“Bullet Time” : What is it?

SHL-Bullettime-ribbonimg

Adam Lanza made direct reference to this obscure student film four times on the Super Columbine Massacre RPG Discussion forum, where he posted as “Smiggles.”

The first was on August 10th, 2011:

For anyone who doesn’t know, Sabratha (a member who used to post here) was part of a group which created an excellent school shooting movie.

The context of this conversation was the thread “Duck! The Carbine High Massacre” where users were critiquing the film with the same title. The general tone was that users were disappointed with the campy handling of the Columbine shooting they paid so much attention to, and Smiggles was recommending “Bullet Time” as a more realistic and satisfying alternative. (note: The forum’s Google cache is already gone now after going offline in July so it looks like the window for accessing this info has closed. This thread is one of the few I don’t have a full copy of. The text of the post is in the index.)

The second time was on October 26th, 2011:

This reminds me of Sabratha’s Bullet Time.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2zElaWlj0A&t=5m28s]

More of you really should see it. I think it’s a lot better than Zero Day.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynCD5hLbDLI]

The context of this conversation was the forum’s topic “The Official ‘Reveal Yourself’ Thread”; users were posting pictures of themselves, most of them being obviously false, and other users were remarking that it would be a bad idea to link their Columbine-related forum activity with their real-life identity. Knowing that Bullet Time has a scene where characters similarly advise against any such reckless behavior, Lanza supplied a link (the first URL) that leads to Part 5 of Bullet Time, and he included a timestamp so that it goes right to a scene where the characters discuss how to avoid detection when planning a school shooting in a post-Columbine era (the second link is just to part 1, so that readers can start from the beginning.)

The third and fourth references to Bullet Time both occur on February 28th, 2012; they were the last two postings that “Smiggles” left on the forum, and as such they are the last record of Adam Lanza communicating with the outside world before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting less than ten months later.

The first was in the thread “Any of you know of any others that are not on this list?” which contained a list of school shootings that were planned, but foiled in some way before that could actually occur. Adam’s contribution:

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=De-tIflr4E0&t=7m50s]

There have been many that aren’t on that list, although I’m not very familiar with them. I think I remember this having a lot listed:

http://signofthetimes.yuku.com/topic/1291

There were two teenagers who were arrested after one of them left their journal in a McDonald’s, as memorialized by Sabratha’s Bullet Time.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlgDhcbJRoY&t=5m55s]

One of them was caught a second time a couple years later with another student.

The first link leads to a Youtube video of the lecture “Campus Safety in Focus: Advances and Ongoing Challenges One Year later – Pt 3” and is time-stamped to a shot with a graph of, as was being discussed in the thread, attempted school shootings vs. actual school shootings.

This link, by itself, is suggestive of how obsessively Adam Lanza was studying mass shootings at this point; as of September 26th 2014, the video he linked to has only 49 views:

SHL-campussafetysshot01

In other words, he would have been one of only a handful of people to have ever watched this video. The second link goes to a thread on another Columbine forum (it doesn’t appear he ever posted there) entitled “Columbine–did it ever really end?” which documents school shooters since Columbine, and references they made to the Columbine shooting. The list includes a few failed shooting attempts, hence why he linked to it in the context of the conversation. The third link was to the scene in Bullet Time where the characters visit a McDonald’s, which “Smiggles” interprets as a reference to the failed McDonald’s plot (Bullet Time specifically critiques that failed school shooting later in the film.)

His next and final post referenced Bullet Time in this same context (the statistical “drop” in school shootings masking an actual uptick in the number of attempted shootings) and so perhaps Lanza posted the above reply while he was drafting this longer post:

SHL-smiggleslastpost1

Columbine wasn’t an isolated incident: it was the apex of a string of school shootings which began increasing with Lu Gang and Wayne Lo in the early 1990s. Despite American students committing fewer school shootings in 2000-2009 than they did in 1990-1999, the rate of attempts actually increased beyond their pre-Columbine level. Columbine caused Americans to begin taking the potential for school shootings seriously, and thus many attempts which were expected to have been carried out have instead been prevented. And since 1999, there has been an increase in foreign school massacres committed in countries where, as Sabratha’s Bullet Time phrases it, there isn’t the “operational history” of Columbine.

