PLEASE NOTE: “As an Amazon Associate, [Need Coffee] earns from qualifying purchases." You know we make money from Amazon links,
and I know you know this, but they make us say it anyway. More info, click here.

The American Nightmare (2001) – DVD Review



Written and Directed by: Adam Simon
Starring: John Carpenter, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Tobe Hooper, John Landis, George A. Romero, Tom Savini

Released by: Docurama
Region: 1
Rating: NR (some disturbing images)
Anamorphic: No.

My Advice: Rent it.

Is the turmoil felt throughout America in the late 60s and the 70s responsible for some of the best horror movies in history? Ehhhhhh, could be. That’s the premise behind this docu, which provides really choice interviews with some of the biggest names of cinematic horror. Each director focuses mostly on a single film (although Dawn of the Dead is mentioned briefly in addition to Romero‘s Night) with Landis there not really to give any insight on any of his films but merely to provide additional commentary on everybody else’s.

[ad#longpost]Some of the highlights include Tom Savini discussing his time as a photographer in Vietnam (some of his stills are shown, some of the most graphic bits in the film) and how it provided him with a veritable makeup school in the field: when someone’s blown open in front of you, you usually find more out about anatomy than you’d ever care to. John Carpenter, whose Halloween featured all the overly touchy-feely kids getting whacked, apologized for unknowingly causing the end of the sexual revolution–quite amusing. Most amusing of all is the sheer rampant glee with which Landis lends everything, he’s talking about–no matter how disturbing. You’ve also got some talking heads there to discuss the cinematic importance of the films in question, and how they relate to life in American. Simon underscores this by juxtaposing real-life footage of events in the time period to bits from the films in question.

And that’s probably the biggest weak spot in this whole thing: Simon isn’t content to let the similarities kind of seep their way into your brain pan–he wants to hammer it home by showing extended montage after extended montage of horror movie footage and real-life stuff. The viewer wants to say, “Look, we get it–we got it the moment the title card came up–can we get back to the interviews, please?” It’s also dependent on you to have seen all the movies in question, otherwise you’ll be pissed as almost all the endings for the films are given away.


For the most part, though, the content here is so good that you come away from the film wanting more of it. Granted, it doesn’t successfully put across its underlying thesis about horrors in the real world spawning horrors in the minds of these directors–but apart from the overuse of the montages, it doesn’t want to press the thing home. If you take that more as a guideline within which these guys can just meander over their thoughts about these particular movies, you won’t be disappointed. Lack of features is a bit of a disappointment, though: bonus unused footage from the interviews would have been nice, or even a filmography for each of the featured directors would have been a good idea–but nada.

Fans of horror films will want to give it a rental, as it does something very rare: it treats the genre with respect, which is as it should be.

Where to Find Stuff