The Film: Nightmares in Red White and Blue (2010)
The Principles: Andrew Monument (Director). Lance Henriksen. Larry Cohen. Joe Dante. John Carpenter. Darren Lynn Bousman. Mick Garris. Tom McLoughlin. George Romero. Brian Yuzna. Dennis Fischer. Roger Corman. Tony Timpone
The Premise: “Between 2003 and 2008, 135 horror titles grossed nearly 3 billion dollars at the box office. Hundreds more were produced for home video, proving that the genre still has plenty of life blood and prompting some to wonder why American viewers are so obsessed with violence. How did we get here?” – Lance Henriksen
Is It Good: That quote is basically the thesis sentence in the pre-title introduction to the film. Not only does it sound superbadass coming out of Henrisken’s mouth, it also sort of throws down a gauntlet; that’s a big question that lots of people have devoted thousands of words to answering and Monument is attempting to answer it with 96 minutes, a bunch of talking heads and an extremely-well-casted narrator.
And calling it a thesis sentence is fitting because the whole thing plays like a research paper committed to film. There’s an incredibly academic approach to nearly everything here, analyzing and cross-referencing films and characters with the social climate of their respective eras, going all the way back to the 20s and working their way forward through everything. A really good example comes when we’re in the 70s and The Last House on the Left comes up. Rather than go on and on about the hyper-violence or Craven’s rebellious filmmaking/release antics, they focus on two scenes that speak to the humanity and social consciousness in the film that, while very often overlooked (or just flat-out ignored), are without a doubt there.
And while it’s true that that’s not the most revelatory thing in the world in terms of insightful film criticism, the fact remains that it’s all too easy for projects like this to turn into excited-but-ultimately-shallow celebrations of the genre. Monument aims higher and – for the most part – he hits his mark very well.
Is It Worth A Look: Definitely, but don’t let me completely oversell it. There are moments where it does indeed drift into superficial celebration (T&A montage cut to Spank’s “Let’s Make Love”), or loses its focus, or doesn’t really know what to do with a particular character or place in time. But considering how much they cover – and how well they cover it – those little detours are forgivable and fun. After all, the fact that it elicits both superficial celebration and insightful analysis is part of what makes horror one of the most beloved genres in practically every medium. The guys making this movie certainly love it, and it shows.
Random Anecdotes: The whole thing is an adaptation of a book by the same name written by a dude named Joseph Maddrey. I haven’t read it, but if the 96-minute adaptation is this in-depth and thorough then it’s a definite must-read.
Also, it still kind of blows my mind that they were able to cover as much as they did – as well as they did – in 90 minutes. That was mainly due to editing. Whomever sat down at the rig to put this thing together is a fucking champ.
They also manage to pull some insight and relevance out of the current spate of cash-grab remakes, which – granted – rings a little idealistic and positive-for-positivity’s-sake, but it still makes you stop and say “Hm,” which is a pretty cool thing in and of itself.
Cinematic Soulmates: Boogeymen. Never Sleep Again. Halloween: The Inside Story. Going to Pieces. American Grindhouse. The American Scream. American Scary.