The dawn of the 1970s. While the North American media landscape is bombarded by images of violence, a terrifying urban legend materializes in the collective imagination. Some gossipers allege that in certain private circles, films can be found that represent the height of cinematic obscenity. Called “snuff movies”, these films supposedly record actual murders committed specifically for the camera. They would be sold at an outrageous price to perverts jaded by legal pornography. A wave of panic grips the United States and it alone justifies the creation of various inquiry commissions, none of which will succeed in proving the existence of these clandestine products. Nonetheless the rumour persists, reinforced by a series of audio-visual manifestations that evoke each in their own way the catastrophic hypothesis of snuff. One such film is among the most controversial documentaries in the history of cinema, the unforgettable THE KILLING OF AMERICA.
“All of the film that you are about to see is real. Nothing has been staged.” Thus begins the transgressive feature film co-written by Leonard Schrader (brother of Paul, the explosive screenwriter of TAXI DRIVER). Employing the distinctive structure of mondo films, this documentary is composed of several vignettes portraying America in all its decadence. Each new image confronts us to a savage violence, incomprehensible and sadly authentic. Comprised principally of televised footage, THE KILLING OF AMERICA lists a number of historical events that shook the United States, from the recorded assassination of president John F. Kennedy to the tragic shooting at the University of Huston in 1966. The film also seeks to investigate the mystery of serial killers by examining the cases of Ted Bundy, Charles Manson and Ed Kemper, “The Co-Ed Killer” who is interviewed in the film by Schrader himself. Although it is undeniably spectacular in nature, this collage created in 1982 does not in any way celebrate the presentation of barbarous brutality on the big screen. In fact, it rather seeks to raise the public’s awareness to the infernal chaos into which society is plummeting. An urgent warning against the widespread distribution of firearms, it has lost none of its immediacy, just like the rumour of the snuffs that it fed through its extreme representation of our continent. Here then is the opportunity to discover this rare film that was never allowed a public release in North-American theatres, and which participated to the authentication of a catastrophic urban legend.
— Simon Laperrière