Nightmares (1983)

Nightmares (1983)

Director: Joseph Sargent
MCA Home Video

The 80s was a great time for low-budget horror anthologies. Creepshow (1982) helped revive the horror anthology going strong in Britain in the early seventies with comic adapted films like Tales from the Crypt (1972) and Vault of Horror (1973). While Creepshow had a one two punch with a script by Stephen King directed by George Romero, 1983’s Nightmares did not have the same cache. However the film has a respectable cast and a few good short stories with some interesting twists.

The film opens with “Terror in Topanga,” a story about an escaped psychopath terrorizing a small community. It wouldn’t be a story if someone didn’t go out for cigarettes. The twist in the story closely resembles an urban myth, but it’s a fun story and Fear front man Lee Ving is among the players.

The most unique story in the anthology is the second story:  “The Bishop of Battle.” This chapter finds Emilio Estevez between his success in The Outsiders and his eventual ascension into cult stardom in Repo Man. estevez-2Estevez plays J.J. Cooney, a video game hustler (I only hope there really were video game hustlers) who goes from arcade to arcade listening to Fear on his walkman and hustling people out of their allowances with his video game prowess. Cooney does this because he’s obsessed with a video game called The Bishop of Battle. Cooney is convinced there is an unreachable 13th level that will validate his existence. A clandestine moment can be had with fans of the movie with the game’s opening warning: “Greetings Earthlings. I am the Bishop of Battle, master of all I survey. I have 13 progressively harder levels. Try me…if you dare.” If you consider what can go wrong here for a moment, you can probably work out the twist ending, but for a glimpse into early Estevez and a good representation of early arcade culture, the second chapter of Nightmares is a must see.

Story three has two things working for it: one is the ever effective Lance Henriksen playing a priest, and two, it recognizes the length of time the man vs. car plotline can remain interesting. Henriksen plays Macleod, a priest struggling with his faith until he is faced with battling a satanic car. It sounds a little trite, but Henriksen makes it work. His ability to struggle with evil is inherent and he makes the story work. There is a similar dynamic in “Night of the Rat,” where professional hysteric Veronica Cartwright improves the typical giant rat narrative. Cartwright is a freak out expert bringing her pushed-over-the-edge persona to films like Alien (1979), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and The Right Stuff (1983). Nightmares won’t blow your mind, but it’s a great Saturday night horror anthology with good performances, punk undertones, and a few surprises. It’s been released a couple of times on DVD, but it’s an easy video to run across in a dollar bin as it’s usually in the throwaway section of stacks of horror videos. It’s easily a dollar or two’s worth of fun.

–Billups Allen

Shock Cinema 51

For people who get distracted at the movies trying to recall where they’ve seen that actor before, Shock Cinema is essential reading. Shock focuses on in-depth interviews with character actors from old Hollywood, new Hollywood, and cult films along with extensive reviews of obscure DVD releases and eclectic film books. Attractive and affordable, issue 51 includes interviews with Dabney Coleman and the king of the southern gothic deadpan reaction, Tracey Walter. It’s always a cover-to-cover read. In the age of high print costs and $12 movie mags, it’s a serious bargain at $5 an issue. –Billups Allen

Shock Cinema,
P.O Box 798
Edgewater, NJ 07020

Upcoming Screening: Young Frankenstein

The Producers (1968) and Blazing Saddles (1974) honed one of the great Hollywood dream teams. Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder were in top form when Wilder’s pet project Young Frankenstein was due to be shot on a modest budget from a weary studio. The result is one of the greatest comedy spoofs. Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Wilder) is a young scientist trying to separate himself from his grandfather’s legacy of wild experiments. On track to marry a wealthy socialite (Madeleine Kahn), Frankenstein is side tracked when he inherits his grandfather’s castle. There he meets the stern Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman), the bizarre manservant Igor (Marty Feldman), and Inga (Teri Garr) his new assistant who often unintentionally distracts him from his engagement. Frankenstein’s surroundings and newfound associates drive him to madness and instill in him a desire to continue his grandfather’s infamous experiments.
Shot in black and white to imitate the look of the early Universal monster movies it pays homage to and with one of the greatest ensemble casts ever assembled, Young Frankenstein has become a favorite of horror and comedy fans alike.

Young Frankenstein
Playing Saturday, January 28, 2017-7:00
AFI Silver Theater
8633 Colesville Road
Silver Spring, MD 20910