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First Look Review - A NIGHT OF HORROR: NIGHTMARE RADIO

A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio review
Anthology of horror shorts presented by a late night radio DJ.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Luciano Onetti, Nicolas Onetti, Sergio Morcillo, Joshua Long, Jason Bognacki, Adam O´Brien, Matt Richards, A.J. Briones, Pablo S. Pastor, Oliver Park

Starring: Ian Costello, Clara Kovacic, James Wright, Kera O'Bryon, Patricia Arizmehdi

A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio poster


Horror anthologies often fail because the filmmakers struggle to work within the confines of an agreed theme. A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio doesn't present its contributing filmmakers with such restrictions, as there is no connecting theme at play here. In fact, aside from brothers Luciano and Nicolas Onetti, who helm the framing story, none of the filmmakers involved even knew their work would end up forming part of an anthology. Nightmare Radio is constructed from pre-existing horror shorts bought and packaged together by the Onettis.

A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio review

The framing device introduces us to late night DJ Rod Wilson (James Wright), our host for this evening of horror tales. Listeners call in with horror stories and Rod responds by introducing each of the shorts. Over the course of the film, Rod is interrupted by strange noises, a TV that insists on turning itself on, and a young boy who calls in with a plea for help. The framing story culminates in its own twist ending, and as these things go, it's a pretty satisfying wraparound. A late night radio station has proven an atmospheric locale in the likes of The Fog, Pontypool and the British TV short A Child's Voice, and it lends Nightmare Radio a much needed degree of atmosphere.

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As for the shorts themselves, well, as with most horror anthologies, it's a mixed bag with most of them proving instantly forgettable. The two standouts hail from Australia. Joshua Long's Post Mortem Mary is by far the most impressive of the bunch. Set in an outpost of rural Oz in the late 19th century, it sees a terrified young girl being trained to photograph the recently deceased by her mother. Her latest assignment is to take a picture of a girl her own age who passed away two weeks prior. "Make her look alive," is the instruction she receives from her mother, and to the girl's horror, this proves easier than she had bargained for. It's a gorgeously mounted short with convincing performances and grisly atmosphere. Of all the filmmakers showcased here, Long is the one who seems best equipped to make the transition to features.

A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio review

Long's compatriot Matt Richards also impresses with The Disappearance of Willie Bingham, in which the titular Bingham is a convicted rapist/murderer imprisoned for crimes he says occurred while he was possessed. Bingham is selected as the guinea pig for a new form of punishment that allows the surviving family members of his victim to select how he should pay for his crimes. It's a disturbing critique of capital punishment that actually manages to make us feel sympathy for a seemingly irredeemable character.

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The rest of the shorts all display a technical slickness, but none of them are particularly engaging, save perhaps for Sergio Morcillo's Spanish language Drops, which I had to skip over as my screener didn't come with subtitles. Jason Bognacki's In the Dark, Dark Woods is the most visually impressive of the shorts, but it plays more like a pre-credits sequence than a fully realised story in itself. Adam O'Brien's A Little Off the Top relies on a gruesome punchline but takes too long to get there. Conversely, AJ Briones' The Smiling Man begins promisingly, with a little girl lured by a series of mysterious balloons, only to finish with an unsatisfying payoff. Pablo S Pastor's Into the Mud sees a hunter have the tables turned on him by the naked woman he's pursuing through the woods, and again this one relies on a shock punchline.

A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio review

Nightmare Radio goes out on a high with Oliver Park's Vicious, which after Post Mortem Mary, is the second most satisfying short here in terms of a complete narrative. This one sees a young woman terrified by a presence lurking in the shadows of her home. It's a little too close to Lights Out in its concept, but Park stages the build-up and climactic jump scare effectively.

In summary, Nightmare Radio is a typical horror anthology, populated by some good, bad and ugly shorts. Aside from Post Mortem Mary, none of the films are particularly memorable, but they're all well constructed enough to serve as showreels for emerging filmmakers. Now can we get a feature from Joshua Long please?

A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio is on US DVD/VOD from September 1st. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.




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