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American Nightmare

American Nightmare: The Review

Directed By: Adam Simon
Featuring (Documentary): John Carpenter, Carol J. Clover, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Tom Gunning, Tobe Hooper, John Landis, Adam Lowenstein, George A. Romero and Tom Savini

I recently attended the Toronto International Film Festival (2000) and made sure that I had a seat for this movie. I mean, a documentary about the fathers of modern horror filmmaking? It was pretty much a given. The director, Adam Simon was in attendance at the screening and enthusiastically introduced his picture. The concept of the film came from a series of vignettes that ran when the Toronto Film Festival was in its infancy. These were short clips about 1950's horror films and their influence on our pop culture. Twenty years later, Simon has managed to capture the essence of the modern horror film. The documentary is cut into sections with each featured director (speakers include John Carpenter, Wes Craven and George Romero) relating their experiences leading up to the inspiration and execution of their early works. (Tobe Hooper reminiscing about the very moment The Texas Chainsaw Massacre popped into his head is priceless.)

Beginning with Romero's visionary The Night of the Living Dead in 1968 and extending ten years to Carpenter's Halloween, the film that set the slasher flick movement that still lingers today in motion, the timeline of the modern horror film is laid out. Other guest speakers include John Landis (American Werewolf In London), goremeister Tom Savini and several authors and university professors that share their thoughts on what these movies meant to them in their youth.

But to me, what is interesting is the parallels that can be drawn from these movies. Night of the Living Dead, a metaphor for the Vietnam War and the turmoil it caused, not just overseas, but back home in the United States? David Cronenberg's 1975 film Shivers, an allegory for the sexual revolution? Dawn of the Dead, a comment on the new found economic surplus of the 1970's? While these proclamations may seem farfetched here, when the movies are juxtaposed with images of these historic events, the connection is undeniable.

This movie is an enthralling experience for anyone who has enjoyed watching horror movies, since before they were allowed to. In closing, I'll just leave you with another intriguing question the movie provokes. When you are watching your next scary or gory horror flick, think to yourself: Why am I watching this? What parts of this am I enjoying? and what kind of person am I for finding this interesting?

Copyright© Written By: Tom Servo

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Evil Ash

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