“Nightmare U.S.A. The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents” is an invaluable textbook that explores Independent horror films from 1970- 1985.
Written by Stephen Thrower, this is a bible for the midnight movie lovers. Choosing several directors and films that he feels best represent the genre, Thrower’s book is a well-detailed account that not only includes his in-depth analyses of the movies, but also first-hand accounts from the people that made them. It took him several years to perform the research for this book and this is made apparent in his scholarly approach to movies that are often looked down upon.
Thrower breaks the lengthy book into three sections. The first is a detailed essay on the underground horror independents and explains some of the highlights and low points. It even examines pictures (“Forced Entry,” “Hardgore”) that pushed the genres into depraved oddities of violence and sex. Section two consists of several chapters devoted to specific movies, their history and interviews with the directors and or the producers. Section three includes brief reviews and interviews for over 100 films, from “The Alchemist” to “The Witch Who Came from the Sea.”
It is a worthwhile read that leaves no lingering questions about the making of some of these films. The directors of these pictures simply relish in recounting the tales of the production of, for most of them, their only attempt to break into Hollywood. Their tales are relatable to anyone with a dream of making a movie someday and how these hardships never kept them down. It is great that their stories are finally told.
The funny thing is that while reading these accounts, you remember that their basic dream was to make a movie about a raving lunatic in the city or the woods. Sure, first-hand accounts are great, but what about the films in the book? “Nightmare” is the good, bad and ugly account of horror films.
Even if you don’t necessarily agree with Thrower’s review, he makes a well-documented argument as to why the movie is relevant. That is made clear in the first chapter, which details “Don’t Go in the Woods… Alone” and makes it sound so much better than the actual experience of sitting through it. This is especially true when we hear first-hand from James Bryant (“The Executioner Part 2.” There was no “Executioner” part one by the way.) about what it was like to direct the production.
But don’t let that chapter turn you off. The chapters to come will teach you about many great horror films that you may never have heard of including, “The Centerfold Girls,” “Don’t Go in the House,” “Fight for Your Life,” “The Strangeness,” “The Child,” “Schoolgirls in Chains” and “Death Bed: The Bed that Eats.”
Section three even covers some great films including “Boarding House” (Featuring an interview with director John Wintergate) and “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death.” Some other movies chosen for this chapter are considered not worthwhile by Thrower, so their inclusion is puzzling.
Time and time again, studies are done on some of the great and historical films of our time, but Thrower has jumped into waters that no one else has dared to tread and creates a new perspective for movie lovers. The retail price maybe considerably high, as it runs for close to 60 dollars on Amazon.com, but for hardcore movie aficionados, it’s a purchase you won’t not be sorry that you made.
The end of the book has an ad for Volume 2 with a listing of what films he will cover. However, that book has no set release date as of now.