March 14, 2012

Older than America renamed American Evil

The 'Evil' that Men Do: 'Older than America', Retitled to 'American Evil'

By Gabrielle MalcolmGeorgina Lightning is good–she can do ‘evil’ on a budget. And this is real evil: cruelty to children evil. As only the corrupt of the Catholic Church know how to enact. In this case Native American girls and boys are scalded, punished, tortured and silenced in the name of saving their immortal souls. Lightning, the writer and director of American Evil (2008), originally titled this film Older than America. In many ways that’s a better, more descriptive title, but understandably not as commercial.And:But interestingly, it’s Bradley Cooper as Luke who appears in most of the publicity connected to the DVD release. Again, this seems like a compromise that has been forced upon the filmmaker, to enable this film to reach the wider audience it deserves. Cooper’s name above the title? Well, it would be like putting Cardinal’s name above the title in Dances with Wolves for her role as Black Shawl. Whilst undeniably in the film she was by no means the star. The same has to be said for Cooper in American Evil. The starring roles belong to Berens and Beach.Comment:  The article doesn't make it clear, but this movie was renamed only for its UK DVD release. Lightning wasn't consulted about the change and didn't even know about it.

And what a misleading title and package for this movie. Cooper is only the fourth- or fifth-most important star. There are no ominous flocks of birds or dripping blood. There's no real horror--certainly no "ancient horror [that] has awoken." The movie is more like a historical mystery with a bit of suspense and action.

Moreover, the "American Evil" is more like the evil committed by one corrupt priest. The rest of America is indicted by implication, but it's not primarily about the nation's crimes against humanity. It's a personal story about the evils done to a handful of Native children.

All in all, the title and packaging are incredibly misleading. I don't know if this version will sell better, but the changes amount to false advertising.

For more on Older than America, see Review of Older than America and Older than America Screening.

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