Though it offers a gory crescendo that won’t disappoint horror fans Red White & Blue is actually pretty art-house.
If you like the laissez-faire losers who lurk in Richard Linklater’s films – and aren’t adverse to a decent throat-slitting scene – then Simon Rumley's new-wave horror is for you.
Taking a three-act structure more literally than most, Red White & Blue is a 'slacker revenge thriller' that keeps you guessing to the gory end. More akin to a teleplay than a straight up genre film, it’s a craftily-edited slow burner set among the dive bars of Austin, Texas.
Skinny hipsters work part-time jobs, play in garage bands, drink, fuck and sleep 'til noon. Unhappy Erica (Amanda Fuller) has made casual sex an obsession, barebacking a new guy nightly. Pockmarked and clad in denim cut-offs and dirty white cowboy boots, she seduces Franki (Marc Senter) over some beers.
Franki is a sensitive guy with a terminally-ill mother with whom he lives. He and his bandmates The Exits devour Erica, feasting on her flesh as they fuck in a (consensual) foursome. Afterwards, she showers vigorously, expecting never to see them again.
Then she meets Nate. A former military man who escaped Iraq with honourable discharge, Nate longs to be close with Erica. She spurns his advances claiming she doesn’t 'want a boyfriend.' But that’s not the whole story. Erica has a secret.
Raped at four by her mother’s boyfriend, Erica inherited HIV along with a life-changing distrust of heterosexual relations. Subverting the female-as-victim role, she wreaks revenge on the world by utilising her body as a lethal weapon – spreading her disease to any guy who’ll have her. But, as her disease impacts the men who encircle her, Erica finds herself at the mercy of casual lays turned psycho-killers all too ready to avenge their ‘sins’ in the bloodiest fashion.
Though it offers a gory crescendo that won’t disappoint horror fans, much of this film’s violence actually takes place off screen. Diegetic deathnotes and gaffer-taped screams accent the audience’s own fears as the camera pans away from the action. Bar a visceral throat-slit and a nasty yank of a spinal cord up and out through the hairline, Red White & Blue is actually pretty art-house.
Initially we track Erica’s cruddy, emotionless life. Wide shots shrink her already-tiny frame as she walks to and from work, parks and bars leaving you cold and uncomfortable. Her face is bland, her lifestyle inexplicably punishing. But Rumley veers on the right side of art and didacticism, feeding in non-linear plot lines that keep you guessing as to her actions.
Plus, there’s a hip, freshness about it all, partially due to a hot cast and a maintained low, natural light but more thanks to location. Though a Brit, Rumley captures Austin’s vibe with gusto. Shots of the Alamo Drafthouse cinema make their way into the frame, neatly name-checking co-producer Tim League while capturing the aspects that make Austin so cool. Linklater would be proud.
Having impressed at 2010’s genre festivals, Simon Rumley's slacker-revenge thriller is finally hitting British screens, but will this native son be celebrated like his genre-loving contemporary, Ben Wheatley?
Unexpected plot twists keep you guessing – it’s dark, twisted and ultra-violent.
Imagine a gore-core version of Linklater’s Slacker updated for 2011; a must-see for fans of Americana and new British film-makers alike.