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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Filmmaking > Horror > The American Nightmare (Horror Documentary)

The American Nightmare (Horror Film Documentary/Docurama)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Documentary: B



The last golden age of Horror Cinema that began in 1968 thanks to George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead and Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, but they are not exactly the same kind of film within the genre.  Romero’s film is a B-movie that did huge business, while Polanski’s is an A-level production that was the expected hit.  Both became classics, but The American Nightmare (2003) focuses on the cycle of low-budget classics Romero helped to spawn.


In its too-short 73 minutes, the film takes on key films from Romero, Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, John Carpenter and even John Landis.  What is peculiar is that three of the key figures of the era are ignored and missing.  Whether it is because they did not want to participate is unknown at posting time, but Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, God Told Me To), Brian De Palma (Sisters, Carrie) and Bob Clark (Deathdream, Black Christmas; reviewed elsewhere on this site) are very conspicuously absent.  Where these films too subversive, too intense, or just not hip enough to be part of a stereotypical cult of Horror since the 1980s that has developed?


The program still makes the connection between societal chaos and what was in all these films that hit a nerve.  Like Cronenberg, Clark was from Canada, so being an “American” was not a requirement for being featured.  What is here is still a great start and a must-see for any serious film fan, especially if Horror is their favorite genre.  The ideas and insight offered here are not heard enough, also including some well-spoken experts and make-up legend Tom Savini.  We would also recommend getting Robin Wood’s book Hollywood – From Vietnam To Reagan & Beyond… which is reviewed elsewhere on this site.


The letterboxed 1.78 X 1 is not bad, but too bad this was not anamorphically enhanced.  With that said, the clips of Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre look better here than they do on the anniversary DVD reviewed elsewhere on this site.  The other clips are not bad as compared to the best DVD out there, and Dawn Of The Dead and Halloween are also covered on this site.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is simple and without any surrounds, unfortunately, but all of these films were originally monophonic.  There are no extras, but there was more that could have fit here.  However, it is a key film documentary worth catching, even if it is too short and incomplete.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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