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The American Nightmare
IMDB Rating: 7.4/10 from 1,516 votes
Release: 20 July 2003 (Austria) /

The American Nightmare

Genre: Documentary, Horror
Director: Adam Simon,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Horror films have often been more than simple scares. At their best, they reflect society's anxiety's and concerns. In this film, major horror film makers such as George Romero and Tobe Hooper discuss the creation of their films in the 1960s and '70s and how they related to contemporary events while interviewed intellectuals give their own opinions. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <[email protected]>

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Critic Reviews


You know, you really see movies differently when you hear the directors talking about what the movie meant to them or what they were trying to do with it. I really should watch more of those featurettes that come on the DVDs. I don't think I'll ever have the patience for audio commentaries, but the extra features on DVDs quite often have stuff like what you find in this outstanding documentary. Hearing the creators talk about their work really puts everything into a completely different perspective.

I was especially surprised to see how affected most of them were by the Vietnam war, like Tom Savini, who served in the war and now does horror movie makeup, witnessed horrible atrocities and awful, bloody deaths, and then went on to incorporate those things into his movies. Kind of morbid, really, to think that he was an American soldier who, by his own words, would see dead bodies and would just detach himself from the immediacy and finality of it, and instead think more about how he could recreate something like that in a movie. Until I saw this documentary, I never once considered the idea of trying to recreate war deaths, at least by a soldier who is standing right there.

Even directors who did not actually go to Vietnam were affected by the war, and it's amazing to see this powerful time in this country come across in what could easily be written off as just scary, gory horror movies. Good horror movies, but still nothing more than horror movies.

In some of the clips that were shown, such as scenes from one of Wes Craven's first films, The Last House on the Left, I was amazed at how intense the horror is. I've been watching a lot of horror movies lately, things like the Friday the 13th movies, Nightmare on Elm Streets, Halloween, Child's Play, Texas Chainsaw, etc, and have started to think that I had just outgrown that sick feeling of fear and almost nausea that I would get as a kid just from walking around in the horror section, like the real raw horror movies turned into campy gore-fests by the time I got to the age I am now, but man, I must be going to the wrong video stores.

There are some scenes shown in this movie that remind you what the real horror movies were like, back when they were meant to scare, not make tons of money. Back before the Japanese had to come in and show us how it's done, because we have obviously forgotten. Rob Zombie came out with House of 1000 Corpses last year, an underrated horror film that didn't set any box office records because it wasn't meant to. Like the directors in The American Nightmare, he is a lifelong horror fan and remembers what the real horror films were like. House of 1000 Corpses was his reminder to the world, now all these other directors are doing the same.

While I loved hearing the directors talk about their movies and I loved watching all of the clips from their films, all the while trying to compile a mental list of movies that I need to rent, I have to say that I found the legitimacy of these horror films in the context of the society in which they were created to be the most interesting part. You don't really think about horror movies having too much social value or meaning, but these movies, as they say, are clearly a product of their environment.

I found myself wondering at many points if we are going to see a new breed of horror directors eventually come home from Iraq…

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