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Perkins 14: Craig Singer Where Are You?

May 19, 2012

I’d like to introduce you to somebody; this is Kyle and he wants to be your new friend.

 As more and more children commit violent crimes, the American criminal justice system has repeatedly faced criticism for its treatment of juvenile offenders.  Each time a child is charged as an adult, the debate reignites, and psychologists ponder who is to blame.  Are violent children monsters born to manipulate and deceive, or are they victims of their surroundings, created by a society ill equipped to provide the proper guidance?

Perkins 14, from Craig Singer (Dark Ride, 2006), tackles this question head on.  It unfolds methodically, presenting a family man (Patrick O’Kane) struggling to cope with the loss of his son, a wife crumbling under the weight of a loveless marriage, and a daughter stuck in the middle, desperate for her parent’s affection.  Paying homage to Michael Lehman’s Heathers, Daisy (Mihaela Mihut) greets her father, “Good morning Mr. Hopper.”  Mom (Shayla Beesley) passes and is greeted by her husband, “Hello Mrs. Hopper.”  It is an effective exchange, and immediately sets the stage for the slow, unraveling mystery that will follow.

While working the night shift at the station, Officer Hopper meets Ronald Perkins.  Locked in a holding cell, Perkins calmly explains to Hopper that his friend, the judge, was supposed to have completed the paperwork allowing for his release.  Hopper, noticing that Perkins is missing a piece of his finger, sets off on an investigation into his background.  Soon the cat and mouse game begins.

Perkins 14, upon its release, was described as a zombie kids run amok in small town scenario, but this description does not begin to describe the complexity of the story.  Craig Singer does a fine job building suspense, and the first half of the movie delivers a dramatic scenario in which a tortured father stumbles upon a man who appears to be his son’s killer.  Bringing the dramatic story arc to its conclusion, before the zombie mayhem begins, is an expertly constructed overlapping sequence.

Hopper convinces his friend, off duty officer Hal, to explore Perkins’s home.  Communicating via radio, Hal enters through the basement doors.  Perkins, seated across from Hopper, urges against this scenario.  “I have my rights,” he says.  As Hal explores the home, Hopper and Perkins square off in an intense battle of will.  Once radio contact is lost, however, Perkins 14 becomes a different film.

The 14 (as advertised) zombie children, unleashed on the unsuspecting town, fill the screen with blood and gore as they eat their way from door to door.  Like the best moments from George Romero’s zombie features, blood spouts freely while intestines litter the scenery.  The zombie children rule the night, and the intensity of their hunger is electrifying.

But this is not the typical zombie mayhem; there is an emotional hook here, and Perkins 14 is elevated to another level because of it.  And even as these children smash innocent skulls, rip heads from torsos, and tear out the intestines of fleeing folks, Singer forces us to question our beliefs.  Who are the real monsters here?  And in the midst of their violent rage, he somehow evokes a sympathetic point of view.  The children, victims of unspeakable acts, are now carrying out a murderous rampage, programmed by a world that has failed them.

Perkins 14 never lets up, and except for a brief lapse in logic toward the end, it presents a believable small town scenario.  Filled with plenty of horrific moments, blood soaked walls, and gut wrenching intensity, Perkins 14 satisfies all the way to its tragic conclusion.  Thankfully, there is no Hollywood ending to this story; it will stay with you long after the blood stops flowing.

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