The “operational history” Lanza again mentions from Bullet Time refers to the security environment after Columbine; in short, it’s much more difficult to “pull a Columbine” after Columbine.

Those are all the references the Sandy Hook shooter made to this film. That he referenced the film on the forum is not by itself significant, since he referenced dozens of different movies and pop culture products on the forum, and most of them clearly have nothing to do with that he was planning. However, the fact that he referenced the film in discussions of school shootings, rather than in discussions of films in general, indicate in retrospect that this film was special to him. Once one is aware of the actual content of the film, the significance is obvious and disturbing.

In trying to understand how Sandy Hook occurred, it is thus worth taking a closer look at this very obscure, niche film, with an eye especially cast toward how it may have influenced the perpetrator of such a vicious and bewildering crime.

So let’s begin, shall we?

The Premise: What is “Bullet Time” about?

SHL-bullettime01

Bullet Time is the story of two students, Jan Kossakowski (left) and Micha Duczyk (right), who perpetrate a mass shooting at the campus of their university in Warsaw, Poland. The story is told through a sort of video diary that the two killers leave behind, documenting their planning for the massacre, their observations about other mass killers, and tips for how to commit your own school shooting as the date for theirs draws nearer.

This format is itself an evocation of the infamous “Basement Tapes” left behind by the Columbine killers. While a great deal of footage shot by the Columbine killers has leaked over the years, the Basement Tapes (so titled because they were shot in the basement of one of the killers’ houses, while their parents were sleeping upstairs) would be by far the most sensational. The tapes detail the killers’ philosophies and their growing excitement – and arsenal – in the weeks before the massacre.

SHL-btdrivingcomp

“Bullet Time” above, Dylan Klebold below

To be clear: Bullet Time is not supposed to literally be the Basement Tapes, but is attempting to show what they might be like if they were filmed 2007, and what impact they would have on the victims and society in general.

The basement tapes have never been released, or leaked. All that exists are some snippets of transcript, a few seconds of audio, and some second-hand summaries of what they contain. As such, they are essentially the “holy grail” for fans of the killers (the existence of these fans by itself answering the question of why the tapes remain sealed) and their contents were, and remain, a very frequent topic of discussion on Columbine discussion forums online.

For example, let’s briefly turn toward yet another “Columbine forum” that Adam Lanza visited, the guestbook at acolumbinesite.com. Although the link to the guestbook has since been removed, an archived version shows it looked at the time:

SHL-acs-gbook01

https://web.archive.org/web/20100316065526/http://www.acolumbinesite.com/

We know that the Sandy Hook shooter read this forum, because he referenced it on the SCMRPG forum on August 29th, 2011 in the thread “A couple images of Dylan I’ve never seen before”:

SHL-smiggleslola01

“Smiggles” was describing this post:

SHL-columbineguestbook-Lola2

Something of a holdover from what we’d now call “Web 1.0,” a “guestbook” format allows each user to leave their name, their comment, and what brought them there. Again, and again, and again, and again…. the answer to “Is there anything you’d like to see here?” is “the basement tapes.”

SHL-basementtapereq12 SHL-basementtapereq4 SHL-basementtapereq3

Immediately it is evident the conundrum the the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department must be in: they do not want to release the Basement Tapes into such an environment of fandom, and yet their secret status further fuels the “forbidden fruit” quality the tapes have among these fans.

This is all despite the fact the general content of the tapes is already known. There would not be any surprises there, but apparently people want to actually see the killers talk to them, and to actually watch the killers’ preparation for Columbine in the waning weeks of their short and spiteful lives. But they can’t witness that. Not for real.

Enter, Bullet Time.

AK47

(continued soon in Part II: A Review of Bullet Time)

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About Reed Coleman

email: reedscoleman@gmail.com
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