Main cast: Mickey Rourke (The Projectionist), Sarah Elizabeth Withers (Samantha), Eric Nelsen (The Welder), Kevin Fonteyne (Jason), Chris Warren (Mike), Jared Gertner (Officer Carter), Zarah Mahler (Anna), Mark Grossman (David), Richard Chamberlain (Dr Mirari), Reid Cox (Nurse Simone), Maurice Benard (Father Benedict), Mariela Garriga (Sister Patricia), Jamie Lynn Concepcion (Cindy), Stephanie Cood (Dani), Elizabeth Reaser (Helen), Adam Godley (Dr Salvadore), Faly Rakotohavana (Riley), Lexy Panterra (Casey), Daryl C Brown (Jared), Annabeth Gish (Charity), Tangie Ambrose (Nurse Annie), Dan Martin (Dr Michaelson), and Orson Chaplin (Jenkins)
Directors: Alejandro Brugués, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Ryūhei Kitamura, and David Slade
A horror anthology movie that promises old-school magic instead of the jump scare and cheap CGI overload of these days? Oh, when I have the opportunity to watch Nightmare Cinema, you know I won’t miss out on it.
Sure, the premise has been done before in The Theatre Bizarre: the shorter stories here are anchored by them being part of a “show” in a most decidedly spooky theater, this time the Rialto Theatre. Unlike Udo Kier, Mickey Rourke plays the Projectionist like a rock star: leather shirt unbuttoned, and hair only Ozzy Osbourne can love. This fellow collects the “nightmares” of the people inadvertently lured into the place to watch their “nightmares” on screen. So here are the nightmares in question.
Samantha, having just broken up with her boyfriend, finds herself in a parody of slasher movies. The Thing in the Woods, directed by Alejandro Brugués, pits her, her boyfriend Jason, and token black friend Mike against a masked killer called the Welder, who has already killed all their friends. Will Samantha be the final girl, or the final kill? This one is a pretty entertaining and irreverent homage to basically every popular slasher movies and then some, and all in all, it’s pretty good as an opener.
Joe Dante presents Mirari, which sees Anna being happily engaged to handsome and understanding David. There is just one issue: Anna is insecure about the scars on her face, and David recommends that she pay his mother’s favorite plastic surgeon Dr Mirari a visit. He’d pay for the expenses, don’t worry. However, poor Anna soon learns that there is something far more sinister at work in that place. Well, this one plays out straight with no twist in sight – it’s exactly what it sets out to be. The whole thing feels pointless, as a result, as there is no payoff. I suppose people who like seeing women running around in dark corridors will love this one better?
Next up is Mashit. No, that is not a curse word, it’s the name of the angel of death. Directed by Ryūhei Kitamura, this tale of a boarding school run by a sinful priest being haunted by what seems like a demon is easily the goriest of the lot. Why? Let’s just say that it involves murderous children and these children being cheerfully disemboweled and more. Still, the whole thing feels a little too short for its own good. Just when the party has started, it quickly ends. Why couldn’t this have been longer? I will love it more then. As it is, this one is okay, but it leaves me high and dry.
Next up is the best entry here, the David Slade-directed This Way to Egress, which is about Helen, who brings her two children along as she visits the shrink Dr Salvadore. Her husband has clearly abandoned her, but she is clinging on the belief that things will still work out. However, things become weird quickly, as everyone Helen encounters appears to be a deformed person, and… let’s just say that things are really, really not what they seem here. Many things remain unanswered by the end, so it’s hard to give a clear idea of what this is about. However, the lack of closure works, as the lack of knowing what is happening in the episode actually creates a fascinating sense of mounting dread in me as I keep watching.
Finally, Mick Garris closes the movie with Dead, which he of course directs. A carjacker Jenkins shoots dead the teenager Riley’s parents and he gets the young man too. Only, Riley manages to come back to life. His “death” marks him, however: he can now see and communicate with dead people. What an original idea! His mother wants him to come join her in the afterlife, while another fellow back-from-death person Casey tells him to keep chugging along. And then, Jenkins comes back to finish what he has started… This one just goes on and on, morphing into an unintentionally hilarious dumb slasher flick with some of the worst special effects ever. Look at the “Mother is calling you!” scene in the climax and tell me if you didn’t cringe. Go on and lie, I dare you.
Like most anthology movies, Nightmare Cinema has its shares of ups and downs. The ups, however, are mostly confined to one story, while everything else is a meh kind of okay. Horror fans may want to watch this anyway, but honestly, there are better films to watch this one. There are worse ones too, but that’s beside the point, really.