Nightmare USA is a huge (528 pages) tome by musician and author Stephen Thrower (Eyeball Compendium; Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci; Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco and MOVIES & MANIA contributor) that analyses American exploitation cinema with a focus on horror.
First published in May 2007, this seminal book was reprinted for a fourth time in a hardback edition in September 2014 by British-based FAB Press.
“Between 1970 and 1985, American exploitation movies went berserk. With censorship relaxed, and the gate to excess wide open, horror – the Exploitation genre par excellence – offered a vibrant alternative to the mainstream of American cinema. Luridly titled wonders like The Headless Eyes, Scream Bloody Murder and Hitch Hike to Hell were everywhere, from the drive-ins of Texas to the grindhouses of New York, touting a combination of mind-bruising violence, weird sex and drug-soaked delirium. Massively popular around the world, American exploitation movies added immensely to the richness of the nation’s cinema, but they have remained persona non grata in most serious studies of American film. Until now…
Built on five years of research, Nightmare USA explores the development of America’s subterranean horror film industry, spotlighting some of the wildest films imaginable from an era unchecked by censorship or ‘good taste.’ Ranging from cult favourites like I Drink Your Blood to stylish mind-benders like Messiah of Evil and ultra-violent shockers like Don’t Go in the House, Nightmare USA goes where no other in-depth study has gone before, revealing the fascinating true stories behind classics and obscurities alike.
Stephen Thrower, author of Beyond Terror, the definitive book on Italian gore maestro Lucio Fulci, has explored the attics and cellars of American cinema, delved beneath the floorboards, peered between the walls, searching for the strangest, most exotic cine-lifeforms… Nightmare USA is the reader’s guide to what lies beyond the mainstream of American horror, dispelling the shadows to meet the men and women behind fifteen years of screen terror: the Exploitation Independents!
This massive overview of the Horror genre’s development through the 1970s and 1980s features:
- In-depth interviews with twenty-five grindhouse movie makers, many of whom are discussing their work for the first time ever in print, including David Durston (I Drink Your Blood), Robert Endelson (Fight for Your Life), Frederick Friedel (Axe), Don Jones (Schoolgirls in Chains); and Joseph Ellison (Don’t Go in the House).
- Over 175 individual films reviewed, with full cast and crew credits compiled by world-renowned cinema archivist Julian Grainger.
- Vast quantities of previously unpublished stills, posters, press-books, plus behind-the-scenes photographs from the filmmakers’ own collections.
Section One: The Exploitation Independents
A 25,000 word essay charting the rise of Exploitation Horror: from Herschell Gordon Lewis and George Romero to the Slasher phenomenon of the 1980s.
Section Two: Essays on Films and Filmmakers
Dirty Games in Hollywood – The career of James Bryan (Don’t Go in the Woods)
The Frozen Scream Is a Clean Machine – Renee Harmon (Frozen Scream)
The Fiend from Prime-Time – John Peyser on The Centerfold Girls
Carolina on My Mind – The films of Frederick Friedel (Axe, Kidnapped Coed)
It Came from New Jersey! – Douglas McKeown on The Deadly Spawn
Let’s Play Nasty – The films of Don Jones (Schoolgirls in Chains, The Love Butcher, The Forest)
Louisiana Screamin’ – James L. Wilson on Screams of a Winter Night
Satan Was an Acid-Head! – The films of David Durston (I Drink Your Blood, Stigma)
Don’t Make Me Do Anything Bad, Mother… – Joseph Ellison on Don’t Go in the House
If You Go Down in the Caves Today – Mark Sawicki on The Strangeness
The Vigilante of 42nd Street – Robert Endelson on Fight for Your Life
The Living Dead at the All-Night Mall – Willard Huyck on Messiah of Evil
Hollywood After Dark – the films of John Hayes (Grave of the Vampire, Dream No Evil, Garden of the Dead)
What Really Happened to Tony Vorno’s Victims? – Daniel DiSomma on Victims
Growing Pains – John Ballard on Friday the 13th: The Orphan
Blood Relations – The films of Irv and Wayne Berwick (Hitch Hike to Hell, Microwave Massacre)
Mind Before Matter – Robert Allen Schnitzer on The Premonition
Spawn of Venice Beach – Stephen Traxler on Slithis
Beyond the Black Room – The films of Norman Thaddeus Vane (The Black Room, The Horror Star)
Robert Voskanian and Robert Dadashian – Raising The Child
Who’s the Ghostest with the Mostest? – The films of Fredric Hobbs (Alabama’s Ghost, Godmonster of Indian Flats)
To Sleep, Perchance to Scream – George Barry on Death Bed: The Bed That Eats
— supplemented in the text by a further twenty interviews with cast and crew members.
Section Three: Reviews
Reviews of a further 120 films, with additional notes and commentaries on the reviews by Roger Watkins (director: Last House on Dead End Street), Walter Dallenbach (writer: Psychopath), Jeremy Hoenack (director: The Dark Ride), Christopher Speeth (director: Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood), John Wintergate (director: BoardingHouse), Wayne Bell (composer: Death Trap), Michael Gornick (cinematographer: Martin), Don Leifert (star: Fiend)
“The drive-ins, grindhouses and VCRs that beamed Godmonster of Indian Flats or Frozen Scream into the churning collective unconscious of America’s youth are the forge of future forteana, urban folklore and moral panics. These are the cinematic equivalents of Fort’s “damned data”. A final note on the lavish production values – Nightmare USA may be pricey, but it’s all sizzle and all steak, with the text complemented by coffee-table-sized colour pages of rare photos, posters and lobby cards from the filmmakers’ own collections.” Mark Pilkington, Fortean Times
“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.” Anthony Benedetto, Retro Slashers