Andy Copp is an indie director who isn’t afraid to ask hard questions. He doesn’t make horror movies for cheap thrills or even any sort of emotional catharsis. You actually get the impression that his movies haunt him long after he finishes them. From his surrealistic masterpiece The Mutilation Man to the emotional agony of The Atrocity Circle, Copp takes a hard look at the world and the people crawling over it and he doesn’t see a lot of up side. He sees a civilization of tortured souls who can only increase their own misery while increasing the misery of those around them. Andy Copp’s movies are rife with unanswered questions. He’s not about comforting the viewer; he’s not about hand-holding. Regardless of how you view his films, you cannot say he ever takes the easy way out.
In Quiet Nights of Blood and Pain, Copp tackles the question of our ongoing war with the Middle East by viewing it through the eyes of two former soldiers. Adrienne (Amanda Delotelle) suffers from PTSD and fights with the government every day just to get her pay and assistance. Every night, she relives the horrors she experienced in Iraq and her only friend is a Viet Nam Vet who still bears his own scars from both that war and his “welcome” home. Elsewhere in the city, William (Loren S. Goins) is walking around in an unending nightmare. Responsible for interrogating terror suspects, William was in charge of extracting informatiion by “any means necessary”. In the state of panic that was the early days of a Post 9-11 world, torture and agression was deemed a necessary evil because there could be other attacks planned. All of America was in danger. To protect the American people, William was told to do “anything”, and in doing so, something inside of him broke permanently. Now he’s home, abandoned by veterans administrators, off of his medication, alone, desperate. He views every person he meets as an enemy sympathiser, taking war protests very, very personally.
Quiet Nights of Blood and Pain takes the formerly empty Conservative cry of “If you don’t support the war, you don’t support the troops” and treats it very seriously. Burdened by the knowledge that they were fighting an unjust war but still conditioned to believe they were doing it for our protection, both Adrienne and William chose their paths and were rewarded with derision. Damaged by the war, they were discarded by the military and confronted with either disinterest or disdain by the rest of us. At the same time, Adrienne, at least, understands the protestors’ point of view more deeply than they ever could because she was there. William, on the other hand, can’t stop killing. The agression builds up inside of him and he reverse-justifies his murderous actions by rationalizing that he’s still fighting for the American way of life and that anyone around him could be a terrorist.
That the paths of these two soldiers will collide is inevitable and ideology won’t matter at that juncture. And Copp isn’t asking anyone to take sides. He’s not saying that this is a “pro” or “anti” war movie. All he’s asking is that we, the viewers, think about what he’s presenting. Regardless of which political stance you want to take, war is a fucked up thing and we’re living in a fucked up world. And what will it take to un-fuck it? The creator is begging for answers as much as his creations. If these questions seem heavy-handed, maybe that’s what it takes to get through to the disaffected, desensitized culture of today.
Like his other films, the theme is more powerful than the presentation. Delotelle is fine as Adrienne and Goins is so understated as William that you feel his monotone delivery is another by-product of his mental breakdown. The majority of the supporting players are flat and the movie has a number of technical problems, but if you’re paying attention to those things, you’re missing the point entirely. Every independent film suffers from budget limitations—it’s the nature of the game—but Copp is trying to say something with his films. He’s shooting primal screams and wondering why nobody else seems to care. Slasher films and vampires keep independent horror alive. But these monsters pale in comparison to what’s really out there.
Quiet Nights of Blood and Pain is available on DVD from www.coppfilms.com