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I AM NOT A DISGRUNTLED EXTRA, FRIEND OF THE FILMMAKER, OR AFFILIATED WITH American MANIACS IN ANY WAY. I'M JUST A BLOGGER WHO WANTS TO SHARE MY FEELINGS ON THIS TITLE. I WON'T TELL YOU TO SEE OR AVOID THE FILM. I MERELY WANT TO PROVIDE AN ALTERNATE TAKE. IT'S WRITTEN FROM A PLACE OF GENUINE REVERENCE, NOT ONE OF ANGST AND PETTY RESENTMENT.
Working throughout the decade as a director, producer, writer, cinematographer, and visual/special effects guy: CM Downs was "paying his dues." Film-making is an incredibly fascinating and thankless job for both those observing from a far and the people who are actually fighting the battle. For those of us in the know, it's no great revelation to find out how many incredibly gifted artists and films lie outside the Hollywood juggernaut. As an avid seeker of great genre cinema, I (on occasion) have the opportunity to bask in the glory of some truly revolutionary and imaginative viewing experiences. Not long ago, I found myself in a tremendously frustrating movie "rut" forcing my eyes upon one disappointing DVD after another. And then came FETCH (now known as American MANIACS).
What Downs has realized with this venture is nothing short of stupefying. American MANIACS may very well be the best European film not made by a European. It's sensibilities are right in line with those revered directors across the pond. Dark, emotional themes weave their way in and out of haunting landscapes and with the help of a beautifully visceral visual and auditory design, create a tapestry that is as much lush as it is sparse: as gorgeous as it is frightening. It's a film that Downs has clearly poured the very essence of his being into, but more than that: it's representative of a moment in time when an artist steps forward and redefines a genre, pulling at the very seams of it's constraints.
Assembling an incredibly gifted group of performers, Mr. Downs coaxed when he needed to, directed when the moment demanded, and let his actors roam free within his confines at all the right places. His eye for the minimal and heart for the grand are on display throughout American MANIACS' narrative in such a way that as the characters become more lost or unhinged, the viewer does so as well with empathetic fervor. Whether redirecting our focus, inviting us to fall in and out of love with the tragic, leaving our mouth agape with what we have just seen, or pulling us into situations we clearly don't want to be a part of: Downs executes his plan for the viewer with disturbing precision. As this director's project creeps toward distribution, one can only imagine what is on his professional horizon. A man who grew up on and is fully devoted to horror and genre cinema, yet brings the medium to levels that defy stereotyping; CM Downs is one of very few filmmakers who have begun the revolution to redefine genre film.
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