4 stars   
"Every year girls move to the city determined to make their dreams come true ... or die trying."

directed by: Don McBrearty
starring: Lawrence Day, Lora Staley, Larry Aubrey, Paul Bradley, Michael Copeman, Neil Dainard, Page Fletcher, Michael Ironside, Alexandra Paul, Claudia Udy, Lenore Zann

(back of video blurb):

"Pray you never have one."

choice dialogue:

"This is no place for a nice girl like Dolly!"

- transvestite Dolly retorts on his being around the recent murders

Slash with panache?:

[review by Jacob Helgren]

Do you ever think, after seeing HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, BLACK CHRISTMAS and some of their better clones (MY BLOODY VALENTINE, THE PROWLER, PROM NIGHT) that you've seen all the good slasher flicks there are? If you haven't seen the Canadian slasher pic AMERICAN NIGHTMARE you might think again.

Upon researching the December 2001 thriller of the same title on the Internet Movie Database, I discovered this 1983 slasher flick (not at all unlike 84's GIRL'S NITE OUT, which was really made in 1983, this flick also looks much more like '81 or early '82) on Ebay and scored myself a copy simply because I'd never heard of it. Thinking how horrid it was going to be, I set my expectations low and played it to pass time as I got ready to go out one night. After the first scene, however, I saw immediate potential and sat down to watch it, and found myself hooked on it until the end.

The opening murder ...

The film opens with a seedy hotel room and a young, topless Alexandra Paul ("Baywatch" series, "Piranha" remake) who I almost didn't recognize. She smokes a joint and talks filthily "I'm so ready for you…I'm so wet…" to the unseen man washing his hands in the bathroom. The girl is obviously a hooker, as a wad of cash and a bottle of Jack Daniels lie on the night table next to her. She practically has a conversation with herself, talking about how the unseen man shouldn't be upset because "there are no cameras tonight…they promised…" and as she wriggles around upon the bed, ready for her mate, the man puts on surgical gloves and proceeds to dispatch her with a straight razor.

In the next scene we are introduced to the ill-fated girl's attractive, protective, older brother Eric who has been gone for two years pursuing a piano-playing career. He has now come back into town based on a letter of his sister's request. He first visits his father, rich chairman of Uni-Save (an outreach for children), and his all-smiles public relations right hand man. After a quick encounter between the two (explaining that the father had run both his kids out onto the street) the brother storms out, leaving two of the ever-growing list of red herrings in this flick.

Eric investigates his sister's disappearance ...

He decides to go and search for her. He finds out she has been missing, but authorities, particularly straight-laced Sgt. Skylar (played by an always intimidating Mike Ironside), don't care much for hookers and other "degenerates" and don't make much of an effort to pursue the missing girl or protect her friends. Eric, perturbed, decides he must look for her on his own. He visits his sister's old apartment and after an encounter with the transvestite neighbor "Dolly", he meets Louise, his sister's roommate, the "final girl" and his soon-to-be love interest. He finds out his sister, besides soliciting, worked at Club 2000, a shady strip joint where the good 'ol boys go to drink and watch girls get their groove on. Louise also works there as a dancer, along with others, including the lovely Canadian slasher veteran Lenore Zann (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, MURDER BY PHONE, VISITING HOURS) in one her best roles yet.

Lenore Zann  comes face-to-face with the mad slasher!

Eric and Louise begin their search, and all the while, someone in a beret and wearing surgical gloves begins doing away with the other girls. What follows is a formulaic slasher that makes all the right moves to become quite an effective film. Louise herself gets attacked at one point, as well, and check out the suspense of that scene!

The movie does have some flaws: the acting of the males in the cast isn't superb, by any means, and it definitely has that sleazy sexploitation label all over it once again brandishing the slasher as an excuse for a T&A romp. But that isn't necessarily what director McBrearty was trying to do, because he created one hell of a slasher, and despite what some might say, T&A may be as easy as it looks, but suspense is not.

Surgical gloves have never been so creepy!

Now for what I loved about it: first and foremost, the depiction of the girls. In most slashers with sleazy strip clubs, the girls are completely scummy, drug-ridden tramps or hookers. With the exception of the Alexandra Paul's character in the first scene, the girls are just normal, pretty, young women just trying to earn their keep as dancers, which makes the audience have some emotion for them. That being said, though, the cast is very likeable, especially in transvestite Dolly (Larry Aubrey), who brings out the comic relief. The killer is convincingly creepy, and the twist, although I should've seen it coming, gave me a small shock factor; and the stalk scenes are atmospheric and quite effective, and Tina's (Zann) stalk sequence is one of the best eighties chase sequences I've seen. The romantic love interest of the hero and the final girl is also effective…I actually found myself smilingly happy when they hooked up. And finally, I love the great plot viewpoint in the fact that wealthy and powerful people can be perverse and corruptive, and that poor people in the slums can be beautiful and good-hearted.

Overall, this movie is one I definitely recommend. How this one passed by without getting noticed, I'll never know…but I'm very happy to have this flick proudly posted on the shelf with all my other favorites!

BODYCOUNT 6  bodycount!   female:3 / male:3

       1) Female teen slit throat with straight razor
       2) Female drowned in bathtub, then wrists slit with straight razor
       3) Male stabbed in stomach with knife
       4) Female throat slit with knife
       5) Male shoots himself in the head with gun
       6) Male falls off side of building