Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film (2009) Review

One from the To Watch Pile…



Film: Even though their releases are hit and miss, I am always willing to giving Australian company Monster Pictures a go. Sometime I get a gem like   All Through The House, other times I am kicked in the nuts with trash like Pod, but I still feel that support is important.

On a few occasions, Monster Pictures will release a documentary ABOUT films, like Andrew Leavold’s The Search for Weng Weng, the unusual film about Richard Franklin’s descent into madness Lost Souls, and this, the more mainstream horror based doco about the American horror film, Nightmares in Red White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film.

Now I am a massive fan of documentaries about film, and site The History of Film TV series as my second favourite TV series of all time (the first is Doctor Who, the third is Criminal Minds) and I am a regular viewer of other docos like Video Nasties, Channel Z, Not Quite Hollywood, Machete Maidens Unleashed, Rewind This et cetera.

I think the reason I am so interested in these documentaries is because I am somewhat of a frustrated filmmaker myself, and would love to make docos!

Now the history of horror films would be a TV series unto itself as so many countries have a massive horror film industry themselves, so this one egotistically narrows its focus solely on the American horror film.

The film is narrated by horror icon Lance Henrickson, and features interviews with various directors like Joe Dante (The ‘Burbs), George Romero (Land of the Dead ), Brian Yuzna (Beyond Re-animator), John Carpenter (Halloween (1978), Larry Cohen (The Stuff), Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II), Mick Garris (Riding the Bullet), Tom McLoughlin (Sometimes They Come Back) and Roger Corman (trust me, you’ve seen a Corman film), as well as film historians John Kenneth Muir and Dennis Fischer and ex-Fangoria editor in chief Tony Timpone.


This is a pretty good movie, though as the title would suggest, its very insular and outside a couple of mentions of what is happening in the overseas film industries, it talks repeatedly about what was happening in America, to Americans (though apparently Canada is America now, according to the Cronenberg mentions) and how the various world wars effected Americans and the American horror film industry.

That’s a minor criticism though and the documentary takes a fleeting look at the entire history of American horror from the dawn of cinema appearing in America to Universal Monsters, to thrillers, savage cinema, slashers, zombies: you name it.

This documentary also looks at the highs and lows of the industry, and how the ‘real’ world (whatever that is these days) effects the quality and tone of horror films.

Horror movie fans will love the fact that this film doesn’t hold back on the violence and blood: obviously the director, Andrew Monument and writer, Joseph Maddrey (also the writer of the book on white this was based) know where the bread and butter of the genre usually is; you know, that surface interest before the story or acting or direction becomes and appeal.


The real shame in this film is the lack of female discussion: no women directors, historians, journalists or actresses get a say here which I found unusual, considering how great their presence has become, and how important both sexes are to the genre. Seriously, Rue Morgue, the wonderful horror magazine was at its best when under the control of now-director Jovanka Vukovic, surely someone like her or her contemporaries (like Monica S. Kuebler or Rebekah McKendry or April Snellings or any of the other wonderful female voices in horror)  would have had something important to say.

Even over that, I enjoyed this documentary and am happy to have it in my collection of docos about horror films.

Score: ***1/2


Disc: This region 4 DVD release from Monster Pictures runs for roughly 96 minutes and is presented in a 16×9 image of varying quality, which is not entirely fair as some of the footage is from old films but some of the interview do have some noise on their image, and the audio is presented in an entirely functional Dolby Digital 2.0.

Score: ***

Extras: Not a sausage.

Score: 0

WISIA: I have no doubt that I’ll watch this again as I do re-watch horror documentaries regularly.


The ‘Burbs (1989) Review


From the re-watch pile…

THE ‘BURBS (1989)



Film:  Joe Dante has always been somewhat of a hero to me. I haved always admired his love of cinema and his associated knowledge, and even though I am well and truly a fan of horror, I do have a michevious child trapped inside me, and in general, Dante’s films speak to that kid.

He directed some of my favourite films as a teen, like The Howling, Gremlins and Innerspace, and continues to entertain me with films of a similar vibe, like The Hole and Burying the Ex. I like that his films have this odd polluted wholesomeness to them.

The ‘Burbs was released in 1989 and is a story about suspicion, and what can happen when it gets in the way of facts. Is it a microcosm of society that may have morew relevance today than ever before?

What would I know? I’m a nerd who collects toys, reads comics and watches movies!!!


Anyway, The ‘Burbs tells of a quiet street where Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks) live with his wife Carol ( Carrie Fisher) and their son, Dave (Cory Danziger), and this week, Ray has decided to take a week off to relax!

The problem is, is that Ray is quite highly strung, and is easily led astray by his friend Art (Rick Ducommun) and Mark (Bruce Dern), the paramilitary nutjob who lives across the street, and the three of them are suspicious of their new neighbours, the Klopeks (Henry Gibson, Brother Theodore and Courtney Gains), and think they may be part of a satanic cult or are serial killers…

When one of the older members of the neighbourhood suddenly goes missing, the three cook up a scheme to find out what the Klopeks are up too… but are the Klopeks the REAL danger, or is presumption and suspicion the REAL villain here…?ejudices and presumptions of ‘normal’ folk…



Through his amazing cast and efficient filmmaking, Dante has created a fun dark comedy that really works, and feels timeless. The story rolls along at quite the clip, but that could be that we, as the voyeuristic viewer is getting caught up with all the stickybeaking… we love to know each other’s business, right? This could also happen as some of the stereotypes are very familiar.

Tom Hanks plays his role as manic as he did in these days, before he became a ‘serious actor’, and there is a special appearance by Dick Miller ( who no doubt is playing ‘Walter Paisley), but the people who really nail their roles are The Klopeks. Within the confines of the film, and its environment, Dante has made them the perfect straight men to the apparent insanity of us normal folks. Special mention needs to go to Brother Theodore who seems like an evil monk in his role.

This isn’t top tier Dante, but it is an enjoyable watch.

Score: ***1/2




Disc: This region B Australian bluray release is presented in a slightly above average 1.77:1 image with a decent 2.0 audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Only two extras on this disc: a trailer and an alternate ending which was far weaker and had some real ham-fisted dialogue.

Score: **