Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film

November 10, 2010 9:39 pm 4 comments

Tonight’s film is a documentary! The first one for this project. And boy do I have some meaningless opinions to dump on my readers. First, I suggest also watching this because, let’s face it, there are not a lot of documentaries specifically about American horror. Nightmares in Red, White and Blue attempts to show the evolution of American horror, beginning with Lon Chaney and continuing through the 2000’s.

First, let’s fire up the complaint department. The interviewee group as a whole is rather weak. Sure, some big directors are there: Romero, Corman, Carpenter, Dante all make appearances. But that is about it. No Wes Craven. No Sam Raimi. No new school awesomeness like Adam Green, unless you count Darren Lynn Bousman. Second, the documentary was really kind to the 2000’s. Nothing was mentioned about the trend to remake every f*cking movie ever. Rather glaring oversight if you ask me. Also, how is Friday the 13th not mentioned – AT ALL!

Onto the good. Anyone remember the horror “tribute” during the last Oscars? Ya know, the one that snuck in a bunch of Twilight clips. This movie doesn’t do that. Thank gravy. Nightmares covers a lot of good films and even some of the rarer (bad) ones as well. Homages are paid and paid well. Unfortunately, not enough time was spent on any one film or time period to do anything but whet the appetite. Basically, if you want to know which films to watch to get you started in horror, then this documentary would be a great starting place.

Final verdict: Interesting, but left me wanting much, much more. For new genre fans this will make for a good jumping off point. Also, Lance Henriksen narrates the film, and one thing I learned from horror movies is it’s best not to mess with Lance. Just watch it. Available on Netflix Instant.

Rating: 6/10

Snore Factor: ZZZ (It’s a history lesson!)

IMDB 2009


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  • Dave

    I thought the Doc was pretty decent, but only that. Then again I can’t help to compare it to An American Nightmare from IFC films. The focus is more narrow, American independent horror, but because of that, it’s a lot cleaner. It also has an atmosphere that feels like a horror film. It is by no means a history of horror, but a look into independent game changers.

  • Micah

    Yeah, they were just trying to cover too much with this one – still cool to have some newer decent docs on horror.

  • Closetvideos

    I ha seen sooooooooooo many Doc, On the old mastered I do not think any thing new can be said ? Hey what the heck they are still talking horror I would like you see some thing about the new crew that has been coming out with some good stuff! You get one good out of twenty bad these days. You can still count on the old stuff ?

  • Mister Authentic

    I watched this documentary, and I have to disagree with some of your notions. There was a ton of stuff regarding films way before the 2000s. Most of the documentary is on horror films dating within the 20th Century (that would be the 1900s). Also, the Friday the 13th franchise was mentioned…how could it not be? It’s the original revolutionary of slasher films. As for the trend in re-makes, that wasn’t directly mentioned, but it was heavily implied. They said themselves when talking about the remakes of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “The Hills Have Eyes”, “The Thing”, etc., they mentioned about how all these remakes have the general audience questioning the creativity of horror filmmakers…which they even explained. Lastly, I think the reason why they didn’t spend too much time on any one film is because the main purpose of this documentary is to talk about the evolution of the genre, not the films in particular.

    Now, please don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting you or your review completely down. Those were just the stuff I disagreed with. You did make some excellent points, especially when pointing out the absence of Raimi and Craven (which is ironic since the cover does depict the claws of Freddy Krueger). I didn’t really understand why they didn’t personally appear in this, they both play prominent roles in American horror films.

    Overall I do like this review. It definitely is a great piece to look at if you want to get an idea of how the horror film industry works and how they’ve been able to integrate so well with society. The interviewees give rather good insight on what drives them to produce the content they do, and it helps understand the genre a lot better. There are a lot of great titles mentioned if you’re someone looking to get into horror films (from classics to mayhems…like you mentioned lol). Sorry I wrote so much, I just like to give thorough constructive criticisms. Thanks for the review.