2018 | Dir. Mick Garris, Joe Dante, David Slade, Alejandro Brugués, Ryûhei Kitamura | Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Several years ago Garris founded the Masters of Horror, which were a series of private lunches attended by some of horror's heads of state. From the late greats; Tobe Hooper and Wes Craven to contemporaries such as James Gunn, Eli Roth, James Wan and Adam Green. Other notable names include Guillermo del Toro, Quentin Tarantino, Brian Trenchard-Smith, John Landis, Joe Dante, Fred Dekker and Stuart Gordon. The list keeps going... and going... suffice to say that such events were legendary. Not one to rest on his laurels Garris took the concept one step further and created a groundbreaking anthology TV series of the same name, consisting of two seasons. Each episode was helmed by different master of horror and contributed to some of the best genre television of all time.
Since that show's untimely cancellation Garris has kept the ball rolling by bringing the legends back together time and again, through his podcast and now an all new anthology film called NIGHTMARE CINEMA. Harking back to the wonderful anthology films of the 1980s, such as Creepshow and From A Whisper To A Scream, his new film features five original stories, all stitched together by a wrap-around story featuring Mickey Rourke as The Projectionist, a mysterious stranger who operates a haunted cinema. By power of suggestion he ushers guests in and shows them films chronicling their own personal nightmares.
The Thing In The Woods is directed by Alejandro Brugues (Juan of the Dead) and is a slasher meets creature feature story about a masked killer in the woods. Not all is as it seems as he slays his way through a group of teenage partygoers. It is the perfect note to kick things off with, and it is easily my favourite entry of the lot. With a glorious amount of gore and a frivolous tongue-in-cheek attitude, the story flirts with the two sub-genres and successfully screws with the audience.
Mirare is directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling) and plays with the concept of cosmetic surgery and shallow beauty. This is a fun concept with a distinct Dante veneer, as it tells its macabre tale without ever being overtly graphic of vulgar. A young woman agrees to undergo several facelift surgeries to please her boyfriend, and with a suspiciously charismatic surgeon (Richard Chamberlain) on hand with his bloodied scalpel, the scene is set for a grotesquely humorous cautionary tale.
Mashit is a crazy story of demonic possession directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (Midnight Meat Train) which takes place inside a private Catholic school as students suddenly begin committing suicide. It is a grim, yet energised chapter, which almost feels like a cross between John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness and Kevin Smith's Dogma. Its finale also offers one of the overall film's most memorable scenes.
The Way To Egress is directed by David Slade (30 Days of Night) and is a black and white fable which explores mental illness, while edging on surrealism. It follows a young mother who's sanity is in question as she finds herself trapped in a purgatory-like state, unable to get out. This instalment stands out from the rest because of its obvious contrast in tone and aesthetic. Where the other instalments feel at home in this brand of anthology, Slade's instalment feels more like an outcast... it is nevertheless a very strong piece of cinema unto itself.
And finally Dead, directed by Mick Garris, follows a teenage boy through his period of grief and recovery following a deadly hijacking which took the lives of his parents. With a newfound ability to see the dead, the boy must learn the difference between the living and the dead as spectres from beyond vie for his affection. It is a curious chapter, which offers the best performance of the lot by young actor Faly Rakotohavana, whose emotional range is mesmerising.
There have been a lot of fantastic anthology horror films over the last decade with notable favourites of mine being The Theatre Bizarre, Trick R Treat and Tales Of Halloween. Other noteworthy titles include Holidays, XX and the ever popular VHS and ABCs of Death franchises. NIGHTMARE CINEMA is a worthy addition to this list and makes a point of difference by having a consistent quality of stories throughout. Each one has merit and they combine to make for a cohesive collection of shorts. Where it suffers is in the wrap-around narrative featuring Rickey Rourke. His character is underdeveloped, if not poorly conceived. Where his role ought to be on par with The Crypt Keeper or the Mortician from Body Bags, he is more or less just Mickey Rourke (bare chested, leather jacketed and hair pieced). His presence is silly and his contribution to the film is misplaced.
This is an easy qualm to overlook because of the strength of content elsewhere. Garris and Co, have gotten nostalgic and created the type of movie they might remember fondly from their youth, albeit intensified. There is a classic quality about it and it is sure to resonate with genre fans of all creeds.