Directed by Diego Hallivis.
Starring Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Jenna Ortega, Allen Maldonado, Bella Ortiz, Jorge Diaz, Yumarie Morales, Catherine McCafferty, Brett Cullen, Andrew Kaempfer, Paloma Bloyd and Eric Dane.
After a governor issues an executive order to arrest the children of undocumented immigrants, the newly incarcerated juveniles are being offered the opportunity to have their charges dropped by volunteering to care for the elderly.
all about American carnage is tasteless. Co-writer/director Diego Hallivis (who co-wrote the screenplay with Julio Hallivis) opens the film with an admittedly intriguing montage that’s cynical about American values (and rightly so), which ends with a rift in the mainstream media, in who paint far-right, fear-mongering immigrants (undocumented or not) as villains while proclaiming that our country thrives on having such antagonists. Peppered’s footage of celebrities, movies, and political speeches (there’s archival footage of the crispy orange Cheeto, the former president himself), suggesting that some stylistic thought went into this tirade. It also sets American carnage to a politically charged drama.
That tone continues as we are introduced to JP (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), a teenager who works the night shift at a fast food joint and is regularly met with confrontational racism from the mouths of entitled and discerning white customers. His sister Lily (Yumarie Morales) has also just found out that she will be accepted into the college of her dreams. The siblings have conflicting ideas about how to succeed in America and one day be their mother’s providers, but otherwise they are close and supportive of one another.
At a family reunion to celebrate the news, ICE storms the house, separating and arresting the family. This is of course a very real situation, which unfortunately often happens, but American carnage uses all of those broken systemic functions and racism and something that happens to real families just to stage a clunky horror show in which a group of imprisoned undocumented immigrants willingly participate in a program of caring for the elderly, which they supposedly reunite with upon graduation become your lovers. JP is grouped with many obnoxious personalities who are too comedic and goofy to fit the political subtext American carnage tries to achieve (there are some chilling metaphors here).
The supporting cast are Jenna Ortega (who seems to be in a movie every month so far this year which I won’t complain about although I wish she had better material here), Allen Maldonado, Jorge Diaz and Bella Ortiz. Most of them portray characters who are disgusted with practically anything to do with helping the elderly. In contrast, JP and Micah (Bella Ortiz) want to do what’s right and bring comfort to the elderly, even if it means getting their hands dirty in the process. Of course, they also develop feelings for each other (including an awkwardly funny transition into an equally awkward pre-sex scene). However, there is also undoubtedly something about these older folks who are prone to zombie behavior (trying to bite the faculty members).
Some credit goes to the production designers for making this facility look inviting and menacing at the same time. However, the plot reverses that American carnage Takes are absurd and only give away more of what the script is trying to say. They also require the makeup department to do things they just don’t have the budget or skills to pull off, which means the last 30 minutes are fun, but not in the way intended.
It’s almost impressive how American carnage continually becomes sillier and less socially and politically appealing, though these themes are fundamental to any wacky plot twist. Even on paper, the film is just a terrible idea.
Flickering Myth Rating – Movie: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the editor of Flickering Myth Reviews. Check here for new reviews, follow mine Twitter or letterboxd or email me at [email protected]