The troubled Iraq War vet, armed with a knife, who hopped a fence and made his way into the White House has given all of us pause. Where’s the Secret Service when you need them? Certainly they’re not acting the way Clint Eastwood does in a 1993 thriller, In the Line of Fire.
In that film Eastwood plays a dedicated Secret Service agent with a painful past. Back on November 22, 1963, while on special assignment in the President’s entourage, he’d failed to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Now another would-be presidential assassin is on the loose. He’s viciously taunting Eastwood, who’ll do anything it takes to protect the current President’s life, even if he has to sacrifice his own. Three guesses as to whether he succeeds.
Hollywood has always thrived on movies in which an unknown assailant intrudes on someone’s domestic happiness. This holds true whether the victim-to-be lives in the White House or in a little white house with a picket fence. Take one classic example wholly suitable for the month of October: John Carpenter’s Halloween. Laurie Strode (played, of course, by Jamie Lee Curtis) is the good-girl babysitter. Michael Myers is the knife-wielding psycho who seems to have a thing for nubile young women. Part of what makes the film scary is the thought that there’s a stranger out there, lurking in the shadows, just waiting to pounce.
But statistics tell us that most attacks inside the home are perpetrated not by strangers but by someone known to the victim. Even the Halloween series, having first established Michael Myers as a mysteriously unmotivated bogeyman running amok, eventually gets around to explaining that Laurie is – unbeknownst to her -- Michael’s younger sister.
In my Roger Corman days, I personally worked on two of the three Slumber Party Massacre movies, in which a pleasant suburban home is invaded by a fiendish Driller-Killer bent on pursuing young girls to their doom. Part of what makes these films memorable for their fans is a nightmarish bad guy who can be seen as a figment of a pubescent co-ed’s fevered imagination. But Slumber Party Massacre III goes the other route, exonerating the weird Peeping Tom and revealing that the true killer is a clean-cut classmate with some serious hidden hang-ups. Then there are Corman’s Sorority House Massacre films, in which slasher figures include the heroine’s psycho brother (Sorority House I) and a creepy next-door neighbor (Sorority House II).
So often in real life the killing is an inside job. I was reminded of this in reading about Daniel Crespo, mayor of the SoCal city of Bell Gardens. He was just shot to death by his wife, in what may or may not have been a response to years of spousal abuse. Then there’s an odd but true story from my very own Santa Monica neighborhood. In a nice corner house, very neat and tidy, lived a middle-aged couple. Good-hearted folks, they agreed to help out a young homeless man by giving him odd jobs around the property. Pretty soon he was occupying a spare bedroom on the premises. At this point the lady of the house, obviously taking seriously the Biblical injunction to love thy neighbor, began a hot and heavy affair with the newcomer. One day an ambulance pulled up in a great hurry: the stranger had suddenly gone berserk, attacking and badly wounding the husband.
I didn’t know those involved, and I don’t know what’s become of them. But the episode would make a great movie, maybe borrowing the title from another Roger Corman film: The Terror Within.