Red, White, & Blue (2010, dir. Simon Rumley)
Starring Noah Taylor, Amanda Fuller, Mark Senter
British director Simon Rumley seems intent on shredding every last ounce of emotional energy I have. As you can read in my review of his 2006 film, The Living and The Dead, he is able to present a psychological horror film unlike any you will ever see. Here too, in Red, White, & Blue, Rumley takes the revenge/gore film made popular in 1970s and still alive and strong today, and goes down avenues no mainstream picture would ever think about. The result is another film that hammers itself into your mind and squeeze every ounce of composure from your soul. The last fifteen minutes left my heart pounding and my head feeling dizzy, shocked at the level of physical gore and psychological torment.
Erica (Amanda Fuller) is a young woman living in Austin, Texas whose days are filled with cleaning the boarding house she lives in, and whose evenings involve unprotected sex with man after man. Then she meets Nate (Noah Taylor), a mysterious drifter who gets a room across the hall from her. In Nate, she discovers a man who is kind and patient and not interested in merely to bed her. The two seem to be happy. Across town is Franki (Mark Senter), a young man who, like many twentysomethings in Austin, has a band. He also has a mother with cancer, and makes weekly trips to donate blood for her transfusions and to sit by her bed while she receives chemotherapy. Franki is a hardworking, likable young guy. But then he learns of a connection between himself and Erica that will change the course of all three characters’ lives forever.
Director Rumley brilliantly paces the film, taking his time to the point that you might start to question the inclusion of this film in the horror genre. But trust me, all of the rich character development amplifies the horrific events that make up the pictures last third. When the blood begins to spill every slice of a knife, every stab of the scissors, and worse will hit you in the gut. What Rumley appears to be doing is setting up a revenge picture wherein all characters are sympathetic and simultaneously guilty. No one’s hands are clean, yet its understandable why each person chooses the path they do. As a result, Rumley deeply challenges our notions of revenge and victimhood.
Violence is a very devise and controversial element in film, and here its used just the way it should be. If you are not reviled by each and every act of violence in a horror movie, then the filmmakers might as well not have included it. Franchises like Final Destination, Saw, Hostel, and so on have almost turned horror movie violence into a type of slapstick comedy. There is nothing funny about the bloodshed in this film. There is one particular moment in the last third where the film does something I have never seen in a horror film. It is a cold, quick act of violence perpetrated on someone you don’t think anything will happen to. You don’t see the knife go in, you don’t see a drop of blood. You simply see movement, hear sounds, and see reactions. Those few seconds made me involuntarily place my hands over the screen and cry out.
A director like Simon Rumley helps me have faith that cinematic horror has the potential to do great things. Like most films of any genre, what is finding its way into the multiplexes is watered down for mass consumption.The real masterpieces of today’s horror are being shown in the art house theaters across the country, and hopefully finding larger audiences thanks to Netflix and DVDs. While Red, White, & Blue is not a film for everyone, and only for those who are comfortable experiencing an extreme emotional drain, its is a richly rewarding experience in filmmaking perfection.
Red, White, & Blue is available for streaming on Netflix.