Cho Seung-Hui, top, and scene from ‘Oldboy’
In the video and still images sent to NBC News, the killer responsible for 32 deaths before shooting himself at Virginia Tech this week apparently acted out scenes from an extremely violent South Korean film that won acclaim from U.S. reviewers.
Police believe Cho Seung-Hui repeatedly watched “Oldboy” – a bloody 2003 prize-winner with themes of obsession and revenge – in preparation for his rampage, the deadliest mass shooting in American history, the Evening Standard of London reported.
Virginia Tech Professor Paul Harris spotted the similarities and alerted authorities, the paper said. The multimedia package, which included “disturbing” writings, apparently was mailed to the network in the time period between the two shooting sprees.
Scene from ‘Oldboy,’ left, and Cho Seung-Hui
Cho is seen wielding a variety of weapons in poses that bear a strong resemblance to scenes from the South Korean film and from the works of John Woo, the Hong Kong director behind violent films such as “Face/Off.”
“Oldboy,” directed by Park Chan-wook, won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. It received praise from the president of the jury, director Quentin Tarantino, who tried to persuade members to give it the coveted Palme d’Or over Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
Reviewer Peter Bradshaw of the London Guardian said of “Oldboy” that the film is so dark and horrific the “terms ‘violent’ or ‘ultraviolent’ or even ‘super-ultraviolent’ don’t quite cover it.”
But the popular movie-review website Rotten Tomatoes shows 95 positive reviews out of 117 for the film. Reviewer remarks included:
- The hero of this Kafkaesque nightmare could be anybody who feels abused, raging against fate or God and discovering only absurdity and more horror. –John Beifuss, Memphis Commercial Appeal
- Bringing the concept of revenge and evil to a different level, the film is brilliant as it is disturbing. –Angela Baldassarre, Sympatico.ca
- We’re riveted throughout, almost pulled into the protagonist’s mania – who has perpetrated these horrors on him and why. –Duane Byrge,
- It says something when you come out of a film as weird and fantastical as Oldboy and feel that you’ve experienced something truly authentic. I just don’t know what. I can’t think of anything to compare it to. –Carina Chocano, Los Angeles Times
- A movie that can leave you lost, repulsed, fascinated and ultimately chastened. –Robert Denerstein, Denver Rocky Mountain News
- Oldboy is a powerful film not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare. –Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
The 23-year-old killer apparently finished his videos, made over six days, after he shot Emily Hilscher, 19, and Ryan Clark, 22, at West Ambler Johnston residence hall Monday morning.
The package was mailed about two and a half hours later, only minutes before he walked into Norris Hall and gunned down 32 people.
NBC News released this photo of Cho Seung-Hui from materials the Virginia Tech killer sent to the network in the time period between the two shootings April 16, 2007
The videos were made at different times, showing him in a hotel, a car and in what appears to be his dormitory.
‘I died, like Jesus Christ’
Virginia State Police Superintendent Steve Flaherty told reporters he regretted NBC released the multimedia package.
“I’m sorry that you all were exposed to these images,” he said.
“While there was some marginal value to the package, the fact of the matter is we already had most all of this information and most all of this evidence,” Flaherty said. “The package simply confirmed what we already knew in many, many cases.”
Matt Lauer, co-host of NBC’s “Today” show, said his network’s receipt of the material puts them in the unusual position of becoming part of the story, “one of the most disturbing and tragic stories any of us will ever cover.”
Co-host Meredith Vieira said the decision to air some of the images “was not taken lightly, it was not made quickly, and we understand that this is going to be seen as devastating to many people who lost loved ones in the shooting.”
“In fact,” she said, “I will tell you that we had planned to speak to some family members of victims this morning but they cancelled their appearances because they were very upset with NBC for airing the images.”
NBC immediately notified authorities after receiving the package yesterday, and the original materials were turned over to the FBI for examination.
The package reportedly contained 23 video clips, 43 still photographs and one audio clip. A portion of one video had Cho comparing himself to Jesus Christ.
You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic boy’s life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I died, like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.
In another clip, Cho said:
Do you know what it feels like to be spit on your face and have trash shoved down your throat? Do you know what it feels like to dig your own grave? Do you know what it feels like to have your throat slashed from ear to ear? Do you know what it feels like to be torched alive? Do you know what it feels like to be humiliated and be impaled upon a cross and left to bleed to death for your amusement?
In a rant against “rich kids,” he said:
“Your Mercedes wasn’t enough, you brats. Your golden necklaces weren’t enough, you snobs. Your trust funds wasn’t enough. Your vodka and cognac wasn’t enough. All your debaucheries weren’t enough. Those weren’t enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything.”