Color, 1999, 100 mins. 58 secs.
Directed by William Hellfire & Joey Smack
Starring Joey Smack, William Hellfire, Misty Mundae, Lilly Tiger, Chris Perez
Saturn's Core Audio & Video (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Shriek Show (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

One of the most notorious shot-on-video films ever made, 1999's Duck! The Carbine High Massacre was quickly shot and released to capitalize on the Duck! The Carbine High Massacrenonstop news coverage Duck! The Carbine High Massacreof that year's horrifying mass murder by a pair of deeply disturbed twelfth graders at Columbine High School in Colorado. The subject matter wasn't exactly new to filmmakers, having already provided the foundation for the classic black comedy Heathers. However, this one went way over the line for many by turning the events into a dark gory comedy, something they obviously anticipated by the opening disclaimer, noting the film is fictitious but "based on actual historical events. We realize that some people may find it offensive, obscene, sacrilegious, and thoroughly disgusting. However, it was bound to become a motion picture eventually, or even worse, a 'made for TV' movie. So we decided to do it first. God Bless America."

Over the next 100 minutes, this one essentially follows the Columbine template as we open up with the aftermath of the slaughter at the hands of Derwin and Derick (played by directors and co-writers William Hellfire and Joey Smack), two malcontents in trenchcoats who want to attack their school with a missile to get back at their bullies. When that goes awry, they come up with a plan to stockpile an arsenal of guns and stage an attack climaxing with a school bombing, aided by a very strange janitor.

Duck! The Carbine High MassacreThe filming at an actual high school landed the filmmakers in legal hot water for Duck! The Carbine High Massacrebringing firearms onto the property, though that aspect has largely been forgotten in the wake of the controversy around the film itself in the indie horror community. Shot on video for peanuts and featuring an early role by Hellfire's girlfriend at the time, Misty Mundae a.k.a. Erin Brown, it's a very uncomfortable viewing experience from the shot-on-VHS roster of Hellfire's Factory 2000 that's easier to parse out now as a critique of the hand-wringing media approach to the tragedy rather than a jab at the incident itself. (The horrifying accumulation of similar incidents in the decades since then would seem to bear that out, too.)

First issued on VHS by Shock O Rama, this one's been around on home video on and off over the years including a DVD from Media Blasters' Shriek Show line in 2004 featuring deleted scenes, a Court TV snippet about the real charges brought about from the film, live music performances, and an interview with Hellfire. Everything but the isolated Court TV segment is carried over for the 2021 region-free Blu-ray from Saturn's Core Audio & Video, which does the best it can with a film shot on a consumer camcorder. It is what it is, though the far better compression here makes it easier on the eyes than the DVD. All of the text cards (quotes, intertitles, etc.) have also been newly rendered in HD, so those are obviously a big step up. Here you get the deleted scenes (10m20s), the original Hellfire interview (14m44s), a segment of King Ghidorah Duck! The Carbine High Massacreperforming live in Hoboken (15m25s), and the extended music performances (7m40s), but a big new addition here is an audio commentary with Hellfire and producer Pete Jacelone Duck! The Carbine High Massacreconversing with Mike Hunchback spinning out plenty of memories about the making of the film, from the perils of using "Dawn of the Dead-style" stage blood in real locations to the connections to other Factory 2000 films and the punk attitude of the whole thing. Also new is "After Shock" (32m57s), which compiles a slew of media coverage about the film's local controversy mixed with interviews with the two filmmakers looking back at how the concept came about and ended up generating more publicity and distribution issues than they could have anticipated. The late Joey Smack is represented with six of his short films, most very gory and all morbid: "Today More Than Ever" (7m16s), "I Get So Sick Sometimes" (3m53s), "Little Beauties" (9m47s), "I Know I Died with It" (7m46s), "Inside the Next-Door Neighbors" (9m56s), and "Sour Milk" (6m16s). Finally you get the original and DVD trailers, plus the lengthy Shriek Show photo gallery (11m32s). There are also a couple of Easter eggs tucked away on the main menu, too.

Reviewed on October 18, 2021