Nightmares Movie Review
The majority of the entries to the slasher boom of the early 80’s had a male serial killer with mommy issues taking it out on innocent women. Few of them ever switched it up and gave us a female killer, but this one from Australia certainly did. Nightmares starts out back in 1963, where a young girl named Cathy witnessing her mother have se* with a man. This disturbs her, and later on when she is riding along her mom and her boyfriend in a car and she sees him touch her mothers leg, Cathy tries to stop him.
This causes them to get in a car accident that would claim the life of her mother. Fast forward to the then present day of 1980, Cathy has grown up to become a young woman. To try to distance herself from her tragic past, she has changed her name to Helen and is now trying to make it as an actress. She gets a break when she is cast in stage production called Comedy of Death. She becomes friendly with her co-star Terry and things seem to look promising for her, but before the stage play gets to premiere, gruesome murders involving the cast and crew starts to occur. Nightmares is not to be confused with the horror anthology of same title from 1983. Or to be confused with Michele Soavi’s 1987 Stagefright, as Stage Fright is also a title that Nightmare has been known by. It’s third familiar sounding title for this movie is Nightmare on the Street, which was what it went by for the German market.
This Nightmares is the work of director John D. Lamond, who up to that point had done a few erotic exploitation films like The ABCs of Love and Se* and Felicity. Lamond had obviously taken inspirations from the trends that were going on in the United States after the huge success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, but Lamond was also smart enough to give his film a unique element in making the killer female. And they used the same type of motivation for her as we would see in so many male killers in that she becomes psychologically damaged by seeing her mother be sexually active. Being the cause of her mothers death didn’t help either of course, and while she is trying to live a normal life, she is haunted by terrifying nightmares and has an intimacy problem towards the opposite se*. She can be kind one second, then turn off emotionally the next, which is displayed several times in her relationship with Terry.
That’s pretty much her entire character though, as the film fails to dwelve any deeper into her psyche. Which they definitely should have as the attempt at going the more suspenseful route kind of fails when you’ve told the audience who the killer is right from the start. The point of view shots from the killers perspective is nice to look at, but they don’t work that well as they tried to have it both ways with trying to be psychological and a mystery. The murder scenes doesn’t just look visually good, but they are also quite gruesome and there is no lack of nudity either. They could use a bit more creativity however as the kill scenes are basically all pretty much the same. A young couple is having intercourse, and she strikes with a broken piece of glass, slashing the innocent love makers while they are naked and at their most vulnerable.
The nice visuals and the exploitation elements weren’t enough to keep my interest going to the very end, as the story is too poor. We spent a lot of time around this stage play, the drama behind it and the bitter love hate relationship between its director and a sleazy critic. Perhaps the theater setting just doesn’t work for me as I also seem to rate Dario Argento’s Opera and Michele Soavi’s Stagefright lower than others. I would also have preferred a bit more restrain when it comes to the usage of quick, flashy flashbacks. It does make some up for some of its poor storytelling by having a rather quick pace to it. It’s easy to be entertained by this, even if you might not care all that much about where the plot is going.
The soundtrack by Brian May is also nice and adds to the experience. May, not to be confused with the legendary guitarist in Queen, has done work on plenty of other notable Australian genre films, including Patrick, Road Games, Turkey Shoot and of course, the two first Mad Max movies. Nightmares is a nice find for fans of slasher films. It provides the horror element that you would want and the aussie flavor to it does give it a different feel. I just wish that they had decided on going either with a whodunit storyline or further into the psyche of the Cathy / Helen character.
Nightmares is a film that I had fun with, but will probably not revisit again in the future. Nightmares gets the approved and bloody score of 3 out of 5. Who else out there has seen Nightmares? And what were your thoughts on this one? I’ve asked this before, but it’s a question that cannot be asked enough, so if you know of any obscure ozploitation films that more people should check out, then make sure you let me and others know about them in the comment section below. And if you can’t get enough of Nightmares, then I do have a video review up for the other Nightmares, the 1983 horror anthology one. That’s a fun one, so make sure you check that one out as well.