FILM REVIEW: American Satan
Updated: Jan 13, 2020
When it was announced that founder of Sumerian Records, Ash Avildsen, was making a musical thriller film with Andy Biersack of Black Veil Brides and Ben Bruce of Asking Alexandria, not many people knew what to think. Would it work well? Who else would be in it? Can 2 musicians transition well to the big screen? All that and more were answered once the film was released in October of this year, with multiple cinemas in the US, and a few in other parts of the world.
To start off, the story’s an interesting modern take on the Faust story, originally written by Christopher Marlowe. In American Satan, 5 men, 2 from the UK and 3 from the US, come together in Los Angeles to start a rock band. Biersack plays Johnny Faust, a young man with big dreams, and the main protagonist of the story. After finding a bassist in Jesse Sullivan’s Lily, and a lot of setbacks involving a rival band, a mysterious man, portrayed by Malcolm McDowell of A Clockwork Orange fame, leads the band down a dark path filled with sex, drugs, and rock n roll. Whilst it seems simple enough, especially with the supernatural element, it was never clear what would happen next, and when you think the story is going in one direction, it throws a surprise misdirection at you, and leads somewhere completely different. This could have easily made the film confusing, but American Satan pull this off almost flawlessly; it catches you with every new step it takes, and you’re desperate to know what happens next.
Secondly, the characters and actors. Of course the likes of Malcolm McDowell and John Bradley of Game of Thrones gave fantastic performances, but also the likes of Andy Biersack and Ben Bruce, who plays Leo Donovan. Biersack’s character of Johnny is someone who is ambitious but also slightly on over his head. You never hate him outright, but you can despise the actions he takes, but also understand that he’s all very new to this lifestyle, especially at a young age. Bruce is one of the better actors in this as he delivers the character of Leo as memorable, and someone you do care about; a fun guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, Bruce conveys a performance that makes it easy to sympathise with him.
Finally, the main selling point, the music! As well as having a score by Korn’s Jonathan Davis, the actual songs written for the films band, “The Relentless”, to perform are great as well, conveying the themes of the film, and creating into a fantastic rock opera. Direction is great, editing is nice, especially when mixing important montages with “live” concert footage of the band, adding dramatic tension - it is that good of a film.
Only criticisms are that the story does open itself up to plot holes sadly, but that’s mode of “what would a person do in that situation?”. The other criticism are the tone jumps, whilst few and far between, are still prevalent, eg, there’s one moment where one of the band members takes acid before being dragged to do an interview whilst high, which is a funny moment, but after that it cuts to a sad moment - odd to have those moments spliced together like that, and feels a little off putting.
Aside from that, American Satan is one of standout films of the year, and belongs in the same legacy as Almost Famous and School of Rock, even more impressive by the fact that this is a independent film, ie, no major studio backing. It’s one of the best if the year, and deserves a lot more recognition. Check it out where you can - you won’t want to miss this one!
American Satan is out now in selected cinemas! Pre-Orders are available now on their website!