REVIEW: An American Terror
– By Sooz Webb
High school sucks right? The Jocks, the Nerds, everyone milling about in a cesspit of hate fueled by hormones. Three lads at the end of their tether hatch a plan to escape the shitegeist of their situation, as well as leaving an unmistakable mark on their peers, in the perception shifting An American Terror from Heitmann Entertainment & Tao Engine Philms.
Tired of being used as human punching bags, Ray, Josh and Sammy decide the best course of action is to go full Columbine, to ensure that the High School Prom ends with a bang. Big Badda Boom style. Exchanging confetti for pipe bombs, they plan every single detail of their nefarious scheme to minute detail. Hitting a snag in proceedings, they realize the only thing missing from their perceived chance at immortality, is any form of serious fire power. Luckily however, the trio have stumbled upon a local Redneck, who’s happy to advertise his passion for guns through the marketing prowess of bumper stickers. Figuring they’ve hit the jackpot, Ray and Josh head out to raid the hicks hideout, leaving Sammy to Martha Stewart up the rest of their arsenal.
Now, up until this point, I was pretty uninterested in watching a film about three kids who intended to cause mass slaughter, just because life had got a bit crappy. It’s a topic that’s been explored more than a few times, and frankly, there hadn’t been enough character or plot development to engage my sympathies. All we’d seen was the guys taking a beating at the hands of bullies. Something I’m sure pretty much most of the world has experienced, and yet refrained from going postal. This was followed by a montage of rocking out to heavy music, playing violent video games, and frankly adhering to ‘outsider-turned-homicidal-maniac’ style cliches, which had me rolling my eyes, and generally getting huffy. Well. I shouldn’t be such a judgemental arsehole should I? Because this film does a full narrative twist, becoming something else completely. It was so left-field, I did not see it coming. But from that point on: I. Was. Hooked!
So, without trying to spoil the film toooo much, let’s just say that Ray and Josh’s exploration of the hillbilly residence get’s a wee bit grindhouse with a soupcon of torture porn thrown in for good measure. We also get an 80’s horror style big bad, in the masked, silent, killing with no motive, ‘it’s all shits and giggles to me’ vein. Unfortunately, like said terrorizers of the past, he does lack a sense of danger, in that ambly-shambly kind of way, except for when he’s up close and personal. That’s when the real poop your pants moments happen. This is heightened through the awesome soundtrack, which helps to build tension and fits the tone of the film with it’s punk rock aesthetic.
Visually, it’s a great looking movie. Sometimes it was little too dark to understand exactly what was happening, but in the main the grimy horrors were all too clear. The use of SFX and occasional gross out moment, for a production with a pretty small budget, were something old school Peter Jackson would be proud of. A couple of sound issues to start off with, meant some fuzzy chit-chat at the top of the film, but that all got cleared up pretty sharpish, and the editing was pacey enough to help move the plot along at breakneck speed. Stellar performances from Graham Emmons and Louise Macdonald are emotional and engaging, drawing us into the plight of these unfortunate teens, as we will them along to get the hell out of dodge. The only real gripe I have, and I know I’m being picky, is the overuse of the word dude. The word in itself is fine, it was just littered throughout the script and became slightly irritating at one point. I understand it was a means to imply friendship, but honestly I was relieved when something brutal happened to quash the bro-speak. But that is a tiny quibble in otherwise spot-on dialogue.
Captivating and gory, An American Terror is imaginative and full of surprises, with an unpredictable storyline that gleefully subverts any notions you may have of how things are going to play out. A lesson in judgement, and a reminder that when you’re at your darkest, there is always someone out there who would challenge you for that crown.
An American Terror will be available from March 6th from iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/movie/an-american-terror/id1200923406