Friday, 27 April 2018


Cast: Emilio Estevez, Lance Henriksen, and Veronica Cartwright   

Director: Joseph Sargent

99 minutes (15) 1983
101 Films 
Blu-ray region B
[Released 7th May]

Rating: 7/10
Review by Steven Hampton

One of the best sci-fi horror anthology movies just got better with its very welcome hi-def release on dual-format Blu-ray and DVD. Written by Christopher Crowe and Jeffrey Bloom, Nightmares has four chapters directed by Joseph Sargent (1925 - 2014), in a picture of variations on ‘devilish’ monster stories.

Late-night shopping, when all the local petrol stations are closed, plunges Lisa (Cristina Raines, The Sentinel) into ‘Terror In Topanga’, where an escaped maniac has already killed an L.A. sheriff. Thankfully, the endangered housewife meets an unexpected hero (William Sanderson, Blade Runner), and at least the survivor appears willing to give up smoking. This is the slightest story and the weakest segment of the movie but its quality of production values elevates a typical woman-in-peril crisis and so gets this genre movie off to a fairly promising start.

‘The Bishop Of Battle’ concerns the fate of arcade hustler J.J. (Emilio Estevez, just before his starring role in cult-classic Repo Man), who beats every video-game champ and then splits. That’s until he plays BOB to level 13 and becomes part of a still-amusing showcase for computer animation effects, combined with a technological plot-twist that pre-dates a similar development in space adventure movie The Last Starfighter, while also hinting at the commonplace virtual reality motifs of cyberpunk first established by Tron (1982), and later reformulated in The Matrix trilogy.      

Lance Henriksen appears in ‘The Benediction’ as Frank, a faithless priest haunted by dark signs in dreams, and demonstrating the intensity that won him later acclaim in Near Dark and Pumpkinhead. On desert roads, our hero confronts a malevolent vehicle that owes a genre debt to The Car (1977), a movie that followed Spielberg’s Duel (1971). Here, the more blatant symbolism offers both a devil metaphor and a character-study that delivers a morality play about the question of evil in the world.

As housewife Claire, Veronica Cartwright (Alien) is terrorised by a monstrous invader in ‘Night Of The Rat’. The sewer pest provokes scenes of domestic horror that effectively dramatises the family problems of a failing American marriage. A confrontational finale pays tribute to The Exorcist (1973), and Poltergeist (1981), and the gigantic rodent is a modern mythical contrast to more realistic creature-feature shocks found in cult movie Of Unknown Origin (1983).

Unlike the more famous Twilight Zone: The Movie (also released in 1983, and prompting a quite excellent revival of the celebrated TV series), and the same decade’s Creepshow, written by Stephen King, Nightmares did not result in any sequels, but it’s a far superior anthology-movie to Creepshow 2 (1987). The core appeal of Nightmares today lies in its neatly imagiative use of mixed-genre tropes and its early showcase roles for Estevez and Henriksen.        

Disc extras include an interview with main writer Crowe, and an option to play the movie in full-screen mode (but, honestly, is that cropped aspect ratio likely to appeal to anyone nowadays?).

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