While perhaps dressed up as a horror film and featuring a few elements from the genre, American Nightmare is more a crime film than anything else. Essentially a movie about a serial killer who targets prostitutes and exotic dancers, the film does not scare nor provide any fright and it is hardly suspenseful, at least until that final scene where the damsel in distress must elude said killer. The script supposedly took its cue from the state of criminality in the United States at the time, with writer John Sheppard perhaps trying to convey a message and while the movie would manage to hold the audience captive, it was nothing that had not been seen many times previous in different forms like Death Wish for one.
The one thing that this film really has going for it is the cinematography and direction by Don McBrearty as it features a fairly gritty overtone throughout. It paints a dreary picture of the lives portrayed within and that which surrounds them. One has to feel bad that such places once existed and still exist and that in itself is perhaps the biggest horror that this picture features. The murders are nothing exceptional as far as on-screen murders go and though they are bloody, play into standard slasher territory and could have been something better if the killer had been beefed up and focused upon a little more. As it stands, while the film does provide some escapism, it is not into the exaggerated world of movie horror, but real-world horror and that is something that one can simply watch on the news if in need of something like this.
Altogether, American Nightmare is not what one would immediately suspect from this Canadian production, though it does have Michael Ironside in a bit part, and while it manages to be a decent film, as a horror movie, it is somewhat lacking.
2.5 out of 5