Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 14th, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: Canada, 1983
Director: Don McBrearty
Writers: John Sheppard, John Gault, Steven Blake
Cast: Lawrence Day, Lora Staley, Neil Dainard, Lenore Zann, Claudia Udy, Page Fletcher, Michael Ironside, Larry Aubrey, Michael Copeman, Bunty Webb, Tom Harvey, Paul Bradley, Peter Lavender, Martin Doyle, Don MacQuarrie, Alexandra Paul, Nancy Oliver
DVD released: November 6th, 2012
Approximate running time: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Scorpion Releasing
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.95
Synopsis: A man’s determinations to uncover the truth about his sisters disappearance reveals a sinister family secret.
Reportedly American Nightmare was filmed in 1981 and sat on the shelf for two years before it finally was unleashed on the public. So trying to gauge how much it influenced or was influenced by other similar films from this era would be a tricky task. if anything this film owes more to Italian thrillers often referred to as Giallo’s then it does to the Slasher film genre which was hitting its stride when this film was being made.
From a production standpoint this film’s key creative force is its producer Paul Lynch, who a year before directed Prom Night and a year after American Nightmare he would go onto to direct Humungous. He was originally slated to direct American Nightmare, but had to bow out due to being contractually obligated to direct a T.V. series that was being made at the same time. His absence as director can be felt throughout and in this reviewers opinion had he directed American Nightmare this would have been a much better film then what ended up on screen.
In his place was a director named Don McBrearty, who’s career as a filmmaker is most confined to working on television. The more dramatic moments often come off as too flat. With this film’s only saying grace visually being its kill sequences which have an ample amount of gore and sleaze.
Performance wise none of the cast come as that well and particularly its leading man Lawrence Day in the role of the older brother looking for his younger sister giving one of the blandest performances that I have had the pleasure to sit through in a very long time. Short comings of the performances aside this film does feature two faces recognizable faces Michael Ironside (Scanners) and Alexandra Paul (Christine), who filmography contains numerous films that they have appeared that are so much better then American Nightmare. Ultimately American Nightmare is a mediocre thriller that tries its darndest make up for its weak plot and lack of character development by serving up heaping helpings of depravity.
Scorpion Releasing presents American Nightmare in a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. This transfer looks as good as one can expect from a 1 inch tape based master. Colors look muted, black levels are at best average and details tend to look soft. There are no problems with compression and print debris while present it is very mild.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. Background noise is minimal and range wise this audio mix is rather limited. With that being said dialog always comes through clear enough to follow.
Extras for this release include a interview with producer Paul Lynch (23 minutes 42 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), a audio interview with co-screenwriter John Sheppard (19 minutes 28 seconds) and a audio commentary with producer Paul Lynch and moderator Katarina Leigh Waters. Topics discussed in the interviews include the origins of the project, John Sheppard first draft of the film and how it differs from what appeared on screen, the cast & crew and other production related topics. Other topics that these three extras also cover include other projects that these participants have worked on.
Also there are two ways to watch the main feature, ‘Play Movie’ or ‘Play Katarina’s Nightmare Theater’. This second option include comments before and after the main feature from Katarina Leigh Waters, who’s comments are done in a more analytical way as she gives a overall of who all the main players in this production are and she closes with her thoughts on the main feature.