"Frontline's harrowing look at what led a 15-year old Oregon boy to murder his
parents and then open fire on his fellow students in 1998 should be required
viewing for anyone concerned about raising children in a violent world. The
docu's level-headed 12-month investigation of its subject, and its access to
home movies, the boy's writing and unsettling police videos, reveal how this
modern-day American tragedy could have been avoided had someone really listened
to the boy's cries for help. ...
Although the producers feel the need to stress that this type of horror can
await any seemingly happy middle-class family, what comes across at the end is
that there were many instances in which the grown-ups in Kip's life could have
intervened to save him from alienation and self-hatred, and yet failed to do
"Finally, a television report that makes some sense out of the epidemic of
kids going on killer rampages in suburban high schools. ...
...The focus is narrow, but it is also laser-like as it cuts through all the
usual media-babble that surrounds such stories and takes us to the core of this
boy's worldview. In helping us understand Kinkel, 'Frontline' does a better
job of helping us understand the larger problem than any other television
report to date. There are no easy answers here, and the truth is scarier than
many of us thought. ...
...The fact-gathering and reporting is astonishing compared to the usual
hit-and-run standards of the commercial networks and CNN on such stories.
'Frontline' gained access to notes and reports written by a psychologist whom
Kinkel was seeing on a weekly basis. The producers also have letters and a
journal that Kinkel kept. ...
...In the end, the very best thing about this report is that it refuses to
offer a simple answer by pointing a finger at Kinkel's online life or the CDs
to which he listened, for example."
"Would your kids kill you? Might they, could they? And would it be your
That's the monstrous scare lurking inside the new Frontline documentary.
Spooky and menacing, the mesmerizing film dissects the dysfunction that made
Kip Kindel, 15, kill his apparently nurturing parents and murder two hapless
high school students and wound 25 others in Oregon in 1998. ...
In all, the Kinkel case plays like a freaky horror film. And "Killer's"
treatment verges on tabloid--an urgent tone, somewhat overblown language,
fast-spinning police video footage. Much is made of the Kinkels idyllic,
Stepfordlike existence in suburban isolation in the Oregon Woods.
Still this is real-life horror we should not ignore...."
"KILLER DOC: That's what Tuesday's excellent 'Frontline' program is. In 1998,
Kip Kinkel, 15, shot dead his mother and father and then murdered two students
and wounded 25 others at his high school in Springfield, Ore., for which he was
sentenced to 111 years in prison with no possibility of parole.
Produced by Michael Kirk, Miri Navasky and Karen O'Connor, and reported by
Peter J. Boyer, 'The Killer at Thurston High' is a sad, chilling and methodical
retelling of Kinkel's progression from a kid who was 'kind of mad at his
parents' to one who coldly blew them away and targeted others. ...
...The 'Frontline' program raises questions without drawing conclusions, except
as Boyer notes ominously, 'Some of us are raising killers in our homes.' "
"... The footage ... varies significantly from ordinary documentary film. We
get a sense of Kip's anomie, of the collapse of things he can deal with. ...
The film methodically draws us in and sets us up for events that, still, are
hard to imagine. Even at the end, there may be no way to understand how this
This is devastating."
"The stated premise of tonight's engrossing 'Frontline' report, 'The Killer at
Thurston High,' is that Kip Kinkel, the 15-year-old who in 1998 killed his
parents and then gunned down scores of schoolmates, wasn't a conspicuously
troubled kid. The narration introduces the chronicle as an account of a life
of promise nurtured in a comforting community by loving parents. ...
... But this really isn't so.
What we see and hear in this thoroughly reported and skillfully produced
90-minute portrait of Kinkel reveals something quite different. The substance
of this deeply probing reconstruction of his early years is at odds with, and
far smarter than, the often simple-minded narration. Look closely enough, the
documentary seems to say implicitly, and you will perceive signs of a very
troubled youngster long before his explosive despair led to patricide,
matricide, the bloody shooting murders of two Thurston High schoolmates, and
the maiming of several others.
In fact, the picture that emerges is of a family startlingly out of balance ...
What gives this film dramatic power is, in fact, the darkening sense of
inevitability that develops as it reveals telling facets of Kip's boyhood and
adolescence, especially his painfully difficult relationship with his father.
...In its way, this resourceful, real-life 'Frontline' tells a tale as strange
and dark as 'American Beauty,' with its superficially placid family seething
with explosive problems. But as strong as it is, and as valuable for its
insights into the mind and background of a young mass murderer, the film would
have been better without its hokey-sounding and openly editorial narration.
"Harrowing and detailed, The Killer at Thurston High provides a searching examination of what went wrong with Kip Kinkel, the Oregon 15-year-old who killed his parents and two students during a 1998 shooting rampage.
... Frontline never excuses Kinkel as it explores his stormy outlook and never points to one cause for his violence.
Rather, the outstanding documentary suggests many forces bedeviled the boy, though he had caring parents and a comfortable home in a spot ironically called Shangri-La. This complex approach sets Killer at Thurston High apart from most TV reporting on teen violence that has struck from Pearl City, Miss., to Columbine High.
The program's style is distinctive. Its cinematography and ominous music evoke fictional movies rather than documentaries. I'm usually no fan of these flourishes in news, but they are applied here with skill and good sense. ..."
"... Frontline producers Karen O'Connor and Miri Navasky have done an
astonishing amount of reporting for this special, considering how media-wary
the people of Springfield became after hordes of camera crews appeared to cover
Kinkel's 1998 rampage. There are interviews with classmates, teachers, family
friends and, most poignantly, Kinkel's sister, Kristin, who now lives alone in
the home where her brother killed her mother and father. ...
...'The Killer at Thurston High' doesn't have any easy answers to explain this
epidemic of school shootings that's overtaken the country, but it shows how
easily a troubled kid can slip though the cracks, with fatal consequences.
It's a powerful 90 minutes that no parent should miss."
"After each horrifying school shooting of the past few years, the shock and
grief were followed by questions: How could the young shooters have gone so
wrong? What turned their blood so cold? Is it possible that these kids seemed
just as normal to their parents as our kids seem to us?
You won't get all the answers from 'The Killer at Thurston High,' but you will
see a very compelling film. ...This film is truly haunting."
"...The engrossing 90-minute film begins and ends with nervous, kinetic
montages. In between, it sticks to the growing ordeal of the Kinkel family.
Now, of course, the outcome can only seem inevitable, like Pearl Harbor, the
Titanic and other disasters. The parents' misjudgments and groundless hopes
seem stepping-stones on the path of doom.
But two commentators offer moderating views. Richard Bushnell, a Kinkel
family friend who was also Kip's academic counselor, says, 'Any one of 1,400
students could do the same thing that Kip did. Kids are learning that it could
happen any time, any place, by nice kids. Kip was respected. He had friends.
He was liked. It can happen.' "
"... The story of Kip Kinkel is the saga of an all-American kid who lost his
soul somewhere in a privileged childhood.
The meticulously wrought nonfiction film, narrated by journalist Peter Boyer,
traces the demise of the Kinkel family and Kip's descent into hell. It is a
gripping, remarkable document--a testament to an American family gone
hopelessly haywire. ..."