AN ANTHOLOGY OF TERROR!
A pack of cigarettes, a video game, a pick-up truck and a stately colonial home all become key elements in four terrifying tales of terror in the anthology film, Nightmares, directed by Joseph Sargent (The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, White Lightning).
- A chain-smoking homemaker (Cristina Raines, The Sentinel) insists on going out for cigarettes even when an escaped madman is on the loose in "Terror in Topanga." - J.J. Cooney (Emilio Estevez, Young Guns), a video game hot-shot, dares to take on a strange challenger though it may cost him his life in "The Bishop of Battle." - A troubled priest (Lance Henriksen, Aliens) seeks to find the faith he has lost on the road, but instead he finds someone (or something) in this desert is trying to drive him out of his mind in "The Benediction." - Claire (Veronica Cartwright, Alien) hears rats in the walls. Her husband (Richard Masur, The Thing) believes he can take care of the problem with a few rat traps, but this problem is only going to get much bigger in "Night of the Rat."
Directed by Joseph Sargent, this 1983 Anthology release, titled. NIGHTMARES, collects 4 different tales. all containing an element of the supernatural. Divided into 4 chapters, the film presents stories of Psychopaths, obsession, and video games that spring to life, evil taking shape, and motherly revenge of the animal kind.
Chapter One - "Terror in Topanga"
In chapter one titled "Terror in Topanga", a young woman named Lisa, leaves her house late at night to go to the store for cigarettes, amidst breaking news of Psychopath William Henry Glazier escaping a local mental institution, and with several dead. Lisa makes it to the store, however on her way back discovers that she is running low on fuel. But it is at the nearby gas station that a startling discovery is made, with her life potentially at stake.
This story is sort of quick and to the point. A psychopath has escaped, so of course everyone is on edge - including Christina Raines, who portrays a wife, who goes out on a cigarette run. And of course, she soon crosses path with said psychopath. It's fun in the vein of old classic thrillers with a little twist at the conclusion of the tale.
Chapter Two - "Bishop of Battle"
The second story focus on a hot-shot arcade came player named J.J, Cooney, who becomes obsessed with mastering a game called "The Bishop of Battle" In the game, there are 13 levels total. The great player that is J.J. has reached all of them, except the 13th and final level. It's a feat so difficult that has many people questioning if the final level even exists. But nonetheless, J.J is determined to conquer the game. Cooney becomes obsessed - so much so, that late one night he sneaks into the arcade in the local mall, even after being grounded from the arcade by his parents. It's a late night showdown between he and the game that results in he finally reaching level 13 - but then again, at what cost?
Personally I felt that this tale was the best of the bunch. With it's Punk Rock attitude(J.J, rocks Punk music in his headphones via his Walkman, as he slays arcade games), and '80s "in-the-now" awareness of what was popular at the time, it is most fun. Fun seeing Emilio Estevez, Billy Jacoby, and Moon Zappa all in one place.
Chapter Three - "The Benediction"
In the third tale, MaCLeod is a priest from a small town, who after a tragedy involving a young boy, loses his faith. He packs it up and drives out to the desert, but soon finds himself the prey of a mysterious black pickup truck.
This tale is basically DUEL with a religious twist. "The Benediction" isn't the best story here, but I did enjoy that the evil truck attempting to mow Lance Henriksen down was basically a representation of the Devil himself. MacLeod gave up on his faith, and so it comes back to haunt him in a frightening way.
Chapter Four - "Night of the Rat"
In the fourth and final tale, the Houston's get more than they expected when it turns out that their little rat problem is a lot bigger than once thought. Soon the Houstons(as well as their cat, "Rosie"), fall victim to a mutated rat.
Out of the film's 4 individual tales, "The Night of the Rat" is the one that fits into the B-Movie mold the most. Picking up where a film like FOOD OF THE GODS leaves off, "Night of the Rat" presents a story in which a family comes face to face with a rat of Godzilla proportions. At first Steven and Claire Houston(Richard Masur and Veronica Cartwright) believe that they have just your average routine rat problem, but it turns out that it is much bigger than that, as the rat suffers from a rare mutation. The mutation supposedly makes the rat where it cannot be killed, however that does not stop the Houstons from trying. It's a fun little tale, with cheesy early composite effects. It also counts as one of the few feature film appearances by late actress Bridgette Andersen of SAVANNAH SMILES fame.
The disc from SCREAM! FACTORY features NIGHTMARES in 2 formats : widescreen and well as fullscreen, a commentary track from Producer Andrew Mirisch and Actress Christina Raines, as well as radio spots for the film. Overall, the film looks and sounds pretty decent on Blu-Ray.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
Overall, what makes NIGHTMARES worth seeing the most that it has an old school vibe that makes it easy to enjoy. While none of the tales seen here are drawn out, they have enough effectiveness to them to keep an enjoyable momentum going. I enjoyed it, but yes, like most Anthologies, some stories are better than others. As I said, in my opinion the second chapter "Bishop of Battle" is indeed the standout. That tale in particular would have worked well as a standalone film. I recommend NIGHTMARES as it is simply fun, and these days, it's also a little nostalgic.
Special Features include :
- Available In Two Versions: Widescreen (1.78:1) And Full Frame (1.33:1)
- Audio Commentary With Executive Producer Andrew Mirisch And Actress Cristina Raines
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Radio Spots