World Premiere 2K Restoration

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1995 • UK | Germany | Belgium • 100 min.

Director: Philip Ridley
Screenwriter: Philip Ridley
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Ashley Judd, Viggo Mortensen

March 25, 2020 @ 9:45 pm

Brattle Theatre

A steamy SoGo psychosexual thriller where a surviving Koreshian-cultist type burns with simultaneous desire for a forest-dwelling siren and envy of her silent stoic lover. Hell hath no fury like a man denied the object of his desire.

Shell-shocked, sole-survivor Darkly Noon (Brendan Fraser) staggers through a forest in the wake of a military-style attack on his Branch-Davidianesque brethren. His roadside collapse and the kindness of a passerby conspire to thrust him into the caring arms of Callie (Ashley Judd), a free-spirited beauty who nurses him back to health.

As he regains his strength, he experiences halcyon days for the first time in his life in the company of this enigmatic and sensual woman, while strange, un-Christ-like desires stir Darkly’s soul and loins. When Callie’s lover Clay (Viggo Mortensen) returns after a few days away, he accepts the new boarder without question. The dynamic immediately changes though, as lovers will do what lovers do, leaving a confused and brooding Darkly out in the cold, forced to watch their nightly theatrical and passionate displays of fornication from a nearby barn window.

With only a fire and brimstone framework for understanding the world, Darkly’s unrequited feelings and frustration ignite a slow-building rage. Fueling that metaphorical fire is Clay’s estranged mother Roxy (played by a particularly unhinged Grace Zabriskie), who claims with Tertullian conviction that Callie is a witch who’s stolen the hearts of both her dead husband and now her son. Seizing on Darkly’s innocence, Roxy weaponizes the young man’s feelings as a means to vengeful ends, unleashing a violent frenzy that threatens to engulf them all in hellfire.

Upon its release, Variety described Philip Ridley’s follow-up to his stunning debut, The Reflecting Skin, as one that “spotlights psychosexual obsessions and emotional hang-ups so far off the standard map that most viewers will simply shrug at the irrelevancy of it all.” Flash forward to 2020, where incels have re-calibrated what passes for the “standard map,” and perhaps a contemporary audience will find chilling new relevancy in Ridley’s underappreciated and thought-provoking American Nightmare.

Restored to lush, crisp 2K perfection from the original camera negative—and approved by Ridley himself—Arrow Films gives the breath of life treatment to this lost cult classic.

Special thanks to Arrow Films and the American Genre Film Archive.

– Nicole McControversy