Thursday, January 3, 2019

New Short Story Collection

My first full-length short story collection, THE SATANIC RITES OF SASQUATCH AND OTHER WEIRD STORIES, is now available from Bizarro Pulp Press (an imprint of Journalstone). The book contains 5 stories published here for the first time, and 9 others dating back to 2007. Each story is headed by an author's note and the wonderful cover art is by Mikio Murakami.

Grab your copy here: The Satanic Rites of Sasquatch


My first non-fiction film book, SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE: FROM STATEN ISLAND TO TIMES SQUARE & ALL THE SLEAZE BETWEEN will be released in December, 2019 by Headpress Publishing. Full details can be read on their official site: Suburban Grindhouse

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES was the name of a column I wrote for the CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT website from 2010-2018 (when they shut down). This book, shortened to SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE, collects all of my columns, many which were updated, and a host of new material includes interviews with directors Frank Hennenlotter, Elijah Drenner, Peaches Christ, and stars Carmine Capobianco and Lydia Cornell (who gives one of the only interviews she has done about her 1982 film, Blood Tide). The book is half memoir, half film reviews, filled with classic ads for each film as they appeared in local NYC newspapers.

Early reviews:

"There was a time not long ago when I figured that I’d never have to read another book of movie reviews again. I’d been there and done that–I thought I’d seen (and read) it all! Well, I was wrong. Boy, was I ever wrong. Nick Cato’s Suburban Grindhouse is, quite frankly, one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. Funny, in your face, and most important of all, informative, SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE is a rare treat, indeed. And– like my favorite movies–I look forward to visiting it again and again."- John Szpunar, author of Xeroxferox and Blood Sucking Freak: The Life and Films of the Incredible Joel M. Reed

"No movie is an experience in and of itself. There’s a big difference between seeing Texas Chainsaw Massacre on a nice, shiny DVD in your living room and seeing it the way God intended–in a theater full of filth, cigarette butts, broken bottles and used syringes. In SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE, Nick Cato becomes the Marcel Proust of trash cinema, resurrecting memories of the kinds of late, lamented, Mom and Pop fleapits in which seeing an anti-social movie with your buddies was a gloriously anti-social act. He writes about the total experience of seeing exploitation movies, and each entry in SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE is a bite into a memory-packed Madeleine full of delicious sleaze."- Michael Marano, MediaDrome movie columnist for Cemetery Dance, horror writer, creator of the Mad Prof. Mike's Headbanger Movie Reviews on the Public Radio Satellite System show Movie Magazine International

Nick Cato’s desire for sex, blood, and filth fleshes out the lesser-known neighborhood venues where lone pervs would anonymously gather to get their collective rocks off. An essential addition to the grindhouse scholar’s shelf, Cato’s roadmap to cinematic depravity relights those long-dimmed and demolished dingy marquees, comforting us with the gentle solace and reminiscence of what can only be experienced in the darkest shadows of the cinema.- Shade Rupe, author of Dark Stars Rising

More news to follow...

Friday, November 30, 2018


Love or hate Director Lars Von Trier, he has turned pissing people off into an art form. The critics often get on his case, and while it may take a few years and a few softer films before he responds, he always comes back swinging with two lead fists.

Von Trier’s latest, THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT, was screened on 11/28/18 around the US (for one night only) in a 2 hour and 35 minute “director’s cut,” which runs 10 minutes longer than the R rated version being released theatrically and on demand on 12/14. If you haven’t read all the hype that’s been going around since this year’s Cannes Film Festival screening, feel free to consult Google then come back here.

Okay, good.

Matt Dillon stars as Jack, a would be architect who spends the first two hours of the film recounting five murders he committed during the 70s and early 80s in the Pacific Northwest. We hear him speaking to someone, but aren’t told who until the final half hour. Who it turns out to be gives the film an arty twist, but that’s something Von Trier fans have come to expect.

This is a deep study of what made Jack tick throughout his life, and an early scene of young Jack will surely rile animal rights activists, although I understand PETA has actually endorsed the film. Go figure.

The film is set up in 5 incidents, each one dedicated to a particular murder. Uma Thurman plays victim in the first, but it’s during the second where we learn Jack has OCD. The sequence is as darkly hilarious as it is suspenseful, and actress Siobhan Fallon Hogan delivers an amazing performance as a duped widowed house wife. The scene stretches a bit too long, yet I laughed along with it right up until it’s grotesquely demented conclusion.

But it’s the third incident where JACK decides it doesn’t give a crap what audiences think about it. It’s also where I’m assuming most people either walked out of the film or decided to brave on. Jack poses as a hunting instructor. He takes a woman and her two young sons (who look to be about 8 years old each) to an isolated wooded area, and what follows is one of the darkest things you’re likely to see on film so far this millennium. The aftermath of this sequence, where Jack puts taxidermy into practice, genuinely startled me and has stayed on my mind since.

If horror, as an art form, is supposed to disturb and frighten the viewer, Von Trier has brought it here in abundance. Sure, some will see this segment as so over the top as to be laughable, yet when we discover Jack’s position in life near the finale, the scene takes on a dimension that’s anything but humorous.

