Documentary Days: Nightmares in Red, White and Blue

Nightmares in Red White and Blue Movie Poster

The Man very graciously chose this one, partially because we both love horror flicks, and partially because I was not going to be dragged away from my computer otherwise. I had so much work to do last night, and I was halfheartedly planning to work through the night, getting home at 8:30pm and thinking I’d just power through until morning if needs be. Instead, I got home, did a little stuff online, then he gamely plugged in a documentary and poured me a glass of whiskey. My nose-to-the-grindstone self is disappointed, but my “gee, you really need to breathe once in awhile” self is very pleased right now. I needed an excuse to just veg for a bit, and this was a great movie upon which to “waste” that opportunity.

Nightmares in Red, White and Blue documents the American horror film industry from the late 1920s until around 2008 (the movie was made in 2009). The inimitable Lance Henriksen narrates, so from the get go you know it’s going to be great. The film breaks down films by decade, and attempts to explain how certain horror movie staples became more popular in different eras. Like other (real) reviewers, my biggest complaint was the fact that so many movies were fit into the documentary that it felt more like they were racing to recite names rather than discuss movie history. But in all it was neat to see things broken down into basic types. I’m all about ghost movies, which are by far not the most popular in America. Of all the horror movies discussed in this, most were monster or slasher, with Stephen King movies in the 80s and Vincent Price flicks in the 50s/60s bridging the divide by combining ghostly terrors with very human elements of madness and betrayal.

There were a few movies on the long list that I hadn’t watched and want to, and a few snippets of fun facts that I hadn’t previously heard, but overall it was recited information for me and The Man. Still, I loved the way they revisited whole decades of tales and sought to draw parallels between what was happening in the real world (WWII, atomic scares, Vietnam, commercialism, sexual revolution, etc.) and how the film industry appealed to watchers with tales that incorporated, mirrored, or otherwise tackled these topics. Throughout the movie, various writers, directors and producers talk a little about the impetuses behind their works, as well as the movies that scared them as children and how these initial terrors helped to influence their careers. One of my favorites was a scene from a movie called “The Jaguar Man” in which a young girl is killed by an escaped circus panther just at the threshold of her house, while her horrified mother, inside the house, tries in vain to open the rusty front door latch and save her daughter. Not necessarily the most frightening scene I’ve ever beheld, but masterful without being too revealing.

This is definitely one to watch if you enjoy American horror flicks. It even has 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes – and how often does that happen?

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