MOVIE REVIEW: AN AMERICAN TERROR / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: HAYLAR GARCIA / SCREENPLAY: HAYLAR GARCIA / STARRING: JOE ABPLANALP, TAYLOR HULETT, GRAHAM EMMONS, LOUISE MACDONALD, MICHAEL HASKINS / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Driven by revenge against their high school bullies, Josh (Emmons), Sammy (Hulett) and Ray (Abplanalp) formulate a plan to massacre them at a school dance. When scouting a mysterious man’s trailer for weapons, Josh sees a popular cheerleader being held captive in the man's lair and, as a result, tries to rescue her and stop Sammy from carrying out their plan. On the one hand, the idea of bullied teenagers committing massacres at their school draws parallels to real life school terror shootings like Columbine and Isla Vista, whilst also drawing parallels to films like Elephant, Bowling for Columbine and We Need to Talk About Kevin. On the other hand, films like Saw and the Hostel movies loom over the horror aspect of the film.
Even though the film is very cine-literate and is aware of both the subject matter and the genre it’s referencing, An American Terror, in the end, feels like two stories clumsily merged. One minute it starts off with the main characters planning the high school massacre, then it instantly becomes a horrific splatter movie, and then during its climax it goes back to conclude the high school massacre story. It ultimately feels like a weird juxtaposition between the two stories, and you feel like they should have had their own separate movies to accommodate them, but kudos to the filmmakers for having a go at combining the two together.
The set design is pretty solid, with the teenagers’ hideout feeling like a representation of their repressed anger and hatred with the dark lighting reflecting that brilliantly. Similarly, the mysterious Junker’s torture chamber/lair feels like a horrific menagerie of darkness, rust, blood, and mutilated skin that wouldn’t look too out of place next to the torture porn aesthetics of Eli Roth’s Hostel movies, but this is all down to both Kenneth H. Jones’ and Anton Fresco’s impressive set design and cinematography.
The performances are perfectly fine with Graham Emmons’ calm and controlled antihero being a complete contrast to Joe Abplanalp’s unhinged and psychotic troublemaker. Louise MacDonald gives a very sympathetic and human portrayal of the cheerleader victim-cum-final girl, and she’s strangely like Hayden Panettiere from TV’s Heroes. Are both of them related?
Even though An American Terror has a deep message, passable performances, and solid production values, it still feels like an odd amalgamation of two opposing films sitting awkwardly against each other. Whether this was a good idea remains to be seen, but it’s an admirably ambitious risk to take nevertheless.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10
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