During Incident 4, Jack falls in love (sort of) with an attractive blonde woman, yet mentally abuses her until finally ending her life. It’s an unpleasant, ugly experience, and will probably end up being more controversial than the aforementioned third incident. I can see viewers taking issue on why the director would do this (some reviews I’ve read pointed to instances of Von Trier himself treating women like dirt) and at this point in the film we know Jack is a complete psychotic, capable of anything. That said, Jack’s comments on male superiority will surely leave a bad taste in many mouths. I know it did mine. Yet in a film that some have already considered abusive to the audience, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprise the director chose to go here?

Not wanting to spoil too much, let’s just say the final act of Jack’s “house building” is as gruesome as anything that came before it, then the film shifts tone for its final half hour as we learn who Jack has been talking to throughout its running time. We get two hours of Jack’s madness on (often) graphic display, then a conclusion that’s Von Trier’s version of Dante’s Inferno. And while I enjoyed the wonderfully eerie look and tone of the film’s shift, right up until the final shot of Jack’s not so surprised face, I found the comical song that takes us into the end credits to be a horrendous choice. While the film has plenty of dark humor early on, most of the film is grim and serious. To end things on such a goofy song selection made me think the director wasn’t really taking things as seriously as I’d thought. It’s obvious Von Trier made some of this to be darkly comic, but this aural assault took me right out of the world I had just spent two and a half hours in, and it’s something that puts a huge dent (along with the “blonde bimbo” sequence) into what could’ve been a perfect film.

Lengthy horror films seem to be a trend in 2018 (i.e. SUSPIRIA and HEREDITARY), yet THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT, even when pissing you off, is never slow, never boring, and continually suspenseful. I mentioned the Incident 2 scene went on a bit long, yet in the context of an OCD person it’s understandable, and still entertaining.

This is a divisive film, is not for everyone (even among die hard horror fans), and will surely be discussed for years to come. It's one of those films I can't wait to experience a second time.

If Matt Dillon doesn’t at least earn an Oscar nomination, there’s no justice in this world. His performance is stellar, and not once was I reminded of any roles he had done prior.

If you like your horror with balls, look no further.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

BLOOD SUCKING FREAK: The Life and Times of the Incredible Joel M. Reed

BLOOD SUCKING FREAK: THE LIFE AND FILMS OF THE INCREDIBLE JOEL M. REED by John Szpunar (2018 Headpress / 422 pp / trade paperback, eBook, and limited edition hardcover)

The first time I heard of the notorious 1975 film BLOODSUCKING FREAKS was during a vacation in 1981. We were visiting family in North Carolina, and I saw an ad in the local paper for the film playing at a local drive in. Of course, I couldn't convince my dad or uncle to take me (I was only 13 at the time, the summer before my last year of junior high). But I spent the rest of the vacation** staring at the ghoulish ad (see below) and wondering what on earth the film could be like. Then Fangoria magazine mentioned it. And around 1983, my friends and I spotted it at out local video store, rented it on VHS, and watched it countless times. The film found a new generation of horror fans thanks to the home video revolution.

But little was ever known about its director, Joel M. Reed … that is, until now.

John Szpunar's BLOOD SUCKING FREAK is a project that has been in the works for over 20 years. I'd been hearing about it for about 5 of those years, so was thrilled to finally get my hands on a copy. And the wait was more than worth it, not only for Reed fans, but for anyone interested in low budget filmmaking as well as those who may want an insider's look at Times Square in its heyday.

Szpunar doesn't spend too much time on Reed's upbringing, but gives us just enough as to leave most of the space for intense interviews which deal mostly with his 6 films. Beginning in 1998, we read of the author's journey from Detroit to New York City, where he meets with Reed over the course of several years to interview and discuss his life and times. The first few chapters set things up as we meet Reed and several people he dealt with in the early days of his career, including producer Vernon Becker, and a wonderful recollection from Reed on places he hung out in around Manhattan.

Then we get deep into his films, beginning with 1968's CAREER BED, a sex comedy about a mother trying to get her daughter to be a movie star. I don't think there's anywhere else you'll find such detailed information on the making of this sought after cult film, nor Reed's second feature, SEX BY ADVERTISEMENT. Every chapter contains lots of rare and never before seen pics.

The best thing about each chapter dealing with a film is as Szpunar interviews Reed, they have said film playing in the background, and Reed sporadically comments on the feature, turning the book into a commentary (of sorts) for his entire film catalog. This alone is worth the cover price, especially when fans get to the chapter on BLOODSUCKING FREAKS.

(Joel M. Reed today)

1971's WIT'S END (which many in the USA saw under the re-released title THE G.I. EXECUTIONER) offers a particularly detailed look at the filmmaking process as Szpunar has a few others involved with the film as part of the roundtable discussion. I think the most entertaining commentary is during their talk of 1976's BLOOD BATH, which came out the same year as BLOODSUCKING FREAKS (which was known as THE INCREDIBLE TORTURE SHOW at the time). BLOOD BATH is a four-story horror anthology, and it's great to get Reed's two cents about each tale and the people surrounding them.

