Fab Press is (finally) re-issuing Stephen Thrower’s excellent book Nightmare USA next month. I was lucky enough to have bought the first edition several years back but it’s been out of print for some time (it’s one of the most valuable books I have but I consult it too much to ever sell it, and it’s been too expensive used to recommend). This new edition will be in hardcover (it’s too large of a book to have ever been or survive being in softcover) and includes a signed poster. If you’re a fan of 1970’s horror this book is essential. I acknowledge, however, that I probably endorse this book because I endorse its implied thesis: by telling an alternate film history and focusing on some of the weirder exploitation films with avant-garde tendencies, Thrower suggests that these films deserve recognition in film history and criticism. Thrower’s treatment of these films is a nice step in what I hope will be taking these adventurous, ambitious, and, yes, artful exploitation films more seriously.
The one major criticism that someone could have for it, it’s hybrid nature, is why I like it. It’s got enough art and photo to be enjoyed like a coffee table book but also has some rather substantial interviews and overviews of figures who may otherwise be lost in the sheer number of exploitation horror releases of the period. The main draw, for me at least, is that one of the great joys in cult cinema is finding those hidden gems. But where do you start? 70’s exploitation cinema made some of my most favorite and very least favorite movies I’ve ever seen. It seems like for every Messiah of Evil I have to watch 10 inept or plainly bad (not in a good way) films. Sure, those 10 misses might make the one hit sweeter, but here Thrower provides a tremendous watch list (and a lot of reviews) for those interested in seeing the best this era of filmmaking has to offer.