I’m always a little bit cautious about anthology films. There’s been a few that I’ve liked. (I recently enjoyed Tales From Parts Unknown, for instance.) But most of the time, horror anthology films tend to leave me feeling rather disappointed. The good segments always seem as if they’re too short while the bad segments seem to go on forever and it’s hard not to feel that the only reason the film was made was because the filmmakers couldn’t be bothered to come up with a full-length story. Plus, there’s always some wrap-around segment and, more often than not, it’s usually kind of stupid and it leaves you feeling as if the film wasted the talents of whoever it was they hired to host the film.
And that brings us to American Nightmares.
In American Nightmares, two dorky guys who might as well have millennial tattooed on their foreheads, find their perusal of internet porn interrupted by the appearance of Mr. Malevolent (Danny Trejo), who proceeds to introduce not one, not two, not three, but SEVEN stories about terrible Americans getting their just deserts. The two dorky guys are rather blase about it all, being more concerned with watching twerking videos than really considering Mr. Malevolent’s stories about hypocritical people getting what they deserve.
Some of the stories are okay but there’s seven of them so it’s hard not to feel that the film is overstuffed. Plus, when you’ve got seven stories in one film, it just takes one or two clunkers to make the whole thing feel pointless. For instance, the first story — which deals with the perfect man and what he turns out to be — is okay and the second story — about a D.A. getting bitten by karma — is cartoonish but crudely effective. But then you hit the third story — which is about racists going to a fantasy world where “no blacks” are allowed — and the story is so heavy-handed, poorly acted, and slow that you kind of tune out. You end up ignoring several of the stories that come after because that third one was so dumb and poorly executed.
Danny Trejo is not a bad choice to play the host of a horror anthology. As is always the case with Danny Trejo, he brings a lot of energy to the role and he seems to be having a great time. His co-host is Nicelle Nichols, of Star Trek fame. She doesn’t get to do much other than nod approvingly as Trejo introduces each story. The stories themselves are full of familiar faces, though the film could hardly be called “all-star.” Instead, it’s more like, “Here’s a bunch of people who you might recognize and who needed the money.” In other words, the film is full of people like Jay Mohr, Chris Kattan, Vivica A. Fox, and Brendan Sexton III. Most of them give rather broad performances, as if they want to make sure you know that they’re just appearing in this movie as a favor to someone and not because they were desperate for work. It’s a bit like Movie 43, just with a less prestigious cast and more dead babies.
Anyway. American Nightmares is not particularly good. It’s overstuffed with stories and none of the stories are really as clever as the film seems to think that they are. Danny Trejo, though, is a badass.