Thursday, October 9, 2014

Halloween Movie Month: Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue

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

This documentary is exactly what the title says - the evolution of the American horror film.  Starting with Thomas Edison's adaptation of Frankenstein and going all the way up to modern (as of when the documentary was made) horror, Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue discusses the implications of horror and how it mirrors the fears of society.

I really enjoyed this documentary. It pretty much encapsulates why I love horror. Not for the blood and the gore, but for the societal and psychological commentaries. Sure, there are plenty of people out there who love horror movies for just the sex and gore. And there are people out there who love horror because of twisted pleasures. But, there are also plenty of people out there like me. They enjoy the message. Some people might argue “well, if it's just the message you like, then why do you have to watch horror?” And I think that it's because horror films let you get away with showing more of the gritty side of humanity. There are some dramas that get into the dark side of humanity, but when it comes to movies that are marketed for more of a mainstream audience, they are not able to go as deep into the concepts and into the meanings. There are plenty of other independent films (not horror) that accomplish this as well. But, still, there is just something about horror movies. They play on the Jungian archetypes and collective nightmares. Since my background is in psychology, I am continually fascinated by what it means to be human - the good and the bad.

I recently had a conversation about the difference between horror, gore, and startle.  Some people will talk about how scary a movie was, but all that really means is that there were some startling scenes.  Other people will talk about how scary a movie was, but it really just means that there was a lot of blood and gore.  But when it comes to horror (true horror) - that is something that will stay with you for a while.  True horror plays on real fears.  It shines a light on the horrors of mankind.  One of the quotes from the documentary talks about these horrors, saying "ordinary men (are) turned outwardly monstrous by cruel fate and turned inwardly monstrous by the cruelty of men."  The concept was described another way as two different types of ghost stories told around a fire:  one where the warning is about the evil "out there" and the other is where the warning is about the evil within yourself.   I think that when it comes to horror versus gore and startle, it is the evil within that has the biggest impact on creating true horror.  While it might not always be easy to kill the monsters in horror movies, it is even more difficult to confront and slay our own internal struggles.

Even though the conversations themselves are clean (I do not remember much, if any, swearing), there is a lot of footage shown from various horror movies - and that footage does not shy away from the nudity and gore that is found in many horror movies.  So, even though the discussions are appropriate for people who might not be fans of horror, the footage that is shown might still be upsetting to them.

The biggest complaint that I have is that this documentary does give away some of the endings of some of the movies. While there are some movies that knowing the end will not spoil the experience of watching the film, there are some movies where the ending is the most important part.  That being said...the majority of endings that are discussed are from movies that are at least a decade old.  So, yes, there are some spoilers.  But, they are on movies that you most likely already have some level of familiarity, or movies that you have already decided that you will never watch.

Rating/Recommendation:  4/5.  Definitely add this one to your Netflix queue.  This documentary was intellectual, educational, entertaining, and thought provoking.  If you watch it with anyone who is a fan of movies, or anyone who enjoys philosophical conversations about the nature of humanity, you are almost guaranteed to have an engaging conversation after the movie.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I love talking about movies. And when it comes to horror movies, the conversations that I enjoy having are the ones about the meanings. I generally do not enjoy conversations about “did you see all that blood???” because I have found that those conversations generally do not go anywhere and get really boring really quick. So, as we go through the rest of Halloween Movie Month, share with me how the movies I review play on your fears and societal views. Or, just enjoy them for a good scream.

Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!

-The Gargyle

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