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IFI Horrorthon 2018 Review - NIGHTMARE CINEMA

nightmare cinema review
Anthology of five horror tales.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Alejandro Brugués, Joe DanteMick GarrisRyûhei KitamuraDavid Slade

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Richard Chamberlain, Adam Godley, Annabeth Gish, Sarah Elizabeth Withers

nightmare cinema poster


Every circle of friends has that one member who enthusiastically ensures that everyone stays in touch and organises the various get-togethers. In the milieu of horror filmmakers, that role is filled by Mick Garris, a renaissance man who has written, directed and produced movies as well as penning novels and serving as a journalist. A couple of decades ago, Garris began hosting dinners for his friends in the world of horror movie directing, and this led to the 2005 TV anthology series Masters of Horror, which saw instalments directed by such genre legends as John Carpenter, Dario Argento and George A. Romero.

Garris has roped in four of his filmmaking friends for his latest project, anthology film Nightmare Cinema, which he apparently hopes to expand into an ongoing series. Mickey Rourke plays the creepy projectionist of The Rialto, a mysterious cinema that draws strangers in off the street before forcing them to watch short horror movies that star themselves in the lead roles. As anthology hooks go, it's a pretty clever one.

nightmare cinema review

Juan of the Dead director Alejandro Brugués kicks things off in thrilling fashion with 'The Thing in the Woods', which plays a lot like a spoof of the last 20 minutes of an '80s slasher movie. Hot pants clad Samantha (Sarah Elizabeth Withers) is stalked through the woods by a killer dressed in welding garb (how did nobody think of that one before?) who offs her friends in hilarious fashion. There are some clever gags of the Zucker Brothers variety, best of all one which sees a dying victim plucking a series of knives from a counter in a pathetic attempt to fend off his attacker. Just when we think it's over, Brugués pulls a genuinely clever twist regarding the motivations of the killer. This short alone makes Nightmare Cinema a recommend.

Sadly, the anthology never reaches such heights again. The second story comes from the closest the directing roster has to a household name. Gremlins director Joe Dante's 'Mirare' concerns a young woman, Anna (Zarah Mahler), whose face has bore a scar that has made her self-conscious since childhood. Her boyfriend claims that "looks aren't everything," but then offers to pay for plastic surgery to remove the scar. Anna goes under the knife of Dr. Leneer (a sinister turn from Richard Chamberlain) and awakens to find he may have removed more than just her scar. Dante's segment tackles an interesting issue regarding body image, but it never really explores it in satisfying fashion.

nightmare cinema review

'Mashit', from Ryûhei Kitamura (Versus), is the film's lowlight, a thrown together story of demonic possession in a Catholic girls' school. The bare bones plot is merely an excuse for a gory but haphazardly assembled set-piece which sees a nun forced to lop off the heads of her possessed pupils. Kitamura's segment suffers heavily from atrocious SyFy Channel style CG and the most unconvincing greenscreen backdrops since The Room.

I'm not sure how Garris distributed his budget across the five segments. Kitamura appears to have drawn the short straw, while David Slade (30 Days of Night) seems to have been gifted the bulk of the budget for his segment, 'This Way to Egress', by far the slickest of the five in terms of production value. Shot in crisp black and white, as with his recent Black Mirror episode, Slade's segment mines nightmarish, surreal imagery as a woman (Elizabeth Reaser) suffering depression finds herself in a bizarre form of purgatory. The production design and make-up effects create a sickening vision of the world as seen through someone in the throes of existential angst, with people and surfaces covered in a gooey crud, and voices sounding horrifically altered. 'The Thing in the Woods' may be the most enjoyable segment, but 'This Way to Egress' is the most accomplished.

nightmare cinema review

Nightmare Cinema ends on a whimper as Garris takes over the directing reins himself for 'Dead', in which a young boy begins seeing visions of the deceased while recuperating in hospital after an attack which left his parents dead. While doctors attempt to keep the boy in the realm of the living, his mother (Annabeth Gish) is beckoning him to join her on the other side. Like Dante's segment, this boasts an interesting premise, but Garris never finds the means to explore it in depth.

If you're a horror fan, you know what you're getting with an anthology movie. There's usually a couple of standout stories, a couple of mediocre segments, and one genuine stinker. Nightmare Cinema continues the trend.


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