Simon Rumley’s “Red White & Blue” is one of the most difficult and disturbing films I’ve seen this year and that’s saying quite a bit. With movies like “The Human Centipede,” “A Serbian Film” and other horrifying gems from around the world recently trickling into our theaters and TV sets, it’s pretty tough to be shocked by anything these days. While the aforementioned films are all the rage, I think the best, most brilliant and most twisted slasher/horror/stomach turner of the year is Simon Rumley’s under-the-radar film “Red White & Blue.” Haven’t heard of it? Neither had I until I got a screener that almost made me turn it off three-quarters of the way through.
I’m a huge fan of films that screw with audience expectations and toy with genre and I also love films that aren’t afraid to change their style or genre right smack in the middle. “Red White & Blue” does all of these things and does them well. As the film starts we meet the über promiscuous Erica (Amanda Fuller) who isn’t afraid to troll the bars and bang the first dude (or, more) she meets. Barely getting by as a housekeeper at a tenement building where she lives in near destitution, she meets honorably discharged Iraq War vet Nate (Noah Taylor) a creepy, silent type who’s taken a shine to Erica for reasons we never quite understand. She’s bitchy and angry but easy on the eyes so it makes sense he might have developed a crush. Nate soon hooks Erica up with working at a lumber yard and the two develop an uneasy, but friendly acquaintance.
Meanwhile, we meet Franki (Marc Senter), a wanna-be rock star who recently bedded Erica. His mother is ill and while Franki is most definitely the worst type of irritating slacker (I mean, who spells Frankie that way?) he’s also a devoted son who donates blood to save his ailing mother. What’s that? You say this doesn’t sound like some kind of f****d-up, twisted horror film? That’s because for about the first hour or so, it’s absolutely not. Rather, it’s a quiet character study that borders on the frustratingly boring. But if you’re patient and can pay attention long enough, you’ll find that “Red White & Blue” has been setting up characters in a very smart and conscientious way.
In my mind, “Red White and Blue” is as much a slasher film as any “Friday the 13th” or “Nightmare on Elm Street” film, but also, it’s completely different. While those classic serial killer flicks give little attention to back-story, “Red White and Blue” heads into its bloodbath backwards, telling you everything you need to know about everyone in the film. It makes the killing that comes later all the more effective and Rumley is a smart, smart man in the way he sets these emotional pins up only to hack them to pieces later. I can’t say I genuinely cared for these three main characters in any way, shape or form, but I can say I understood their motivations. When the gore kicks into overtime, the kills are as gnarly as anything perpetrated by Freddy Krueger or Jason Vorhees.
The Austin, TX based film is shot beautifully but also economically. Rumley never resorts to fancy camera work and instead chooses to focus on the characters. Speaking of, all of the acting in “Red White & Blue” is fantastic, especially Noah Taylor who you may recognize from “Vanilla Sky,” “Almost Famous” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” You may also realize he’s a Brit but he so completely melts into the role of the lackadaisical redneck Nate, you forget anything he’s ever been in before. Kudos to Senter for fleshing out what could easily have been a whiny momma’s boy role as Franki and to Fuller as the completely damaged but still likeable Erica.
I never read reviews of movies I want to see and review so I’m anxious to see what others have said about “Red White & Blue.” But I will say I’m pretty stunned I haven’t heard more about this film as it seems to have made the festival rounds and it really is quite an accomplishment. Perhaps the sudden brutality was just too much or the slow burning lead-up was just too… slow burning? I can understand these issues and sort of have them myself. But if you really take in the film and pay attention all the way through, I think you’ll see “Red White & Blue” is a special piece of art that adds much to a genre which has become mostly about spectacle and less about the people involved.