Reviewed by Andrew Kasch
Starring Darren Lynn Bousman, John Carpenter, Larry Cohen, Roger Corman, Lance Henriksen, George A. Romero, Mick Garris, Brain Yuzna
Directed by Andrew Monument
Horror documentaries are a dime a dozen, but few of them really cut to the core of what makes the genre — and its fans — tick. In fact, the only real hard-hitting docs we’ve seen on the subject have probed the minds behind U.S. horror filmmaking with The American Nightmare and American Movie, respectively. So it’s only fitting that Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film continues in that grand tradition of flag-waving fear.
Lance Henriksen narrates through the entire history of U.S. horror starting with Edison’s Frankenstein and continuing all the way up to the current torture-porn/remake trend. Writer/producer Joseph Maddrey (adapting from his book) and director/editor Andrew Monument methodically cover everything from silent horror to the Universal monsters to 70’s exploitation and the 80’s slasher craze.
Along the way are plenty of interviews with genre heavyweights like John Carpenter, Roger Corman, George A. Romero, and Joe Dante; and each contributes a great amount of insight. There are several interesting stories from the filmmakers involved but Nightmares is at it’s best when it dissects how these classic films shaped their lives and the culture around them (Darren Lynn Bousman credits Last House on the Left’s infamous “post-rape guilt” scene as what got him into movie-making).
Most horror documentaries tend to be amateurish fluff pieces or just downright gimmicky (Terror in the Aisles, anyone?), but here the filmmakers approach their subject matter with real intelligence and knowledge, diving deep into the psychology behind horror films and how they tend to pop up most often in the very worst social climates (Vietnam, the Reagan and Bush eras, etc). What’s most impressive is how this documentary is able to cram over 100 years worth of history in a brisk 90-minute running time. Everything from the great horror classics to the most obscure of titles are covered, and even the most hardcore of genre buffs will find plenty to chew on here.
Overall Nightmares in Red, White and Blue delivers a film school semester’s worth of knowledge in one tight and thoroughly entertaining feature and goes a long way toward validating horror as a respectable film genre. Whether you’re looking to expand your movie horizons or simply ride the nostalgia train, this documentary has it all!
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4 1/2 out of 5
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