Five Documentaries About Exploitation and Horror

American Scary

I came by my love of horror movies via a Saturday afternoon block called Thriller Double Feature that played on a local UHF station. We’d spend every Saturday when I was a kid lazily watching the TV as it played and replayed TV-safe versions of what would later be known as classic cult films (The Incredible Melting Man, One Dark Night, and Zombie Lake were regulars that spring to mind). It was just fantastic, and I’ve often wondered why I try so hard to recreate that vibe by watching modern day horror films without succeeding.

American Scary proposes that the difference was the commercials. As MFFE mentioned in another thread, a little break now and again isn’t a bad thing. American Scary is a doc about the history of late-night horror movie hosts: the countercultural precursors to Elvira and the Cryptkeeper that worked nights at local stations and leavened the weirdness with stupid comedy bits where they’d make jokes about doing medical experiments on bikini girls. It’s an interesting topic and they get a lot of good interviews. They also get a lot of bad interviews – like everything old that was interesting, there is now a horrific fan culture around it – and the thing was clearly made for like a thousand bucks. Still, it kept my attention throughout and I can’t help but wonder whether Count Scary wouldn’t have made my experiences with modern day horror more enjoyable.

Weakly recommended to all, strongly recommended if you’re like me and remember a weekly horror show on TV.

American Grindhouse

This is a doc all about the history of grindhouse cinema. It presents a good overview of cult films and it has a lot of cultural context that I (a genre fan) didn’t know much about, so that’s good. They score a lot of good interviews here, too. I saw this a couple of weeks ago and I don’t remember it too well but I watched it all the way through; it’s the one that inspired me to watch the rest of these movies.

Recommended for fans of trashy films. At the very least you’ll find out about some new movies you want to see.

Machete Maidens Unleashed!

PAYDIRT. This is a doc all about Filipino exploitation films of the 60s and 70s. Apparently a lot of the “women in cages” movies that are somewhat well-known (The Big Doll House, The Big Bird Cage) were part of a larger scheme being run by Roger Corman at the time: he hired Filipino directors to make these hugely explicit, prurient, violent movies on a shoestring budget, and Imelda Marcos wanted so badly to have a domestic film industry that the army got involved. Fantastic stuff. BONUS: lots of interviews with the ladies who starred in the films, who simultaneously disown the films and are obviously proud to have been SO STONKING HOT back in the 70s. Also: interviews with Quentin Tarantino and John Landis (who was interviewed for literally all five of these movies).

Recommended to everybody who likes violence, nudity, and documentaries.

Not Quite Hollywood

Holy shit! I figured I would have peaked out at Machete Maidens Unleashed! but this one is even better. The style between MMU! and Not Quite Hollywood is extremely similar, because they were both done by the same guy. The same awesome guy, whom I now love.

NQH is about the Australian film industry, specifically with regards to its origin as an exploitation film machine. Apparently, when things got started in Australia back in the 60s, the only thing their film industry had to differentiate themselves from the US (besides price) was the absence of a Motion Picture Production Code. Roger Corman gets wind of this (of course), blows into town and blam: the first wave of Australian is all porn movies. It’s really fascinating: these were big hit movies over there, polite grownups were going out to theaters and watching softcore porn. Their first national film star was a guy who starred in a series of films that was basically Arthur except instead of a stupid drunk, it was some Australian redneck walking around with his dick hanging out.

There are a TON of amazing movies shown in this one that I had never heard of; of course, because Corman was involved, there was tons of blood and guts interspersed with the nudity and sex. Why did I not know about these movies?!

Strongly recommended to everybody but probably not to watch with your significant other.

Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue

This is not only the worst documentary out of the five, it’s the worst documentary I’ve ever seen. It’s like 90 minutes long, and they must discuss over a hundred movies. They blow past EVERYTHING. It’s a real shame because it seems like they got tons of great interviews, and everything, EVERYTHING got cut. You’ve got John Carpenter starting to talk about The Thing, you’ve got Romero talking about Night of The Living Dead… they both get ten seconds. WHAT ELSE DID THEY SAY

Ultra-frustrating. If you’re a horror movie fan you will already know about 100% of the movies shown here and then be teased by a 10-second interview with each movie’s director. I’d watch a half hour about any of these movies! Instead I just get to know that the documentarian found out a bunch of interesting shit and didn’t share. It’s like Gates of Heaven in reverse: an interesting topic made uninteresting by not letting people stay onscreen long enough.

Nobody should watch this movie, it sucks.


  • Everybody should watch Machete Maidens Unleashed! and Not Quite Hollywood (in that order), and then if you liked those consider the other two decent ones, knowing they’re not as good.
  • Roger Corman is a total fucking badass and a national treasure.
  • John Landis will be in your documentary, call him up, he’s not busy.

Link to comments.