If you ask me what is the one thing I’m thrilled about coming out that is movie-related in the next six months you may be surprised by my answer. It’s not “”Grindhouse” or “”Hostel 2,” though I am looking forward to both of those films. It’s really a book that has my pulse racing.
Stephen Thrower (“”Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci”) has written “”Nightmare, USA,” a tome (400 plus pages) due out from FAB Press that examines the exploitation movie genre from the “˜70s and “˜80s — one of the most innovative periods in motion picture history. (I hope to have an interview with Thrower fairly soon, so keep your eyes open.) Why am I excited about this? It should be obvious to anyone who has read my columns for any amount of time.
Exploitation movies are some of the best and worst of what film has to offer. They are exercises in excess, budget control and wild imagination. They are dangerous in the sense that you never know what will happen next. They are rebellious, and they are unrepentant. They represent everything art should be, and I’m thrilled to see a book of this size tackle the subject.
The moment I saw “”Nightmare, USA” advertised on the back cover of “”The Dark Side” magazine, I pre-ordered a copy. That’s how excited I was. I didn’t care about the price (it’s around $70 US). I didn’t care that it wasn’t due out until the end of April (and I think that may be stretching things). All I cared about was that FAB Press was doing it , and that it was going to be a labor of love, much like the films it will cover. And what films will it cover?
Classics and not-so-classics like “”I Drink Your Blood,” “”Don’t Go In The House” and “”Messiah of Evil” are included along with quite a few others. There are over 175 film reviews, exclusive interviews with over two dozen directors (some of whom discuss their various works in print for the first time), rare photos and so on. In other words, it’s an exploitation junkie’s dream made flesh. Will it cover everything? No. There is far too much material out there to do that, but it will cover more than any other book I know of.
So why be excited about this and not some film that’s coming out? That’s fairly easy. With the exception of a few recent movies (the “”Kill Bill” films, “”Haute Tension,” “”The Devil’s Rejects,” “”Hostel,” and so on) there hasn’t been much coming out — at least on a national level — that really pushes the envelope. Hell, even a lot of independent cinema is playing it safe these days. Where is the next “”The Great American Snuff Film”? Nowhere easily found, that’s for sure. Granted, the past few years have been better than the ten before them, but it still isn’t enough.
Cinema, for the most part, is taking the easy way out. Sure, there are exceptions. There always are. But those years from 1970-1985 (and I would contend even a bit before that) were cinematic chaos. It was the Wild West and the far reaches of space all in one. It was a time when horror films weren’t PG-13, and drive-ins weren’t memories. It was an era when films created real controversy (think “”Bloodsucking Freaks” and NOW) and contained real transgressions (“”Cannibal Holocaust”). These days the only controversy we get is from perceived slights (such as the albinos and “”The Da Vinci Code”). Remember the radio talk shows that went nuts over “”Kill Bill Vol. 1″ being too violent? Imagine how “”Evil Dead” would play in the media if it came out now. (“”A tree does what?”) That’s why I’m excited about this book; it will bring back memories of a time that can’t be replicated today. It’s the last great age of cinema, and I like to know all I can about it.
Any serious book done about current film genres would be as boring as the crap coming out of Hollywood (again, with few exceptions). To really excite, to really grab people, you have to go back, go back to a place where watching film wasn’t only subversive, it was daring. That sort of thing doesn’t exist anymore.
I could be wrong, and “”Nightmare, USA” may be the absolute worst book ever written (it would still be better than anything having to do with “”Epic Movie,” though). I doubt it, however. FAB Press is not known for putting out garbage. If it is dedicating so much time and money to a book that will reach a decidedly fringe audience (though one that has money, as proven by the DVD sales of those long forgotten gems), you just know it has to be good.
If you haven’t heard of the book before this column, I’m glad I could introduce you. If you have heard of it, but haven’t yet ordered it — what are you waiting for? An invite? Here it is. Get it while you can, people. Spend the money on it, and not on tickets to see the latest John Cusack tumor. You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor. And if you decide it sounds good, but you’ll wait until the initial reviews come out to see if it’s worth your time — well, I can understand that. Just don’t be dumbfounded when you find all the printings have sold out and now it’s going for a couple hundred dollars on eBay. Check out previous FAB Press books and you’ll see what I mean. Yes, they are that good. And no, you can’t have mine.