Why 17 days? Because 17 is my favorite number.
Romper Stomper, in contrast, does not make you feel safe. It is not a traditional horror film, but it is every bit as horrifying as anything Stephen King or Wes Craven ever put out. I chose to discuss this film--as well as Saló yesterday--in the middle of this countdown to illustrate a point first made by Book of the Dead authors John Skipp and Craig Spector--horror is the engine that drives every story.
Romper Stomper follows the exploits of a gang of neo-Nazi skinheads in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia as they deal with the growing Korean population in their neighborhood by resorting to explosive violence. The seething hatred expressed by every member of the gang, especially their compelling leader Hando (a young Russell Crowe) builds to a shocking head midway through when multiple members of the gang attack three Korean kids and beat them senseless. Your stomach will churn as these monstrous skinheads hold the kids down, break their fingers, stomp their heads, and kick them repeatedly in the stomach.
I promise you, after Romper Stomper this Halloween list will get back into more conventional horror, but I wanted my readers to pause for a moment and consider: what could be more horrifying than hatred taken to the extremes of human cruelty? What is more nightmarish than knowing creatures like Hando are actually out there roaming the streets?
I’ll tell you what’s more horrifying: the prospect that such evil could exist within ourselves.
One of the most unsettling moments for me in Romper Stomper is a scene where Hando awakens after a night of drinking and sex and shares with his new girlfriend, Gabe (Jacqueline McKenzie), his racist neo-Nazi beliefs:
I don't want to be a white cooly in my own country. 'Cause it's not our country anymore. 'Cause rich people, and powerful people brought in boat loads of human trash. Cheap labour, gooks mainly, and there's gonna be more. I want people to know I'm proud of my white history and white blood. One day it might be all I have. I don't want to go the same way as the f***in' Abo.
Hando is a mesmerizing presence, at turns charming, loyal, and courtly. We don’t like him, but we can’t stop watching him, and like Crowe himself, Hando seems like the kind of bloke we’d bend elbows with under the right circumstances. He does not rave and shake his fist like the stock footage of Hitler in Triumph of the Will; instead, his tone is unperturbed, heartfelt, unapologetic yet almost self-effacing.
We don’t care what he is saying so long as he just keeps talking. He would have made a great politician. In an age when our government continues to destroy all that we know, yet we continue to vote for personalities over principles, a beast with Hando's charisma is the real horror story.
Done preaching. See you tomorrow with a groovy dinosaur movie.
Previous Days of Halloween:
Day 1 – Baby’s Breath
Day 2 – Phantom of the Paradise
Day 3 – The Shining (miniseries)
Day 4 – 28 Days Later
Day 5 – 28 Weeks Later
Day 6 – Dawn of the Dead (original)
Day 7 – Dawn of the Dead (remake)
Day 8 – The Howling
Day 9 – Saló or the 120 Days of Sodom