3/28/2017

NIGHTMARES (1980) (Review)

Title: Nightmares
Director: John Lamond
Writers: Colin Eggelston, John Lamond
Cast: Jenny Neumann, Gary Sweet, Nina Landis, Max Phipps, John Micheal Howson
Year: 1980
Min: 90

When Cathy was a little girl she saw her mom screwing a man in bed. Later, she finds herself in the backseat of a car. Her mom is driving and making out with a dude. When the guy decides to run his hand up her leg, Cathy tries to stop him. This causes the car to crash. Mom goes flying through the windshield, and a shard of glass cuts her throat. Jump forward to her being an adult. She has changed her name to Helen (Jenny Neumann). Helen is now a stage actress and starring in a new play called Comedy of Blood. As an adult she is stunningly beautiful but also sexually repressed. It doesn't take long for people around her to start dying, all of them getting stabbed by shards of glass.
Nightmares is an interesting, Australian attempt at making a slasher film, at a point when the sub-genre was just beginning to bloom. It should not be confused with the 1983 American horror anthology of the same name. The movie is also known as Stage Fright, which means it also should not be confused with the Michele Soavi giallo of the same name, which came out some years later. Which is interesting and quite the coincidence to note, as the movie feels and looks like an amalgamate of the American stalk and slash flick and the Italian Giallo.
Co-writer director John Lammond has an interesting visual aesthetic for the film. There are some really odd shots, that combine with moments of style to making for an interesting looking movie. A particularly violent stalk and kill in the rain stands as one of the movie's most visually captivating moments. Sadly, the kills lack any real suspense, but are instead punctuated by bloody violence. The shards of glass cut through backs, slice a breast, thighs, etc. Aside, from good bits of bloodletting there is also some fairly graphic sex scenes and ample nudity, throw in for good measure.
Our gloved killer is never really seen, but the movie is unsure if it wants to keep the killer's identity a mystery or not. It seemingly tries to do both, as it tells who the killer is and pretends it is a mystery, at the same time! It's an odd choice, but one has to just go with it and enjoy it. At least, it makes for a different storytelling choice.
The film moves at a good enough pace. It's interesting and entertaining enough, that if you just go with it, you'll find yourself liking it. I, personally, got a real kick out of the ending. In a lesser movie it may have come off as feeling cheap. Here, it made me go, ''Ha! That's pretty cool''
It is also great that the characters aren't a bunch of horny, interchangeable teens but instead are adults. Sure, they have sex on the brain, too, but the age change of the characters is refreshing. The acting is competent from most of the cast. Most fun to watch is the absolutely gorgeous Jenny Neumann. She has this great, wild look throughout the movie, that I got a kick out of seeing her do. There is something genuinely likeable both of her portrayal of the character and the character, itself, even if it is a little over-the-top at times. It also helps that she is a breathtaking beauty. Too bad she quit acting later in the 80s, I would have loved to see her in more films.
Nightmares is good, if flawed fun. What it lacks in suspense or story telling decision making, it makes up for with its positive points. It's a good, albeit at times odd, film that takes inspiration from both American and Italian horror. Adding a good amount of blood and skin and a beautiful and likable lead in Nuemann; this under-seen Australian horror flick deserves a look. It is currently streaming on Shudder and available on DVD from Severin films.
 
2.5 out of 4

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