American Nightmare Film Review
What Katy RevIewed Next In March 2015 Aaron is tied up in his home and his girlfriend Denise is kidnapped. Little did they know that this was just the start of their nightmare at the hands of the police and FBI.
American Nightmare

American Nightmare

American Nightmare
Season: 1 Episode(s): 1-3
Overview: In March 2015 Aaron is tied up in his home and his girlfriend Denise is kidnapped. Little did they know that this was just the start of their nightmare at the hands of the police and FBI.
Genre: True Crime, Documentary
UK Release Date: 17-01-2024
Studio: Netflix, Raw
Director:  Bernadette Higgins, Felicity Morris
Top-Billed Cast: Denise Hutchins (Self) Aaron Quinn (Self)
Running Time: 45mins
UK Classification:
Classified 1515
Katy's Score:
81108  (Translation: Great)
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I’d seen a few adverts for American Nightmare doing the rounds on the internet and I thought it looked intriguing. I’m a huge fan of true crime and when I saw that American Nightmare was made by the team behind Tinder Swindler I knew that it would be well made, but now I’ve finally sat down to watch it? Oh boy! What a wild ride!

The story is that in March 2015 Aaron Quinn and his girlfriend Denise Huskins were surprised one night in their home by an armed masked man in a wetsuit. Yes, you read that right, a wetsuit. After being tasered, tied up and drugged Aaron woke up to find Denise missing.

Aaron expected, as we all would, that the police would launch a manhunt in order to find his missing girlfriend but instead the lead detective (a man named Mat Mustard I kid you not) suspects that Aaron has done away with Denise after she found out he’d been texting his ex.

Instead of searching for Denise, they focus on questioning Aaron, trying to get him to confess to murdering Denise, telling him he’d catastrophically failed a polygraph test and that they knew he was a cold-blooded murderer.

The problem? Denise isn’t dead and two days later she turns up 400 miles away at her Dad’s house.

So the police go looking for the kidnappers, right?

No! Of course not!

Instead the police and FBI now believe that Denise staged the kidnapping as an elaborate plot to get back at Aaron for cheating on her and arranged the whole thing as some kind of “Gone Girl” style re-enactment.

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Yet again, the police fail to investigate anyone except Denise and Aaron, accusing them of wasting police time and threatening to bring charges against them.

On face value, when watching episode 1 of American Nightmare, Aaron’s tale does seem a little implausible: a man in a wetsuit? Not calling the police until the following morning? Blood in the house? His apparent lack of emotion during the 911 call? They all point the finger squarely at Aaron.

But as he goes through the events of that night, and we see footage of his police interrogations, it becomes apparent that Aaron is telling the truth about what happened and we, as the audience, join him in his frustration at the police’s cavalier attitude to the case.

Then as we move through into episode 2 we begin to see that the tale being spun by the police to the media is not the same as reality with Denise recounting the terrible events that befell her at the hands of her kidnapper.

Even though Denise tells them everything that happened the police still don’t believe her. Instead she’s portrayed to the media as some sort of criminal mastermind intent on manipulating public opinion of her to make her out to be a victim (spoiler alert: she is a victim but the police don’t see it that way.)

The police and FBI incompetence in this case was astounding and at some points my jaw literally dropped open in disbelief when I saw and heard how they were treating Aaron and Denise and how at odds with the truth the police’s statements to the media were. At one point I even yelled “you have GOT to be kidding me” out loud at the television.

If it’s possible, the tale gets even stranger from this point: seemingly annoyed at the way Denise is being portrayed in the press thanks to comments from the police, the kidnapper begins emailing a journalist from the San Francisco Chronicle including photographic evidence that backed up Denise’s is story and the police still didn’t believe Aaron and Denise!

The amount of anger I was feeling towards law enforcement at this point was almost palpable and for the directors (Bernadette Higgins and Felicity Morris) to get such a a visceral response from me just goes to show how well thought out and put together this series is.

The police had ample opportunity time and time again to apprehend the perpetrator but their insistence that all women lie about sexual assault for attention (as seen by some of the other cases examined in episode 3) is sadly indicative of the thoughts that wider (usually male) society has has a whole.

And if all this wasn’t bad enough Mat Mustard, lead “detective” on the case, won “officer of the year” in 2015 so they obviously value “proper” police work in his department, don’t they?

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All I can say is thank goodness for Detective Misty Carausu, the fact that it took a female police officer to bring closure to Denise and Aaron is extremely telling about how the American legal system treats female victims of crime.

Watch American Nightmare if you want to throw things at your TV screen and scream “HOW ARE YOU NOT BELIEVING THEM YOU IDIOTS” over and over again at the dumbarse detectives.

American Nightmare is available to stream on Netflix