Welcome to *your* nightmare! Please watch your step as you move past our return box. Yes, we are aware that it is overflowing. Martin, our stock boy whom I believe we told you about before, has been MIA for the past couple of weeks. It’s not really a big deal. He does this every now and then. The full moon cycles around and he feels he needs to go out and be one with nature- whatever that means. He’s an odd boy. Smells of wet dog and has a strange aversion to silver. Anyway, please don’t trip.
I have an interesting entry for you today. It’s an anthology of spooky stories paying homage to some unnerving urban legends that were originally a concept for a tv pilot for NBC but was deemed too intense for television, or at least that’s the… er… urban legend. So settle in while I regale you with the terrifying tale of Nightmares (1983)!
Back of The Box Review
Nightmares is a combination of four unique stories based on urban legends with the first infamous yell yarn telling the tale of a woman who goes out for a pack of cigarettes but instead encounters a killer in the backseat of her car. The second is the spooky saga of a video game-addicted teenage hustler who is literally consumed by his favorite game. The third follows a priest, a man in the throes of a faith crisis, who is stalked by a nefarious and mysterious pickup truck that may or may not be Satan’s very own ride. The final fable features a family uprooted from their ideal suburban home when a small rodent problem turns out to be a giant problem.
Cast of Characters
Chapter One; Terror in Topanga, stars Cristina Raines (The Sentinel, 1977) is Lisa, an ill-fated driver on a quest to get a new pack of smokes while Anthony James (Burnt Offerings, 1976) plays the creepy Store Clerk. William Sanderson (Savage Weekend, 1979) gives a wonderful portrayal of the red[herring]neck Gas Station Attendant and Lee Ving (Clue, 1985) plays William Henry Glazier, the real killer, which is totes obvi since he is always referred to by all three of his names. I mean, aren’t all killers referred to this way? John Wayne Gacy, Henry Lee Lucas, James Earl Jones… What? What!?
Chapter Two; The Bishop of Battle gets totally rad when Emilio Estevez (Maximum Overdrive, 1986) cruises into the arcade as J.J. Cooney, the wiz-kid of The Bishop of Battle video game. Louis Giambalvo (Bad Dreams, 1988) is Jerry Cooney, J.J.’s old man who just doesn’t understand the youth of the 80s and his better half, Adele Cooney is played by Mariclare Costello (Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, 1971). No teenage-based story is complete without a love interest and Moon Unit Zappa (Heartstopper, 1989) is just that as Pamela, the cutie that just wants to grab a pizza with J.J. only to be turned down for a video game. Lame, I know. Billy Jayne (X-Ray, 1981) is Zock Maxwell, J.J.’s right hand… man/dude/friend/enabler? I don’t know-he’s J.J.’s buddy, alright? Rounding out the cast is James Tolkan (Wolfen, 1981) as the voice of the titular Bishop of Battle.
Chapter Three; The Benediction features Lance Henriksen (Pumpkinhead, 1988) as MacLeod, a priest facing a crisis of faith following the violent death of a young boy. Tony Plana (Godzilla-1985, 1985) plays Father Luis Del Amo, a concerned colleague of MacLeod while Robin Gammell (The Pyx, 1974) plays Bishop, the head of the parish in which MacLeod presides. Timothy Scott (Footloose, 1984) rounds out the cast as Sheriff with Rose Mary Campos (Rocky IV) as Mother.
Chapter Four; Night of the Rat has Richard Masur (The Thing, 1982) as Steven Houston, the oblivious patriarch of the suburban Huston household while Veronica Cartwright (Alien, 1979) plays his wife, Clair Houston, a woman charged with the task of ridding her ideal home of a bothersome rat problem. Their daughter, Brooke Houston is played be Bridgette Andersen (Savanah Smiles, 1982) and Albert Hague (Space Jam, 1996) is Mel Keefer, the exterminator that wants to help Claire out but keeps coming up against imbecile, Steven.
Everyone’s A Critic
The movie’s poster claimed that it would be a movie people wouldn’t forget but shortly after release, it became apparent that audiences would indeed forget about Nightmares. Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote of the film, “Nothing spoils a horror story faster than a stupid victim. And Nightmares, an anthology of four supposedly scary episodes, has plenty of those.” Currently, the movie sits at a 29% rating on review aggregate over at Rotten Tomatoes.
While the theatrical release of the film seemed dire, the VHS release by Universal Pictures in the 1980s saw a gain in popularity where fans started to praise the film for its imagination, a trend that continues to this day. It was later released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 1999, a version which is now out of print. This particular DVD issue of the film became extremely rare which resulted in it being very sought after with even secondhand prices coming in at over one-hundred dollars. Ultimately on December 22, 2015, Scream Factory released the film on Blu-ray.
The man behind the music for Nightmares, Craig Safan has a long distinguished resume with beautifully haunting scores from films like Fade to Black (1980), A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) and The Last Starfighter (1984). His score for Nightmares is a classic orchestral approach which, for a time and genre where synth music ruled, was a breath of fresh air.
There is also the popular music in the film, more specifically the music from the Bishop of Battle chapter. Mercenaries and I’ve Got Power by Negative Trend is featured during the videogame sequences and there are a few songs by Fear and Black Flag throughout the sequence. According to rumor, Universal Pictures required the bands tapped to appear on the soundtrack to re-record their songs to afford the studio the publishing rights.
Nightmares could be considered an underdog among the slew of anthology films that came out during this period. Films like Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Cat’s Eye (1985), Deadtime Stories (1986), Creepshow (1982) and its sequel Creepshow 2 (1987) all constantly overshadow the picture and while they may be better films, Nightmares easily holds its own. Not only does it boast some firepower when it comes to the on-screen talent, but it also delivers on the scares from behind the lens with a mix of horror subgenres including terrifying truck terror, villainous video game adventures, repulsive rodent rampages, and sneaky stowaway slashers. It essentially has everything for the discerning horror fan, how could you go wrong?
And that, my fiends, is that. My story is done and now I impart this video cassette to you. Watch with care and remember to stop by the Nightmare on Film Street Twitter, Subreddit and Horror Movie Fiend Club and let everyone know what you thought of the film.
Again, mind your step on the way out. Judging from the parting clouds in the sky and the full moon shining through, you may encounter Martin on your way home. Take this doggie treat, if he attacks, throw it his way and run like hell. It usually helps… usually. If it doesn’t, pray you’re faster than everyone else in your group. Until next time, kids, stay creepy!