The grindhouses that once existed in big cities across America, primarily those of the infamous “Deuce” of 42nd Street, have taken on a mythic quality in recent years. These bastions of sleaze and exploitation films may no longer be standing, but the memories from each rat-infested theater have been glorified by many a cinephile, elevating the trashy movie houses to epic status.
And while these theaters have been immortalized, there were plenty of less ostentatious locations throughout the suburbs of the United States that have been forgotten. These smaller, less dangerous theaters were equally revered by the locals that attended them in the 1970s and 1980s, and they helped curate a legion of devotees to bad horror, sci-fi, and action films, some remembered and others forgotten to history.
Like many of us, Nick Cato has a nostalgia for this bygone era, when teenagers across America packed into these low-rent movie theaters to catch the latest flicks, many of which played for only a week before giving way to the next trashy movie. For Cato, the stomping grounds of his youth were the mostly defunct theaters of Staten Island, providing weekly entertainment and influence for him and his friends as detailed in his entertaining memoir, Suburban Grindhouse.
Cato’s ode to the films of his youth and the personal remembrances of them is chockfull of tales of movies that he enjoyed, as well as many that confused or angered him. This is a book that doesn’t just recount the hits, but also the many misses, often times providing the most humor and commentary. Suburban Grindhouse is less a guide to these type of films (of which many already exist) and more of a trip down memory lane that many readers will be able to relate to.
Cato covers many of the “classic” VHS and grindhouse favorites such as XTRO, Silent Rage, The Exterminator, Spring Break, Mother’s Day, and dozens in between with not only his opinion of the films, but also memories from the nights that he witnessed them. Cato talks about his friends reactions, as well as the crowd reactions (which would get your thrown out of most theaters today). The communal experience of watching and making fun of a bad film is often detailed in Suburban Grindhouse, and anyone that went to these films in their heyday can certainly relate to the crowd reactions making the films much more enjoyable.
If you grew up in this era, or are just looking for a type of oral history about what it was like to be a movie-obsessed fan of genre fare in the 1980s, you will enjoy this trip down a twisted memory lane.
Suburban Grindhouse is available at finer book stores everywhere and online from Headpress.com.