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Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film (2009)

Unrated  |   |  Documentary, Horror  |  6 August 2009 (USA)
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An exploration of the appeal of horror films, with interviews of many legendary directors in the genre.



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Larry Cohen ...
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Dennis Fischer ...
Anthony Timpone ...
Himself (as Tony Timpone)
John Kenneth Muir ...


An exploration of the appeal of horror films, with interviews of many legendary directors in the genre.

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6 August 2009 (USA)  »

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Nothing groundbreaking, but horror newcomers - and fanboys & girls - will enjoy it!
22 January 2011 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

This review may seem as though it outlines the entire documentary, but believe me, it only scratches the surface. :) No spoilers to be had here!

The pros: There are some interesting clips with some horror heavy-hitters - George Romero, John Carpenter, Mick Garrison, Joe Dante and more - interspersed with clips from everyone's favourite scary movies. We catch glimpses of other great talents behind the stories, too, like Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg and Stephen King. And when the description of of the documentary says that this is the history of the American horror film, they're not kidding: we're shown clips from the very first "Frankenstein" in 1910, through the classic Monster Movies ("Dracula," "The Phantom Of The Opera," "The Wolfman," "King Kong" and so on) all the way up to much more contemporary films, like "Se7en," "American Psycho," and franchises such as the "Saw" and "Scream" films. It's all narrated by the great voice of Lance Henriksen, who takes us on a chronological journey through what has been popular in American theatres since the silent film days and gives context to how (and why) we got from there to here.

The cons: I felt it was too short for the ground it wanted to cover; a three-part series would have allowed more time and space to get into what each director wanted to say, rather than limiting them to sound bites.

Also, for me, a lot of the attempts to politicize the evolution of horror films feel ham-fisted. Saying that Freddy Krueger's "making the children pay for the sins of the father" was a mirror of what Reagan was doing in office at the time? Tying in the ever-more excessive gore of the remakes like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Dawn Of The Dead" with the media coverage of the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan? Commenting on how there's a new moralistic level to horror films like "Saw" because victims now have "the power to choose"? "Hostel" being nothing more than a metaphor for xenophobia? According to some of the critics and writers giving their two cents, every horror film is made to have a moral (yes, they even manage to moralize "Gremlins" and Poltergeist"!). It's all a bit of a reach, really. Certainly art imitates life, though I wouldn't go as far as some of these guys do. Perhaps its brief running time adds to the problem, as each of the examples I gave above are no more than one line out of the entire documentary.

Still, none of the cons take away from this being a fun and entertaining look into the history of scary movies. If all you're seeking is 90-ish minutes of great nostalgia (or a crash-course intro to horror), along with some face time with many of our favourite directors of the genre & clips of a whole lot of films that'll make you think, "Oh, I need to rent that again!"...then this is definitely for you!

||| ***½ out of 5 ||| ******½ out of 10 |||

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