The most disturbing movie I have ever seen

Having no TV (intentionally), I tend to be an avid movie watcher.  It is not unusual to find that I have seen 100% of the movies in our local video store’s (On 15th Video) “recent hits” section.  But last week I found one which I had not heard of before called “An Amercian Crime” which stars Ellen Page and Katherine Keener, two of my favs.  (Turns out I had not heard of it before because it never made it to the screen – went straight from Sundance to Showtime and then DVD.)  With a few others, I rented it.

After a somewhat busy weekend, I came home last night and decided to watch it, since Z was headed to bed and said she did not want to see it.  Well, what I though was going to be some kind of dark crime / courtroom drama turned out to be the most disturbing film I have ever seen.  It’s the true story of the (well documented) abuse and torture of a young girl (Ellen Page) by a twisted woman (Keener), her six kids, and several neighborhood locals who all get in on the “entertainment”.  I guess I need to read the descriptions on the back more carefully…

Had it been a typical fictional horror film, I would have just turned it off mid-way through: over the years my taste for gratuitous violence has waned almost completely – helped along by Zanetha’s near zero tolerance for it, which I have come to admire and respect.  But being a true story, something in me made me face the reality of it – I had to watch it to the end.  Which became increasingly hard through ever increasing fits of tears and sobs.  By the end credits, I was a complete wreck, and had to go wake Z up at 4:00 in the morning to console me and to explain the horrors I had just witnessed.  Knowing her like I do, I forbade her to see the movie under any circumstances.  I think it would do her in completely.  She had no intention of seeing it anyway.

I’m a non-violent peace-nik who espouses diplomacy, empathy and compromise as the only solution to conflict, no matter what the stakes or situation.  Well, last night I was reminded that even I have my limits: Literally, I can think of no greater horror in the known universe than the wanton, inexcusable abuse or torture of innocent children, and witnessing the extremity of this particular case brought up such extreme visions of – and desire for – medieval recompense for the perpetrators that I scared myself to my core nearly as much as the movie had.

Needless to say I got little sleep last night, and none of it restful.

It’s a very well made film.  Yet I can’t say I “recommend” seeing this film ……. unless you can “steel your courage to the sticking place” before hand, which I did not have the benefit of doing.  Like a trip to the dentist, you could go knowing it is going to hurt like hell, and you’ll be better for it when it’s over.  If that’s not for you, based on this warning, I don’t blame you one little bit.  A large part of me wishes I’d been warned, and that I hadn’t seen it.  But I wasn’t, and I did, and now it is a part of me.  And I now have appreciation for yet one more subtle shade of black I had not stared directly at before, and my rainbow color palate of Life has been expanded yet again.

So this is my friendly warning to you about this movie.  And you can choose to do with it what you will.

ps: One of the other movies I rented at the same time was a GREAT, GREAT Tarsem Singh movie called “The Fall” which you MUST rent!  So beautiful, engrossing, well made, lyrical and intelligent.  Go get it!  It will do to you the opposite of “An American Crime”.


  1. Damn, I was thinking of buying the DVD, expecting to see similar high quality film like Quatre cents coups, Les (1959) a.k.a The Four Hundred Blows. Most people regard this ‘American Crime’ shocking, repulsive as well as fascinating. Thanks for the info, buddy.

  2. Oh yeah, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great movie! I wish it could be required viewing for the populace… followed by discussion… might diminish a few heinous crimes against children. It’s just an overwhelming movie. For me anyway.

  3. Hadn’t heard of THE FALL. I’ll get it from Netflix for Joy and me. Thanks.

  4. Addendum: I didn’t know Z is so anti-violence or I wouldn’t have given her BIKES to read. If she hasn’t yet, or if she started but couldn’t finish it, tell her not to bother. Re-thanks.

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