Originally released in 1981, The Killing of America is a “documentary of the decline of America.” The film is a collection of news footage and interviews about violent events that have happened in the United States up until the murder of John Lennon in Manhattan in 1980 and the violence at the gatherings following his death.
Directors Sheldon Renan and Leonard Schrader (uncredited) gathered news footage and interviews about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the attempts on his brother and Nixon, race riots, multiple serial killers and mass murderers such as John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Kenneth Bianchi (Hillside Strangler), Arthur Bremer (Shooting Wallace), David Berkowitz (Son of Sam), Sam Brown (Sidewalk Sniper), etc. Their murders and other acts of violence are shown and discussed through news footage, court footage, and interviews.
The strongest images are not necessarily the ones with the most violence but often the images showing the aftermath of the vents have more emotional impact. Watching a toddler John F. Kennedy Jr. salute his father at the funeral was and still is a strong image of the impact violent events can have on innocent people.
All of this footage is narrated by Chuck Riley who has an eerie voice and delivery adding a somber and creepy tone to a film that is already plenty scary for the realities it puts in front of the viewer’s eyes. Together with writing by Chieko Schrader and Leonard Schrader, the narration brings the point home that violence is more and more present in the United States (and around the world). The Killing of America is being rereleased now, at a time where its show of all this violence in America could not be more prevalent.
The film may be from 1981, but 35 years later the situation has not become better, people have not learned from this and from history. In 2016, the news is full of violent events, all more horrific than the one before. Cases of police violence like the killing of Philando Castile, like the violence at Standing Rock, like the current serial killer in Arizona, and numbers of other active ones show that the violence is not slowing down or de-escalating but much to the contrary, it keeps getting worse. Perhaps an updated documentary or a sequel would show this to people but unfortunately, those who need their eyes opened probably would not see it or pay attention.