It begins with a high school essay question: 'Why Nazism?' Sixteen-year-old Todd (Renfro) furrows his brow and immerses himself in the library, until, taking the bus one day, he recognises a passenger (McKellen) from a 40-year-old photo of a Gestapo officer. He tracks the old Nazi down and makes him an offer he can't refuse: if Herr Dussander refuses to spill 'what they're afraid to tell us in school', Todd will expose him to the media. Unhealthily obsessed with Dussander's revelations, Todd procures him an SS uniform to spur his memory; inevitably the balance of power shifts. This intense, rather laboured adaptation of a Stephen King novella is brave or foolish enough to play with fire - making a link between fascism and suppressed homosexuality, for example - yet it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, as if the guilty collusion between Todd and Dussander is mirrored in the relationship between viewer and film. Though director Singer works through the psychological ramifications with painstaking (and protracted) concentration, McKellen can't entirely fend off camp. You won't forget his goose step in a hurry.
Cast and crew