Nutcracker: An American Nightmare Movie Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by Brain Damage Films
Written and directed by Glen Grefe
2001, Region 1, 81 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on January 16th, 2007
David Hess as John Gard
Bill Bragg as Carlton Fairfax
Elina Filippova as Sierra Steinbach
Christine Marie Schneider as April Fairfax
Darian O'Toole as Blair Weesch
Cheryl Jennings as Herself
Karl-Heinz Teuber as Albert Woods
It's another crazy Christmas and psychotherapist Dr. Carlton Fairfax Jr. is losing control of his patients and his sanity; especially when he encounters one particularly mysterious patient who sees to it that the good Doctor continues down the road to insanity.
I grabbed that description right from the back of the box because I couldn't tell you what, exactly, Nutcracker: An American Nightmare is about.
The easy description is a doctor (Bill Bragg – The Unknown) uses an experimental drug for an experimental procedure on a mysterious — and loopy — man (David Hess – The Last House on the Left), and ends up going a little nutty himself.
And that idea alone would make for a pretty good flick — especially with David Hess playing the patient, John Gard. But the abysmal editing destroys anything this movie could have been.
The first major problem is the movie tries to throw out a horribly executed "twist" ending. It would have been a much better ending if it were set up a little better. Or at all. I'm not looking for Sixth Sense setup here. But at least a little something for me to say "Ah! Now it all makes sense."
Here's the short of it, and while it's a spoiler — should you ignore my final thought and see Nutcracker anyway — Gard is Fairfax's brother. And, apparently, Gard had been in prison for many years for a crime Fairfax committed when they were much younger — the killing of their father. And he's freshly released with a score to settle.
Now, even ignoring the fact that Fairfax didn't even recognize his own brother (I'll give up a little suspension of disbelief), vague, quick flashbacks of what happened when they were kids aren't nearly enough build up a "shocking" ending. Nor is a half-assed mention of the past between Fairfax and his mother.
Another problem with the film is there is so much unnecessary filler throughout the movie, by the time you do get to the end — even if it were set up well — you really wouldn't care. There is entirely too much time spent on things that don't go anywhere. Do we really care that Fairfax's mistress is sleeping with his psychiatrist? Even if it may or may not be a figment of his imagination? Especially when it goes nowhere? No, we don't. At one point, there is a scene that plays like a music video. It's just over eight minutes long, starts at a book release party for Fairfax, and ends with the troubled doctor wandering the city with a troubled mind. There is so little dialogue in this scene — none of which is relevant — it feels like nothing more than filler. Just like most of the movie.
The pisser is, aside from the movie's blown potential, the acting from the key players is good. Hess, of course, is more than capable. The dude is a rock star, period. But Bragg certainly holds his own. He isn't 100 percent all of the time — there are some instances when he "uh's" so much, I would swear he was struggling for his lines — but for a no-budget movie (which Nutcracker obviously is), Bragg more than gets it done.
It's really too bad the story wasn't enough to match the actors.
Audio, video and special features will not be graded, as this was a screener.
As bad as Nutcracker is, the scenes with Hess are fun (even though there aren't enough of them). Unfortunately, they are not fun enough to recommend the film for any sort of viewing.
(Equipment includes a Mitsubishi WS-48613 48” HDTV, Sony DVP-CX875P DVD player and Onkyo HTS-770 Home Theater System and, in some cases, a Sony 27” WEGA TV and a Sony DVP-NS50P DVD player.)