It's no secret there will be many who buy this book mainly to read about BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, and the chapter dealing with it offers plenty that has never been revealed before. Over 50 pages of insider stuff that will thrill fans of the classic exploitation film and make you want to sit through the depravity all over again!

Reed's final film, NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES (not to be confused with the Bruno Mattei film of the same title) starred porn star Jamie Gillis, who Reed remembers fondly with several stories from on and off the set. Some of the commentary about Germany (where the film was shot) is hilarious. As an added bonus, there's an interview with star Nazi zombie Don Wallace, which takes up its own follow-up chapter.

After some more surprises, Szpunar closes the book with a farewell both to his times on 42nd Street and endless hours spent in Reed's apartment recording interviews for this book. It's a bit sad, but knowing Reed is still out there, writing, planning, living his life as full as he can ends things on an inspiring note.

I was fascinated with BLOODSUCKING FREAKS all through my teenage years, and now I'm even more fascinated with its director (who I had the pleasure of meeting this past summer). Joel M. Reed has truly been living an incredible life, a life spent hanging out with the coolest of the cool from the 1950s, to the sleaziest of the sleazy in NYC grindhouses in the 60s and 70s...and beyond. Reed doesn't shy away from telling us what turns him on, what makes him tick, and what he doesn't care for, and whether we agree with him or not, he has a way about him that makes his simplest comments interesting.

BLOOD SUCKING FREAK should not be missed by anyone who loves exploitation cinema. There's information here about iconic underground film people such as Joe Sarno, Lloyd Kaufman and Tom Keena you're not going to hear anywhere else. Coming from a purely one on one angle, Szpunar has delivered a unique look at a very unique man, and film fans need look nowhere else for his true story.

**(POST NOTE: I DID convince one of my older cousins to take me to see a double feature of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and HITCHHIKE TO HELL, so the vacation wasn't a total loss).

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

New Novella from Dynatox Ministries

DEATH WITCH, my occultic take on the rape-revenge subgenre, is now available in a slick trade edition from Dynatox Ministries right here: DEATH WITCH

Below are some great reviews that have come in over the past few months:

"DEATH WITCH is the kind of book I most enjoy reading -- one that makes me feel like I've witnessed something I wasn't supposed to see, and now I am complicit. Like a cross between I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and PUMPKINHEAD (without the big rubber monster), it's a devilish drive-in cult flick set to prose. Hell, yeah!"

-James Newman, author of ODD MAN OUT, ANIMOSITY, and REVENGE FLICK!

“Nick Cato’s DEATH WITCH serves up exactly what the perfectly clever title promises—a grindhouse-style mashup of revenge exploitation and Giallo-inspired occult horror. This book is sure to please fans of Mario Bava and Brian Garfield. Just TRY not to imagine Barbara Steele starring in this. I dare you!”

~ Bracken MacLeod, Bram Stoker Award nominated author of STRANDED and COME TO DUST.

"Nick Cato's love of exploitation cinema runs through all of his fiction, and here he offers a suitably mean and nasty take on the revenge genre. An over-the-top, gripping, and unsavory read." -- Jeff Strand, author of BLISTER.

"The straight-forward, no-frills writing style turns DEATH WITCH into a lean and mean book easily consumed in a single sitting. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine it playing on old 42nd Street in New York."

-Evan Romero, pophorror.com

DEATH WITCH” by Nick Cato left me staring at the page, stunned at what I was witnessing. Cato's vivid style is like a junk-punch that made me feel like a peeping Tom and the cops were going to be cuffing me any second. A disturbing look at the true evil men can do, and the women scorned who aren't as forgiving as they'd hoped. A fast, dark, brutal revenge tale in the same bloody vein as Laymon, Tarantino, Ketchum, with a little pinch of Death Wish thrown in for good measure.
Two devil-horns up!!!

- Thom Erb- Author of TONES OF HOME, HEAVEN, HELL, OR HOUSTON and the upcoming Eternal Flame Trilogy.

Friday, June 29, 2018

DEEP RED Magazine Launch

On Friday, July 13th, 2018, at FORBIDDEN PLANET in NYC, there will be an event no fan of horror magazines will want to miss: the official launch party for the all new DEEP RED magazine. For those who don't know, DEEP RED was a magazine launched in the 80s by the late great Chas. Balun, a horror fan's horror fan who supported and promoted the genre like few before him. Now DEEP RED is back with most of the original staff and a few newbies (myself included). See flier above for list of attendees, and visit the Facebook event page H E R E to see how you can get a signed copy of the just-released debut issue even if you can't attend.

I hope to see some of you there, and check out the above Facebook link for full details...

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Terror Project, Volume 3

THREE A.M. WAKE UP CALL: THE TERROR PROJECT, VOLUME 3 is the third and final entry in this novella series published by Books and Boos Press. My latest novella, CHEW TOYS, is featured alongside all new novellas by David Daniel and Rob Watts. The book will be released the first week of June, 2018, and full details can be found at the publisher's website: BOOKS AND BOOS PRESS / THREE A.M. WAKE UP CALL