In Nightmare Cinema, going to the movies can be a nightmare…especially when the nightmare is on you. Writer, director and producer Mick Garris shows what can happen when nightmares run amok. You’ll be left dazed, scared and dumbfounded.
This film review contains spoilers so if you haven’t see Nightmare Cinema, please do not continue reading
Nightmare Cinema is an anthology consisting of five separate stories in the film’s 119 minutes. Included are classic horror themes such as the masked unstopped killer stalking and murdering teens and demonic possession make up a couple ot the pieces. Plenty of screams and Eews will be par for the course when watching this movie.
In the first segment titled “The Thing In the Woods,“we meet Samantha (Sarah Winters). She’s pissed off at her boyfriend Jason (Kevin Fonteyne) and calls him to tell him not to call her anymore. Samantha comes across a movie theater and sees her name and the movie “The Thing In The Woods” in lights. Curious (Hey Sam, don’t you remember what curiosity did to the cat?) she approaches the ticket booth and a ticket comes out allowing her admittance. If it were me and a movie ticket that I didn’t pay for came out, that would be my sign not to go in. But of course Samantha enters the theater because in horror movies, people don’t use their brains (except for the crazed killer who intends to chop them out!). Second clue for me would have been the emptiness of the theater. Samantha’s film features all the teen horror clichés: Running for your life through the woods to escape a murderous killer. In this one, he’s “The Welder” (Eric Nelsen) who’s weapon of choice is a blown torch. Being trapped in a cabin knowing you don’t stand a chance but putting up a brave attempt to survive. And grisly deaths. Samantha tries to fight off The Welder, but she’s no Buffy (The WB series about a female vampire slayer). The identity of The Welder and the reason for the murders make for an interesting reveal but then ventures from horror to Sci-Fi. “The Thing In the Woods” is directed by Alejandro Brugués. The visuals and special effects were creepy and frightening. Although not an entirely original story due to similarities with other genre slasher movies,”The Thing In the Woods” kept up the intense excitement throughout. This was my favorite of the anthology due to my love of teen slasher movies. I loved everything about it, the writing, acting and special effects. And I thought naming the boyfriend Jason after the famous horror film Jason was a nice touch.
Next up is director Joe Dante’s “Mirari.” The set up finds Anna (Zarah Mahler) and David (Mark Grossman) coming into the theater not to watch the movie but because they can’t keep their hands off each other. But on screen, Anna sees herself in the movie. She has a scarred face which causes her to question whether she’s beautiful enough to marry her handsome fiancé. No problem, he loves her and says he’ll pay for her to get plastic surgery. That’s when I would have called off the wedding. He should have soothed her by assuring of his love, not by agreeing to change her looks. The plastic surgeon is Dr. Kildare himself, Richard Chamberlain. In “Mirari,” he’s Dr. Leneer. Let’s just say Anna’s surgery doesn’t turn out quite as she expected. She comes out from under the knife looking far worse than when she went in. The botched surgery was done on purpose for a malevolent motive.
After these first two segments, we meet The Projectionist (Mickey Rourke), who explains the purpose for the “This is Your Horror Life”: He’s “curator of a 100 years of nightmares trapped on a silver screen.” To me, he was some sort of cool version of The Devil with a penchant for scaring the living daylights out of you before you die. If I had one compliant about Nightmare Cinema it would have been that I wished Rouke had a bigger role; his screen time was way to short, but when he appeared, he made the most of it.
I confess even though I’m a horror fan, my primary reason for wanting to see Nightmare Cinema was because I knew Maurice Benard was starring it in. As a longtime fan of Benard and General Hospital in which he plays Sonny Corinthos, I was intrigued to see his take on playing a priest. Maurice did a great job as tortured Father Benedict wanting to save the possessed. General Hospital fans eager to see Maurice will have to wait 44 minutes into the film before he appears. His character is Father Benedict, a Catholic priest in “Mashit” directed by Ryuhei Kitamura. “Mashit” incorporated “The Exorcist” and “The Omen” no one was safe from demonic possession: parents, teachers and children were all Satan’s playmates in his game to corrupt their souls. My favorite part was Father Benedict going all Angel (as in David Boreanaz’s vampire with a soul from The WB’s Angel) and Winchester (The CW’s Supernatural’s Sam and Dean who hunt supernatural evil) on the demonic by cutting off heads. Father Benedict’s goal was to save the possessed and tried an exorcism but his ultimate goal was destroying the evil within. It didn’t turn out well for him, but you have to give him props for trying. Lots of horror and action sequences in this one. Some great camera shots too.
Which bring me to my least favorite segment “This Way to Egress,” in which we find Helen (Elizabeth Reaser) experiencing some bizarre reality time shifts while she is waiting for her doctor’s appointment. I found this piece confusing and hard to understand what actually was going on. It was directed by David Slade and had a film noir quality to it. I’d have to say as a fan of black and white movies of the old Hollywood era, this was the only thing I did like about “The Way to Egress.” It’s Hitchcock-ism was appealing; I felt as though I was watching a 1950s movie. But remember the old “Which of these things belong with the other” song from Sesame Street? Well, “This Way to Egress” felt so out of place in Nightmare Cinema that it should have been its own movie.
The anthology concluded with “Dead” directed by Mick Garris. What happens after teen Riley (Faly Rakotohavan) witnesses his parents (Annabeth Gish and Daryl C. Brown) murders by a carjacker (Orson Chaplin) and is himself also shot is an interesting study of life after death. At the hospital after the shooting, Riley is told he was dead for 17 minutes before he was brought back to life. There’s some aspects of the story that make you question whether Riley is between worlds. He keeps seeing his mother who urges him to let go as she can’t move on to the next stage of her journey without him. Riley also sees other dead people. Then he has to run for his life and finally fight for it when the shooter comes to the hospital to finish him off as Riley can identify him for the murder of his parents. Riley is able to kill the carjacker but sees the dead shooter afterwards. If Riley is alive, how can he see dead people? If he was already dead, why was the shooter/carjacker trying to kill him? The writing is confusing here and is opened to the viewer’s interpretation.
I felt the ending of Nightmare Cinema was a little bland with The Projectionist putting the movies away and going home. I guess it was meant to show his work was done for the day with the assumption of “tomorrow’s another day.” One is left to wonder how many people will be lured to the movies to see their lives played out on the big screen before they die.
Nightmare Cinema is a fun, scary horror lover time at the movies. The acting, writing and directing are top notch. Though uneven and confusing in some places, that doesn’t stop the film from achieving cinematic excellence. It’s a horror lover’s dream.
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