review for Apt Pupil on AllMovie

Apt Pupil (1998)
by Karl Williams review

The attempt to turn one of novelist Stephen King's most disturbing stories into a feature film is a chilling character study from director Bryan Singer. While it's an oft-quoted maxim that "the book is always better than the movie," this isn't always true (Jaws (1976) and The Godfather (1972) are superb exceptions). However, Apt Pupil reinforces that stereotype by dropping much of the printed page's development of lead character Todd Bowden (Brad Renfro) as a big man on campus. Singer's film positions Bowden as more of an all-American, average kid, which robs the tale of some of its narrative power, as the symbolism of Bowden's teen success and good looks was paralleled by delusions of superiority entertained by former Nazi and decrepit recluse Kurt Dussander (Ian McKellen. Without this unspoken connection, the relationship that develops between fugitive and teen neighbor, and Dussander's emergence from his protective shell to full-blown monstrosity, is never as uncomfortably compelling as it is in King's tale. The film simply becomes a portrait of two mentally disturbed, homicidal sociopaths, a Thelma and Louise of fascist evil. A nonetheless interesting and provocative film, Apt Pupil is ultimately less so than it should be.