When I saw the cover art for An American Terror, my immediate thought was “leather man killer!” When I saw a clip in the trailer with the word “FAGS” painted on a car in a high school parking lot, I thought my suspicions were confirmed; bullied teen shows the jocks what it really feels like to be a fag!
But then I started watching the movie. Indeed, there were jocks bullying a trio of outsiders. So the three outsiders start watching violent films and obsessing over school killers on the news while plotting to get their revenge, with raucous thrash metal serving as a soundtrack. I groaned. Was this going to be another All the Boys Love Mandy Lane or The Final? Yeah. We get it. Kids are the monsters. Ooh. Scary.
But director Haylar Garcia flipped that lame horror genre the bird. Sure, the movie looks like it’s going to document the circumstances and psychological mindsets that trigger kids to shoot up their schools, but things take an insane turn into genuine horror movie territory while giving a whole new perspective on school shooters.
Before they can enact their revenge, the outsiders end up in an underground torture lair with a psychopath! Despite looking like a leather muscle queen in the cover art, the terrorizer is a big bear of a redneck who wears a bizarre leatherman/bird drag hybrid getup, drags pretty young things into his lair, and uses complex and bizarre contraptions to mutilate bodies…even dead bodies. WTF? He also feels up his burly pecs and ripe nipples, watches Woody Woodpecker cartoons, and I think it might be suggested that he fucks a little stuffed doll before rolling over and going to bed….
An American Terror manages to be scary, tense, and unpredictable without becoming a throwaway torture porn despite the direction it appears things are going. Props to director Haylar Garcia for predominantly implying the horrific situation through the surroundings rather than showing it through actions.
And just when you think you know what horror subgenre you’ve entered, the final act takes yet another crazy turn that brings everything full circle, even tossing in some understated, snarky humor.
Seriously, if you are looking for something different in the horror genre, An American Terror is the way to go. Rather than being about the killer’s motivation, the film explores the varying levels of anger and hatred individuals carry, how they manage those feelings, how life experiences can change perspective…and whose humanity will or won’t be shaken through it all.
And I really can’t finish this blog without pointing out that Mohawked leading man Graham Emmons is a cutie!