Nick Cato - Suburban Grindhouse(Book) [HeadPress - 2019]Suburban Grindhouse zooms us back to NYC suburbs of the 1980s for a trip around the lesser chronicled grindhouses of the decade. The book finds life long exploitation Nick Cato fan taking us on a trip down cinematic memory lane, as he recounts around seventy or so trips to local picture houses of the decade- to see crappy slashers, head- expanding monster movies, cheesy sex comedies, and lo-grade action films. Weaved in with these we get a few more modern cinematic trips, as well as a few interviews.
The book appears on the always worthy Headpress- who over the years have put out a host of intriguing titles digging into the more cult, odd, and deranged sides of culture- be it film, strange musical/non-musical fare, strange collections, or general underground cultural commentary. Suburban Grindhouse is a under A4 sized paperback- that takes in two hundred and fifty black and white pages, featuring texts, stills, and poster art. The book is topped off with a colorful matt laminated cover that's a collage of some of the poster artwork of the films discussed with-in.
The book consists of re-published/ updated, and some case expanded version of Suburban Grindhouse Memories, a regular column Mr. Cato published on the no-longer active Cinema Knifefight website between the years 2010 and 2018. In each column, he selects (largely) from memory a certain trip he made as a late teen to the grindhouse of Staten Island, other NYC suburbs, or a few trips to Times square. In each write-up he talks about which grindhouse he visited, film watched and his thoughts about the said picture- he also touching on amusing anecdotes about the audience/ his buddies he went with- each of the write-ups runs between two and four pages. Dotted throughout the book we get more recent visits to watch exploration fare, and a few of these take in short interviews with the likes of cult directors like Frank Hennelotter & Peaches Christ, and B movie actors like Lydia Cornell and Carmine Capobinco.
Cato style of writing is laid back, light and often amusing- so there’s nothing close to highbrow or stuffy here. He describes each visit fairly well, though this side of things is somewhat fleeting- so you don’t really get the more detailed discicpition of the grindhouses themselves like in say Bill Ladis excellent/ must own Sleazoid Express. The film reviews themselves are good enough- he gives you a good idea of the plot, key scenes and of course his general thoughts. He often picks more / lesser-known titles going from fairly obscure slashers like Superstition, Nightschool, and Terror In The Forest, onto bottom-feeding sex comedies like Goin’All TheWay & Preppies, through to wacky monster/ creature features like The Bog Monster, The Kindred and The Being. He covers more known/ classic exploration like Picecs, The Gates Of Hell, Chained Heat, Mothers Day and 1990: The Bronx Warriors.
On the whole Suburban Grindhouse was an enjoyable ride- though it’s very much of dip in/out of read. Through-out Cato shows his passion/ love of exploitation, and his style is chatty, amusing, and down-to-earth. I can’t say I leaned or gain much, but it certainly gave me a few chuckles and has left me with a good selection of not heard of before titles. Certainly not the best or most thorough book on Grindhouses- but if you are interested in 80’s exploitation, in general, I think you’ll get a kick out of this. Head here to pick up a copy directRoger Batty