American Nightmare [2002]

Genre: Documentary, Horror
The explosion of gruesome horror cinema in the wake of George Romero's Night of the Living Dead is explored in this serious documentary, which has a welcome respect for an easily derided genre. A few academics make piquant observations (no film critics, although Robin Wood pioneered this line of thinking years ago), but mostly we hear from the filmmakers themselves: Romero, John Carpenter (on Halloween), Wes Craven (Last House on the Left), Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and David Cronenberg (Shivers). The directors focus on those films, not their entire careers, which limits the scope of the movie. Juxtapositioning newsreel horrors with movie scenes introduces provocative ideas about where horror comes from, but also feels a little facile. Unexpected bonus: the enthusiasm of John Landis, in describing the out-of-kilter experience of watching these affronts to good taste, and suggesting why they thrill as well as scare us. --Robert Horton

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