Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mass Vengeance Gone Wrong: An American Terror (2014)

An American Terror (2014)
Rating: ***
Starring: Joe Abplanalp, Troy Alan, Graham Emmons

If this movie was made around the late 90s, I’m dang sure this would have fared better. Or worse depending on how you see it.

Josh lives a pretty uneventful yet troubled life as an outcast; he wakes up every day questioning his purpose, watch his parents fight while he eats breakfast, endure bullying from a group of stereotyped jocks and cheerleaders, and then finish the rest of the day hanging out with his equally troubled loser friends, Ray and Sammy.

After a bullying incident goes too far, Ray is inspired to get even with the whole school by plotting a shooting and bombing during the upcoming prom night; Josh and Sammy join in the scheme and plan their attack until realizing that they are low on firepower. Conveniently for them, they spot a junker with a truck decorated with pro-arm stickers, which might mean he has guns. Loads of them; Ray opted to try rob the junker of his firearms and tags Josh along for the job, all the while leaving Sammy to finish their pipe bombs. Unfortunately, something more depraved is waiting for Ray and Josh at the junker’s domain when it turns out he is a deranged maniac with a habit of creating death machines and the two might end up as his next victims.

With talks of mass shootings and bombings, An American Terror would have been easily one of the more gutsy horror films to be released in par with Elephant (2003) and Takahashi Miike’s Lesson of the Evil (2012) if only it decided to played this plot straight. Instead, what we get is an attempt to merge two plot lines that didn’t do too well despite some decent and fair elements from both sides of the coin.

I guess the best way to describe the movie entirely is that it held back; a plot covering school-shootings is controversial enough to begin with but American Terror went by this a little too fast, leaving both the events that led to the decision to shoot up prom night and the characters involved rushed and under-developed. It seems that it was done this way to transition into the more macabre portion of the film which, again, would have been a unique way to get into full on slasher territory.

Seeing the slasher parts have a hint of torture porn in it (and the story still focusing on the school attack via transitions back to Sam and his pipe bombs), it held back on growing its kill count, limited the gore to a single scene and leaves us with Josh somehow avoiding capture, ending up helping a kidnapped cheerleader escape the deranged junker. This is a fairly passable turn since it did manage to give more of a redeeming quality for the Josh character, now having a change of heart and doing his best to save not only himself and the kidnapped girl, but also those he intended to kill at prom.

This being said, American Terror can be a mixed bag and I honestly find myself wondering at my first viewing if I should be disappointed for its lack of grit or be glad that it didn’t exploit the already controversial backdrop which was school attacks. In the end, and after a while, I came to like its strange 90s feel and shifty direction, and too the upbeat and hopeful message it is trying to convey which (for me) worked quite well with the story. If anything of a real flaw, I really wished they made a bigger kill count for the junker here, who is one of the few fat maniacs out there that actually looked intimidating, if not disgusting.

Some may say that this film might be a tad outdated but, looking into the recent cases of mass shootings in America, I beg to differ; An American Terror has an interesting concept despite having not enough execution to actually make both ends work. If you are looking for a cheap and easy horror-thriller that can act as a cautionary tale for those looking for vengeance, this might be worth your time.

1 female seen shot (dream)
1 male seen shot (dream)
1 male shot to death (dream)
1 male had his eye lids cut off, shot on the head
1 female murdered offcamera, method unknown
1 male crushed by a pile of cars
1 male decimated with a bomb
1 male shot
Total: 8

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