like most documentaries of its kind, nightmares in red, white and blue is the equivalent to 101 introductory courses, in that it has very little time to cover a lot of grounds without very much details and specifics. as the title suggest, it focuses on american horror films (i suppose it could be horror films from australia, the u.k., france, the netherlands, iceland…etc but it’s not).
as a cheerleader for the horror genre, nightmares in red, white and blue covers 100 years of horror films from silent to present. narrated by lance henriksen, it only interviews eight horror filmmakers (+2 film historians, +1 douche) who not only speaking from experiences but also explore audiences fascination with the horror genre, tying the horror films of the day to their concurrent political, social, and historical scenes. this is actually interesting for most of the documentary, it gets less and less relevant, however, as the film moves chronologically to the contemporary, where messages in films such as the freddy krugers, the jasons, the blair witch, the saw movies, or the hostels seem, to me, non-existent.
there are some interesting tidbits and anecdotes from the filmmakers. there are also some glaring omissions: for a documentary emphasizing the importance/messages of horror films, the incidental casting of duane jones as the protagonist in night of the living dead was left unmentioned. also missing: ed wood, wes craven, stephen king, john landis, david cronenberg, clive barker, chucky, rob zombie, dimension films…etc. on the other hand, it features clips from chaplin’s immigrant, birth of a nation, psycho 4: the beginning, long montages of the elm street/friday the 13th series. there are also some unnecessary zooms of already average quality interview footages. it does contains some rare gems of some not so famous horror films, william castle’s illusion-o/percepto (think james cameraon and 3d), and hitchcock trailers.
what’s most interesting to me is mick garris’ point that horror films in the 50s (the atomic bomb scare sci-fi pictures) were spectacles, which then turn inward into more internal human dramas(psycho, rosemary’s baby…) turn back to the spectacles (read: gore & special effects) in the 80s. it seems to me that it’s been stuck there ever since. and no, douchebags with handheld/digital cams do not count as internal human drama, even if they don’t contain any gore. personally, i prefer internal drama to spectacles. especially since nowadays gorefest spectacles are a dime a dozen, which in turn cheapens the spectacles aspect. it is also interesting to me that the most classic/straight horror films were made in the republican eras(the 70s horror, the 80s political horror), whereas democratic administrations produce one straight horror flops after another while satirical horror(scream, scary movie) thrive. must be those hollywood liberals. what’s least interesting? the offensive claim that the fangoria editor and the film historian involving osama bin laden, the wars, and the news on tv to justify the increasing gore and shock value in modern horror films, over footages of the hills have eyes 2 and the remake of the texas chainsaw massacre. attentive viewers will also notice the quote from fangoria magazine raving this documentary.
overall, it’s a decent greatest hits album: perfect for non-horror fan like me, and comfortable enough for horror fanatics. they got a less douchier douche instead of boss douche eli roth. and as opposed to the last film documentary i saw, there’s no ll cool j talking about how he imitated bruce lee in the renny harlin movie mindhunters.
p.s. start a drinking game from the start and do a shot every time a film clip shown of a film that has been remade (two shots if a film has been remake twice), no one could make it to the end of the movie.