Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Evil in Clear River (1988)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Lindsay Wagner plays Kate McKinnon, the mother of a high-school student who loves his history class. Most of the students worship Peter Suvak, played by Randy Quaid. Suvak is also the mayor of the small town in which the movie is set. Clear River, Alberta, is a close-knit community. That’s why it’s so hard for Kate and her husband to believe that Suvak is spreading what’s called revisionist history.

She finds out about it when her son is studying for history class. She notices that there are a lot of references in her son’s notes to Jews and a Jewish conspiracy. She confronts Suvak about it and he plays it down like it’s no big deal. He even offers to lend her some books on the subject. After reading them, she knows that Suvak is trouble. She takes the matter to the principal, who doesn’t really seem to want to do anything about it. She takes the matter to the school board twice and eventually gets Suvak fired.

Along the way, McKinnon finds that there are three groups of people in the community. First are the people that agree with Suvak. This includes most of his students and fellow teachers. The second group is made up of people that don’t want to get on the bad side of the first group. McKinnon’s neighbor doesn’t like Suvak, but says that she and her husband depend on the first group of people for business. The third group of people is made up of those that don’t really see what the first two groups are talking about. They don’t really know what’s going on.

The last group is the first group to join McKinnon’s cause, but there really aren’t that many willing to risk everything. McKinnon and family have to endure the hatred of the community. Some people from the second group join, but many of the second group are only made more afraid seeing what the McKinnons have to go through. Eventually, Mrs. McKinnon gains momentum. The matter eventually catches the attention of the media. This leads to a visit from a prosecutor who informs McKinnon that Suvak has violated the law. Jews are a recognized minority in Canada and Suvak has incited hatred of them. He’s arrested and people begin to see the light.

The story is one of good versus evil. Suvak believes that evil has taken the form of the Jewish people. McKinnon believes that evil has taken the form of Suvak, who she voted for twice because she felt that he’s a good man. He’s been good for the community for many years and everyone is able to look up to him.

I’m guessing that this was a made-for-TV movie. First, some scenes fade out and another fades in; this occurs about every fifteen minutes. (Essentially, the DVD is missing the commercial breaks.) Second, the movie ends with Suvak stripped of all power and the son, despite hating his parents, realizes the error of his ways. There’s definitely a feel-good sense to this movie.

There’s also some blatant and some subtle references to the good-versus-evil debate. McKinnon is focused on bringing down Suvak. She’s as convinced that she’s right as he is that he’s right. The thing that separates Suvak from McKinnon is that Suvak is in a position of authority. He has a responsibility to teach his students to think rather than to feed them his version of history. (Every major book on the subject, by the way, refutes his version of history. Suvak claims that the media are censored.)

I have to wonder if she went too far by trying to bring him down as mayor. It’s not that I think he wasn’t a bad man. To me, it seemed like more of a personal vendetta at that point than anything else. I know that he was evil and McKinnon couldn’t trust him, but as she had pointed out, many of the people felt that they could trust him as mayor even if he couldn’t be trusted as a teacher. McKinnon was trying to totally ruin him. Suvak’s conviction on the charge brought against him led to his downfall. Even though McKinnon’s effort to recall him had failed, Suvak had eventually been removed as mayor.

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