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American Nightmare (2002)
-Reviewed by B-Movie Man Nic Brown

There are two questions that underlie writer/director Jon Keyes’ film “American Nightmare”. What are you afraid of? & Why?

A group of friends listening to a pirate radio show answer the first question on the air and someone is listening. Debbie Rochon plays Jane, a former nurse who is now on a psychotic bender, using what they are afraid of most to kill the friends one at a time as she torments the others with mind games.

The film really centers around two of the characters, Jane the killer and Jessie (Brandy Little). Jessie’s sister disappeared a year before and Jane uses this to hook Jessie into playing her twisted games.

Keyes uses a lot of standard slasher horror devices and it would be easy for the film to be clichéd, but it isn’t. This is mostly due to Debbie Rochon’s performance. Rochon blends sexuality and psychosis into her role and creates a genuinely creepy killer. She also brings us back to the second question: Why? Why is Jane stalking and killing these people? The question hangs throughout the film. This isn’t an oversight though, it shows that sometimes we don’t know why we do the things we do. This seems to be the case for Jane as the viewer sees that she is doing these horrible things but in the end even she doesn’t seem to know why. Rochon also plays Jane in such a way that the viewer gets the sense that Jane may even regret what she does to her victims, not enough to even really slow her down, but enough to add some more depth to the type of character that is rarely given more than the “cookie-cutter-killer” treatment.

“American Nightmare” is a well made independent horror film. It is character driven and that is the secret to why it works. There is some gore, but the film often relies on what you don’t see to create the horror as we see reactions to the horror rather than the act itself. I also like the fact that the film doesn’t end in a typical way either, I won’t say more than that because I don’t want to give anymore away than I have to for the review.
Check out “American Nightmare” if for no other reason than to see Debbie Rochon’s excellent performance as Jane the psycho killer and see if you can answer the question “Why?”

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