end the end, the viewer is left confused, aloof, and deeply saddened.
"The Killer at Thurston High" is very sobering and all-too-true for some people in my community. It's altogether effective and very much worth watching, but like Van Sant's "Elephant", trying to dissect the minds of Kinkel and other high-school killers is ultimately futile.
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