An American Terror (2014)
Three high school friends are the Goth outcasts at school, relentlessly bullied by the jocks and ignored by everyone else. They finally decide that they have had enough and plan to stage a high school massacre. The only problem is where they need to get guns. Spotting a redneck and his truck, its bumper slapped with various conservative bumper stickers, they decide that he must own some guns. They follow him to rob him of his guns but unwittingly stumble upon a torture dungeon.
An American Terror is an odd film of two parts and ideas that don’t really cohere. Taking up the first and last third is a high school massacre movie and a shallow one at that. Lacking the character depth of something like The Dirties and the subtlety and intelligence of Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, this part has nothing to offer the school shooting topic. The middle of An American Terror is, rather randomly, a chunk of violent dungeon, torture porn. This part contains the film’s most successful element; the killer. Barely speaking a word, the psychopath’s design and look is the most interesting and memorable part of the film. Wearing a beaked plague mask and some sort of waistcoat stitched with two extra pairs of arms, writer/director Haylar Garcia has conjured up a memorable killer. All the rest though is left behind. It’s a bit of a shame because the killer could be used more effectively in a better film and would probably be the sort of bad guy that would turn up in various lists of horrors most memorable killers.
Seemingly multitalented writer/director/editor Haylar Garcia is able to create a coherent and fairly well made film even if it is an unsuccessful one. His editing is on point, though he does randomly throw in a fuzzy security camera effect every so often which makes no logical sense to the film or how it is shot, adding it in apparently just to please himself. The acting can be a bit ropey but the sets are well put together and effective. The film is never really bad but neither is it ever really good.
An American Terror’s final message seems to be that there are worse things than being bullied at school, like being trapped in a psychopath’s torture dungeon. While this is true in a literal fashion, it’s a pretty esoteric situation and doesn’t really have any relevance to people genuinely being bullied.
An American Terror is never actively bad but it’s never particularly good. A strange and incoherent mesh of two different films, its torturous killer is the films only lasting impression.