SXSW 2010 Review: 'Red White & Blue'


Most horror movies aren't actually "about" horror. They're about monsters or shocks and scares and perhaps a little dread once in a while, but very few filmmakers manage to capture "true-life" horror in their films -- or they simply don't want to. One director who managed to tap into the essential horrors of mortality a few years back is a guy by the name of Simon Rumley. (If you have yet to see his film The Living and the Dead, you absolutely should track it down.) This is not a "fun" horror film in the way that most slashers, monsters, remakes, and (yes) Saw sequels are -- this is a movie about the absence of morality, the lack of humanity, and the ever-encroaching shadow of mortality.

So while Rumley's Red, White & Blue is in no way a "fun time" horror film, it is absolutely a ferocious and fascinating piece of independent filmmaking.

Needless to say at this point, the film is a punch in the gut -- and most certainly not for the faint of heart. It's a three-headed character study, an indictment of today's waning sense of basic kindness, and a surprisingly intense horror story rolled into one. You may even extract a few new angles of your own.

Although it works equally well as a three-act dark thriller, Red, White & Blue feels more like a three-part anthology piece in which all the same characters take part. Act I introduces us to a harrowingly wounded young woman named Erica (Amanda Fuller) who bounces around from bar to bed to halfway house ... let's just say she's a loose-moraled loose cannon with little to lose. Act II focuses on an aspiring rock singer Frankie (Marc Senter) who spends one rather sordid night with Erica -- and quickly grows to regret it. The third segment of the film deals with Nate, an aimless war veteran (with a few loose screws) who becomes attached to Erica's frankly brusque demeanor.

Also included in the slow-burn simmer are a little neighborhood kid, a dying mother, and a trio of Frankie's hard-rockin' pals who find themselves on the wrong side of a rather ugly situation. And if sounds like I'm being a little vague with the "synopsizing," that's because Red, White & Blue almost feels like three films in one, and each third has its own share of unexpected (and generally unpleasant) surprises. Suffice to say that one interpretation of the film's title is that Erica  is "blue" (as in unhappy), Frankie is "white" (as in relatively innocent and slightly heroic), and Nate is "red," and by that I mean "furious." Feel free to extrapolate from there. Until you see the film for yourself.

From one angle, the movie feels like an artistically-minded slasher film that actually includes some real and realistic character development, and from another it feels like a series of ruminations on some of the darkest human fears imaginable: loneliness, isolation, disease, dismemberment, mental instability, and an early, untimely death that you can see coming. (Yikes.)

If you believe a genre film can be ice-cold cruel and no fun at all, but is still worth seeing for its anger, its insight, and its unflinching forays into dark places we're all familiar with, then I highly recommend you keep an eye out for the low-budget but highly fascinating Red, White & Blue.

And while you're waiting for this movie, go find yourself a copy of The Living and the Dead.