I took another trip back into the Trash Palace last weekend to watch Don McBearty's 1983 flick American Nightmare.
A man (Lawrence Day) travels into the city's underbelly to find his missing sister.
Trash always announces their lineup ayear at a time, so I've had this date circled on my calendar for at least that long. It did not disappoint. I've heard this movie labelled as a Canadian giallo and that is certainly valid. It has a shadowy gloved killer, copious amounts of sexualized death and is at its core, a murder mystery. That would in itself have been enough for me to latch onto, but being that it was shot in Toronto garnered that extra level of familiarity.
As you know, I love horror films that are shot in Toronto, especially the ones where a half-assed attempt is made to set them in the US and American Nightmare is perhaps the most flagrant example. This was the most sleaziest and grimiest I've ever seen it, particularly the sequences Yonge doubled as 42nd Street. They found that area around the Zanzibar (also featured in the movie) and really ran with it. Also featured are the Channel 47/Cable 4 building, and a rooftop climax that does not even really try to hide The CN Tower.
|That ain't the Space Needle!|
Being that it was shot locally, there are also a lot of familiar faces, chief among them “Mike” Ironside. This film was shot in 1981, but released in 1983, so by that time he had already appeared in Scanners and Visiting Hours. I imagine his appearance as a detective would have been almost shocking. Conversely, Tom Harvey (who I grew up watching in comedies like Strange Brew and TV's Bizarre) shows up as an incestuous millionaire, so big 'ewwwwww' on that. Most amusing though was seeing now Canadian political figure Lenore Zann perform a strip tease while riding a pitchfork.
|This actually makes the NDP seem more legitimate tbh|
I was surprised by how much this movie reminded me of The Wizard of Gore in structure. If you replace the magic acts with strip tease numbers, they really are similar pictures. Then I realized that one of the producers on American Nightmare was the Wizard himself, Ray Sager and then it all made sense. -ed while writing my inadvertent 2019 review of this movie, I realized I was confusing Wizard of Gore with Gore Gore Girls. My mistake.
American Nightmare is another title you can add to the list of weird cinematic Canadiana. It is greasy, dark and grim and not generally the kind of fare us Canucks tend to shell out. Yes, even the Great White North can sometimes get the blues.