Nutcracker: An American Nightmare
Brain Damage Films
Nutcracker: An American Nightmare is, above all else, an extremely amateurish effort that I’m sure looked a lot better in writer/director Glen Grefe’s mind than it does on the screen.
It’s nearing Christmas (though you wouldn’t know it to look at the movie, as there’s not a shred of holiday decoration in sight to serve as testimony), which is a stressful time for Carlton Fairfax Jr. Fairfax has some sort of phobia for all things Christmasy and falls into a panic upon seeing them. This makes his qualifications as a psychotherapist somewhat dubious.
To add to his stress, Fairfax has pioneered a new treatment, which involves taking drugs and connecting his brain to that of his patient; thus allowing their minds to mingle. Having crazy people in your head isn’t all that healthy for anyone, let alone someone with pre-existing mental problems.
The movie, then, is about Fairfax’ decent into madness, which is illustrated by lingering shots of his face staring at the camera, and quick cutaways to ticking clocks. I’m sure it’s all very deep and symbolic to the director, but whatever significance may have been intended was lost on me.
‘Decent into madness’ probably isn’t the right phrase anyway; because that implies a character arc. Fairfax is already staring at the camera as the film opens, nothing that happens during the movie changes his behavior in any noticeable way. Fairfax seems disconnected. Even when terrible things happen to him, he just brushes them off and carries on as he was. I’m not sure if this is a reflection of the character’s mental state, or just a case of bad acting. Either way, as a viewer, I never connected to the protagonist; never understood him and didn’t really care how he would make out in the end.
There’s some attempt at a plot. The movie offers up an explanation for Fairfax’ X-Mas phobia and it’s revealed in an interesting way. With a better script and direction, it might have been the basis of an okay movie.
I think the people involved in making Nutcracker meant well. They probably thought they were making a complex psychological thriller, but in the attempt to be stylish, they failed to communicate their ideas. What we’re left with is a low-budget, over-confident mess.
The video on this DVD is just plain ugly. It looks like it was ‘filmed’ on a VHS recorder and edited on another, then copied a few times. It’s presented in a non-anamorphic transfer. The sound is also mixed poorly, and is sometimes too muddled to hear.