Friday, June 4, 2010

AMERICAN NIGHTMARE (1983) - the greatest Italian giallo ever made in Canada

a hooker slasher filmed entirely in sleaze-o-vision

This film is not to be confused with the other American Nightmare, aka Combat Shock, the one where the guy bakes his baby in the oven, and also featuring comic genius Eddie Pepitone in a small role (he doesn’t play the baby; the role isn’t that small). Rather, this American Nightmare is the tale of a serial killer murdering hookers in Toronto (naturally).

One such potential victim happens to be the daughter of some guy that owns a T.V. station, and is therefore deemed worthy enough to be tracked down by her brother Eric and a sleazy cop named Skylar (played by Michael Ironside). Ironside, with his slicked back, thinning hair, scar near the eye, devilish eyebrows, and intense demeanor, has an assured spot in the “actors you do not want to fuck with” hall of fame (whenever he decides to retire).

Little does Eric know, poor sister Isabelle was already seen at the beginning of the film. She was smoking weed naked in a super grimy motel room, about to get frisky with a “client”, when she suddenly got her throat slit with a straight razor, all seen in a sleazy POV shot. I guess she’s going to be pretty hard to find after all. They might want to check the city’s dumpsters. Interestingly, Isabella is played by Alexandra Paul, who later became famous for starring in Melrose Place, a show I have never ever seen, ever (not once, ever).

In the mean time, our killer is offing more prostitutes, taking a sharp detour when he kills a transvestite (variety is the spice of life, after all). The stalk scenes are grimly effective, helped out by the creepy score. The killer fits the slasher bill, being that he is an unknown assailant that we don’t get to know personally (not that we would want to). Overall, American Nightmare is sort of a sleazy, skid row Canadian version of an Itallian giallo, and the sloppy editing and rough, grainy photography only add to the “I need a shower” factor. The film showcases Toronto as a collection of seedy motel rooms, seedy strip clubs, and porno theaters with sticky floors covered in seed. Our poor schmuck of a hero is forced to wade through the filth, sometimes joined by his main consultant on the case (a feisty ice cube of a stripper), hoping to find and rescue his stone dead hooker sister.

Eric gives the film an emotional center, as he seems like a perfectly clean cut Canadian guy who deeply cares about his sister. However, the quest to save his dead sibling is hopelessly futile, and this gives American Nightmare a grim, dare I say, existential pall that is missing from other Canadian "hooker slicing" films inexplicably named after a different country. This goes to show you how a simple piece of information can affect an entire movie. Telling the audience right off the bat that the sister is dead, without the main character being aware, is extremely effective, and changes the entire dynamic of the film.

Eric eventually figures out, through keen observation and near Holmes-ian shrewdness, that his own father was the culprit, having financed a hooker killing spree that included his own daughter, carried out by his right hand man. The killer then goes on his diatribe about how all the women were worthless whores that were murdered to protect a media empire, one that extols its murdering thug of an owner as a great humanitarian. It is a tape that ultimately reveals the father to be an evil charlatan, a new media counter to the lies of the old media monster.

So...why were these murders "necessary", you ask? Well, daddy was screwing his own daughter, and she tried to blackmail him in revenge, and may have told a few of her friends about it. I guess the hooker killing spree was more cost effective then just paying off his daughter, After all, the bottom line is still the bottom line. Luckily, Eric figured things out, and daddy, faced with having to deal with the consequences of his actions, takes the spineless pussy route and shoots himself in the head. At least pull a Budd Dwyer and do it on television (he owns a station anyway). That way we can at least enjoy watching a lowlife piece of shit rearrange his skull during primetime.

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