Directed by: Don McBrearty
Actors: Lawrence Day, Lora Staley, Neil Dainard and Lenore Zann
Also known as: Pesadilla americana, Amerikan painajainen
Description: A slasher is on the loose in Toronto, killing prostitutes, drifters and other street people.
Canada was notable in the ’80s for all its important contributions to the modern slasher film, with classics like Prom Night, TERROR TRAIN, Happy Birthday to Me and MY BLOODY VALENTINE. A similar, lower budgeted picture to get lost in the shuffle was AMERICAN NIGHTMARE. Although the title suggests otherwise, it is resoundly Canadian, filmed in the murky Toronto underbelly. What the generic title also fails to make note of though, is that this is more than just your typical slasher film. In fact, with its underpinnings in captialist greed, urban malaise, a whodunit resolve and a killer with some big black gloves, it can thus be called Canada’s sole contribution to the giallo genre. What a fine contribution it is though, and one that has been left obscured for far too long.
The initial draw to the film today is seeing a barely-legal Alexandra Paul (Christine) topless and kinky, as well as a rare early Michael Ironside (Scanners, Total Recall) performance where he isn’t the bad guy. The story itself holds up most though, and even today it presents a scathing attack at the conglomerating of American society and the greed inherent within it. It gives an inside look at the seedy stripper universe much like Fulci’s New York Ripper, although this has the social insight to back it up. With some good kills, a wild finale and a whole lot ‘o grit, this is a rare giallo worth remembering.