If men utilize their strength to overcome certain situations, women use their charm. Debbie Rochon knows it very well. Her character is interesting because she has no reason to kill, other than pure craziness. Thanks to her sometimes evil, sometimes angelical, face in the lead role, this very low budget film succeeds in capturing our attention.
The actors, excluding Debbie, are not the usual super-models. They are under-average in terms of attractiveness, thinness yet seem more intelligent than your usual clichéd group.
That is an interesting thought but it still doesn’t make me happy. I feel that they teenagers act as if they were as attractive as the stars of other slashers. Isn’t it true that the low budget didn’t allow for exceptional beauties? Anyhow, there are other things to appreciate even though it is difficult to be attached to the characters.
To the voice of Caligari, the radio show is the link between all the murders. The seven friends, as it appears, know everything on horror movies and the film constantly references scenes from other successful flicks. For example: the heroine baby-sits on the night of Halloween (Halloween), we have a variant of the shower scene (Psycho), a group meets in an art-deco café (Urban Legends), stressful telephone calls (Scream), murders around a fire in the woods (Friday the 13th) and ending that ressembles Valentine.
American Nightmare is even more of an ode to horror movies than Scream, but using the same tricks. Scream’s advantage is that it featured a balance of references and new material. This is exactly American Nightmare’s weak point. The violence is suggested but in a rather skillful manner. The actors are good yet not intense enough. The idea of the radio station is probably the most interesting one because they will regret having said so much about their fears. Jane, the killer, is revealed in the beginning of the movie so it is not a murder-mystery for us, but it still is for the victims.
On a more negative note : the murders were a bit crude, in my opinion ; especially the one related to the fear of voodoo. It is also the worst part of the movie: illogical, too complicated and practically impossible to plan out, regardless of the assassin’s IQ. At one moment, Jane kidnaps the child the heroin babysits and releases her once she has gotten her attention. However, no one intervenes regardless of the fact that she is crazy and possibly armed with a knife. This mistake can also be felt in other moments in the movie: very annoying. The ending is hard to predict and accept but it is not conventional.
One thing has to be underlined, whether we like American Nightmare or not. Despite its low budget, the quality of the image, the lighting, sound effects and editing in American Nightmare don't seem to suffer much. We may have the feeling we are watching a newborn in Hollywood but, in my opinion, Jon Keeyes is a name that is soon to be known by all horror fans.