American Nightmare (2001) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's comments in white:

American Nightmare (2001) is listed at IMDB as still in production. Since it is being released on DVD next week, I would guess IMDB will get around to updating that status. At first blush, it is a teen slasher film, but is actually more of a suspense thriller. Several friends gather in a coffee shop on Halloween night, and call in to an outlaw radio program and confess their most deep-seated fears. They don't realize at the time that a crazed Goth named Jane Toppan (Debbie Rochon) is listening to their confessions, and will try to kill each of them that night, using their secret fears to double the pleasure, double the fun.

NUDITY REPORT

  • Debbie Rochon shows her breasts in a very frightening seduction scene.
  •  We also see breasts from Rebecca Stacey as she undresses, then takes a shower.

DVD info from Amazon.

Dreaming the Dark: A Making-of Documentary
Ghoultown's music video "Killer in Texas"
Full-screen format

Why does she do it? This is an example of why this film is fresh, despite having familiar themes. She does it because she is a crazy bitch. There is no long scene of explanation of her motives at the end.

Some of the murders are cleverly done. We learn the identity of the killer early on, so the "scare" is Hitchcockian suspense rather than startle fright. This is the first film from Jon Keeyes, and was made for $52 thousand on super 16 mm film, but has the look of a 35 mm production. Rochon was superb in the role, making the character believable. Sure there are plot problems, and some of the characters could have been better developed, but this is a very good first effort from Keeyes, especially given the budget, and is the best new slasher film in a while.

Scoop's notes in yellow:

I kinda liked it as well. It's no masterpiece, and the ending was disappointing, but it's a helluva production for 52 grand.

Tuna wrote the notes above nearly two years before I am writing this. I just finished watching Keeyes's second movie, Hallow's End, so I thought I'd go back and catch this one. Both films happen on Halloween, and both films feature a lot of "young adults just chatting" scenes, so Keeyes has got a whole career theme going here. In fact the central "hooks" of the two films are also pretty similar, in that each character met a designer fate. In Hallow's End, each teen turned into the character he portrayed for Halloween. In this movie, each teen was confronted with his or her self-confessed greatest fear.

I was much more impressed with this film than I was with Hallow's End.

  • I enjoyed the teen talk more in this one, since it was basically movie-geek talk. Keeyes is obviously a major fan of horror films in general, and 80s-style slasher/horror in particular.
  • The characters in Nightmare were more realistic than in Hallow's End. In fact, I thought that every character in Nightmare could have been a real person, saying real things, whereas some of the characters in Hallow's End seemed to come from another planet.
  • Colored lights and/or filtered shots are usually scenes to be dreaded, but Keeyes made excellent use of some blue lighting in American Nightmare to enhance the creepy world of the slasher's mind, as contrasted to the homey feel created by the warm golden hues that often bathed the kids when they were not threatened.
  • Hallow's End had no real capable star to anchor the cast, but Debbie Rochon is in Nightmare, and she is probably the best and most versatile actress in the entire grade-B world, now that Jillian McWhirter, the Streep of Shit, is basically retired. (Only one movie appearance since 1999).
  • American Nightmare has a great, stylish, opening credits sequence, and some beautiful, tightly-storyboarded editing throughout. Robert Castaldo, in addition to Keeyes's films, also edited Andy Anderson's offbeat little indy film, Learning Curve.

In both cases, I have to compliment the director for his ability to stretch a buck. Hallow's End also got a tremendous amount of mileage out of a small bankroll. If there are any producers out there who want to make some films economically, you could do much worse than to hire this guy.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+.

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