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The American Nightmare

1 rating: 5.0
A movie directed by Adam Simon

Legendary horror directors reveal the inspirations behind their groundbreaking films of the 1960s and '70s in this thought-provoking documentary from filmmaker Adam Simon. Through film clips and interviews, masters of mayhem George Romero, Tobe Hooper, … see full wiki

Director: Adam Simon
Genre: Documentary
Release Date: 2000
MPAA Rating: Unrated
1 review about The American Nightmare

American Nightmare an unsettling dream

  • Nov 22, 2003
Pros: WOW - plethora of information

Cons: disturbing insights

The Bottom Line: _________________

If you ever wondered, ‘What were they possibly thinking when they made that movie?’, then this is the documentary for you. This Independent Film Release was written & directed by Adam Simon and runs 73 minutes. The documentary DVD extras carry only the scene selection, trust me, nothing else is needed. Adam Simon isn’t a novice to the field, he was responsible for a few of those B-movies himself, especially the miserable Carnosaur.

As an avid ‘monster movie’ watcher I have often wondered where they come up with ideas and sometimes even figured that because of the depth of the work done, some of it had to be based on fact. To call the works of these men monster movies is based on my own thought that man is the most hideous monster of all.

Others call these movies horror, B-movie, slash-n-dash, etc. To me they are and will always be monster movies. My questions were finally answered through the interviews with these famous writers, directors, and make-up artists. I can’t say I was pleased with the results, but I wasn’t surprised. There are also a few college professors interviewed, which I found totally interesting.

Throughout the docudrama (‘everything else is just fiction’ is their tag line) there are many sobering shots that interplay with the movies these men are responsible for. Most shots you will find deal with war, most notably the Vietnam conflict because that is the time these men were growing up, becoming aware, watching and learning.

Tom Savini, noted for his outstanding FX but also as an actor, director and make-up artist, showed a picture of himself in battle gear in Nam, then patiently began to explain how he came up with the idea of showing a corpse with a detached arm. He said he felt removed from the actual gore, the truth, of the man he saw lying on the road because he was looking through a camera at him and in his mind he was devising an make-up or FX event. I found that chilling.

Wes Craven concentrated mostly on his film Last House on the Left. He explained how he arrived at the idea, never realizing how out of control the film was getting, never comprehending the total impact the film would have.

This was followed with an interview with Professor Carol J. Clover, (Berkeley, Film Studies, Rhetoric & Scandavian) who told how shocked and yet in awe she was of this film. It was this particular film that moved her to become involved in the entire film industry and study all its nuances. She discusses several of the films and directors shown throughout the movie.

George Romero discussed Night of the Living Dead. The movie clips were interspersed with shots of civil rights violence and the Kent State shooting. When you listen to him explain the particular stages of the movie in comparison to these live news clips, you look at this movie in a different light entirely. Romero also disclosed his thoughts on growing up during the ‘Cold War’ era when we had a weekly alert at school and when the alarm sounded, we huddled under our desks until the all clear sounded. I had forgotten these episodes, it’s true, we grew up enmeshed in fear for our lives, little wonder these people went on to transfer these fears to film.

Romeros’ interview was followed with an insert by Asst. Professor Adam Lowenstein (Pittsburgh, English & Film Studies) who stated this movie was shown at his Bar Mitzvah. He quipped that all sorts of kosher rules were broken with that viewing. I found Prof. Lowenstein, though young, very insightful in film studies and insights into the business. He also discussed several other films and directors.

John Carpenter focused on Halloween and as he states, he caused the end of the American sexual revolution with that film.

Director John Landis and Professor Tom Gunning (Chicago, Art History, Cinema & Media Studies) step forward often with their thoughts and ideas on the different films and directors, as well as the impact on the American public.

Tobe Hooper of course went with Texas Chainsaw Massacre although he says he got the idea from weird stories he heard from his parents about the strange man that lived nearby and made masks from human faces and lampshades from human skin. I would assume he is referring to Ed Gein although it is never specified.

Canadian David Cronenberg walked into The American Nightmare with his introduction of Shivers.

You may have noticed an underlying theme here, or time frame. These movies were all from the 70’s, when the world was most vulnerable and naive. These men drew these movies from their life experiences, from that they viewed around them every day. That is a scary thought, much scarier than an 80’ lizard with radioactive breath, in my book.

This is a must watch for a movie buff, a monster buff, a horror buff or even someone interested in the development of the human psyche.

Thanks Psychovant for adding this little ditty for me



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