AN AMERICAN TERROR ** USA 2014 Dir: Haylar Garcia. 85 mins
Opening with a quote from Charles Manson and a title sequence encompassing everything from archival news footage to Tod Browning’s FREAKS and Bela Lugosi, this indie horror picture borrows its stylistic and thematic tics from directors as diverse as Gus Van Sant, Oliver Stone and Eli Roth.
It’s the umpteenth movie, in and out of the horror genre, to find inspiration in the Columbine massacre of 1999 (it even unfolds in a Colorado high school), and initially plays out like a glum variant of Van Sant’s ELEPHANT as it follows three underwritten, alienated teenagers plotting revenge against their tormentors. Their journey to obtain the necessary weaponry unwittingly leads them into an elaborate torture chamber overseen by an absurdly masked, barrel-chested, doll-molesting deviant played by X FILES veteran Brian Thompson. While the elliptical, pop culture-referencing montages echo NATURAL BORN KILLERS, the tonal switch nods to FROM DUSK TILL DAWN and the overall air of pretentiousness trivialises the original tragedy. Some inventive gore and a fine punk soundtrack can’t overcome the depressingly familiar detour into torture movie territory and the empty, clichéd portrait of disaffected youth by a fortysomething filmmaker.
Review by Steven West
Available on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/movie/an-american-terror/id1200923406