10/29/2019

Nightmare Cinema (Review)


Directors: Alejandro Brugués, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Ryûhei Kitamura, David Slade
Writers: Sandra Becerril, Alejandro Brugué, Lawrence C. Connolly, Mick Garris, Richard Christian Matheson, David Slade
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Richard Chamberlain, Adam Godley, Orsin Chaplin, Eric Nelson, Kevin Fonteyne, Maurice Benard, Belinda Balaski, Lucas Barker, Daryl C. Brown, Ezra Buzzington
Year: 2019
Min: 119

This anthology deals with people who walk into an empty movie theater. Each time they are the only ones there, beside the mysterious projectionist (Mickey Rourke, who is quite enjoyable in the role) who plays a movie for each of them. In these films, the movie theater attendants see themselves onscreen in nightmarish stories.

Each segment is directed by a different director. The first and weakest story, The Thing in the Wood, comes from Alejandro (Juan of the Dead, ABC's of Death 2) Brugués. In it, the gorgeous Samantha (Sarah Elizabeth Withers) sees herself in a slasher movie where a killer known as The Welder (Eric Nelson), cause he wears a welder's mask and carries a blowtorch. kills teens in a camp.
It's a fun but really dumb (on purpose) story with a nifty twist. That and the gore really make this one. Among the mayhem are gory squibs, gun shot blast to the head, exploding head, crucifixion via knives, and immolation. That being said it is filled with every cliche imaginable (until the aforementioned twist), which while done as a parody is still something that has been too death too may times to fully work.

The second one Mirari, directed by horror master Joe (The Howling, Gremlins 1&2) Dante, has a couple walk in to the theater. The movie they see has the girl Anna (Zarah Mahler) worry about a scar on her otherwise beautiful face. Her finance tells her not be concerned and sets up an appointment with her mom's, who he says looks amazing, plastic surgeon Dr. Mirai (Richard Chamberlain). But, after the surgery, she realizes that something sinister is afoot.
Tonally this has a completely different feel (as does every other segment from each other), than the previous one, It is more serious, while still having a fun side to it. Zarah Mahler is great as Anna, and makes for a very likable character. It's a blast to see a legend like Richard Chamberlain in a movie like this, as he gleefully chews up the scenery. Dante knows how to build up the dread here. There is also a nice amount of the what the fuckery that really elevates this tale and makes it my favorite of the batch.

Ryûhei (Versus, Godzilla: Final Wars) Kitamura directs the third segment, Mashit, where a priest, Father Benedict (Maurice Bernard) sees himself onscreen. This time around said priest is one of the witnesses of a kid committing suicide. Later we learn that Father Benedict is banging the hot nun Sister Patricia (Mariela Garriga) but soon creepy and demonic shit starts to happen. Turns out a demon named Mashit, who loves to use and terrorize children, is behind it all.

This is a well acted haunted church tale that has some really creepy moments. This satanic entry is the anthology's wildest and most over the top segment. It features an awesome and gory climax that is filled with flying blood, limbs, and an impaling thrown in for good measure. It adds up to the second best in the lot.

Our fourth tale, This Way to Egress, is directed by David (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night) Slade. It tells of a mom, Helen (Elizabeth Reaser), who goes to see a doctor. She tells him that she notices that people are changing. What we soon learn is that what she means is that they are becoming weird humanoid monsters. Things slowly get more nightmarish for our heroine from there on.
Slade uses black and white to give the proceedings a classy, art-house look. It is wonderfully acted, especially by the lovely Reaser as the mom trapped in this hellish world. While, it starts off slow, it gets increasingly odd and is even chilling at times. It really feels and looks like a Lynchian and particularly gory episode of The Twilight Zone, and I mean that in the best possible sense.

Mick (Sleepwalkers, The Shining [TV mini-series]) Garris, who also directs the wrap-around, comes back for the fifth and final tale, Dead. This time a kid named Riley (Faly Rakotohavana) has a near death after witnessing his parents get brutally gunned by a scumbag. At the hospital, he begins to see ghosts, including his mom (The X-Files lovely Annabeth Gish) who asks him to let himself sleep, AKA die.
This one is slow but real well acted, especially by Faly Rakotohavana as Riley. It also has some moments of graphic violence including bloody gunshots, brain splattering headshots, and a head impaling. It also achieves some really touching moments, in particular those involving Riley talking to a girl, Casey (Lexy Panterra) who can also talk to the dead who tries to help him.

Nightmare Cinema is an enjoyable anthology. The acting is great and so are most of the effects. While, the Brugué one is easily the weakest, there are no real duds here which is always a plus in an anthology. The Dante tale and the Kitamura one are the definitely the best ones. with the remaining two falling somewhere in the middle. I love that each story is tonally different, as are their themes and sub-genres. In all this makes for a likable, if slightly uneven time. The movie begins streaming on Shudder today, October 29, 2019.


3 out of 4

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