Horror in fantasy has the power to scare you. To make you look down the hallway at night with the fear you’ll see something seeing you. It conjures up images of creatures, castles and unstoppable forces, things that most of us don’t come across in our everyday existence.
Real life horror has a different effect. It doesn’t scare us so much as haunts us, not for a day or a week, but sometimes a lifetime. And once you are haunted, it’s hard to get unhaunted. In film, it is a rarity (at least for me), to come across a film so disturbing that it tattoos itself on my soul. The film that I’m talking about is 2010’s “Red, White, and Blue”. A word of warning. This review will be spoiler heavy. The only way to really talk about this film is to talk about the actions of these lost souls.
The film, like its title is cut into three sections. The Red, as in Red Light, sexual abandon on the streets and seedy rooms never to be spoken of again after the act. The White, as in successful beginnings and cold realization. And finally, Blue, the masculine color, and the color of bodily damage, both physical and mental.
The RED. Amanda Fuller is Erica, a young woman who spends her days cleaning the housing units where she lives and her nights trolling the bars and clubs for one night stands. When we first meet her she is picking up not just one, but three guys at a bar and heading back to their place for a three way fuck fest. She will sleep with pretty much anyone. No strings, no dialogue, no cuddling, and no do overs. Her life is empty and she works hard to keep it that way.
Soon she meets Nate (Noah Taylor), a scruffy red neck poster child who tries to help her by getting her a paying job at the hardware shop where he works. She goes to his apartment and wants to know why he is being so nice to her. After all, all she has done is act rude towards him.
Nate relates a story to her about how he used to torture animals but once he had a kitten in his life he protected it from all harm. This didn’t change him; it made him more efficient at getting away with the torture of other animals. What would probably have freaked out most people beyond reproach just makes her shrug with a “so what” kind of response. She truly is not derailed by anything.
She continues her behavior getting passed around at work which angers Nate. Finally when someone wants a turn that is not offered one, Nate grabs a hammer and beats him. When he goes to comfort the tearful Erica, she yells at him. He walks away.
Eventually her life takes a turn. She accepts Nate’s friendship and they have a non-sexual but heart felt moment. He tells her a little about him. He has a job waiting for him in the CIA and is not sure that he wants to take it. This seems unlikely given Nate’s overall appearance but you know what the golden rule is concerning a book and its cover.
The WHITE. The movie switches gears and we are introduced proper to Franki (Marc Senter). He is the main pick up from the opening threesome. Franki is a guitarist in a band that also features the other two pick-ups. He lives a pretty empty life as well. Not necessarily aimless, but unfocused. His mother is dying of Cancer and he has been giving her blood for some time. His father has apparently left his mother for another woman and she is alone. He does have an on again off again girlfriend Sarah (Lauren Schneider) but really nothing in his life is worth living for. Until his mother gets exciting news. Her Cancer has gone into remission. In conjunction with that news, his band has been booked on a European tour in support of a bigger named band. Things are coming together. Then he receives some shattering news, his blood that he has been giving for transfusion to his mom has come back positive for AIDS. So not only has he contracted the disease, but he’s given it to his newly Cancer free mother as well. Franki tells the band and they all get tested. They’re clean. All but Franki, and he wants revenge. They go looking for Erica, checking all the bars in town. Eventually they find her and things explode for all involved.
The Blue. The final section belongs to Nate. Nate is a force of pure vengeance. He goes in search of Erica, and will stop at nothing to find her. Nate will break, bruise, beat and bludgeon to get what he wants. What follows is a decent into violence that is unparalleled in recent years.
I don’t want to give everything away so I won’t go on into details. There is so much in this film that is subtext, you can watch it over and over and still get something out of it, if you can make through. The film is so emotionally charged in areas that we don’t choose to discuss, it’s hard to watch. Nate’s story of the kitten is the story of things to come.
There is so much horrific imagery in this film that you may not know what else they can throw at you. The interesting thing is that it’s not all up on the screen. It is a film of violent intent more so than visible violence.
We are all responsible for our own actions and those actions don’t affect just us, but the people we touch. Therefore there is nothing more horrifying than someone who touches so many with death on their shoulder and simply doesn’t give a rat’s ass.
Red, White, and Blue is a horror film and maybe at its core it’s a purer horror than we are used to. A film that will haunt you long after the lights go on and every time you meet a sexy and willing stranger in a dark and lonely bar.