Starring Mickey Rourke, Richard Chamberlain, Adam Godley, Orson Chaplin, Eric Nelsen
Written by Sandra Becerril, Alejandro Brugués, Lawrence C. Connolly, Mick Garris, Richard Christian Matheson, David Slade
Directed by Mick Garris, Alejandro Brugués, Joe Dante, Ryûhei Kitamura, David Slade
Would you enter an empty Rialto theater that’s showing a movie you’ve never heard of – a movie that’s starring you? This is the premise for Nightmare Cinema. Produced by Cinelou Films and Cranked Up Films, this film introduces us to a projectionist (Mickey Rourke), who presents five distinct short films that merge into one of fulfillment for all horror and non-horror fans.
Thing in the Woods by director Alejandro Brugués is first. Inside this fun film of classic horror elements, we fear for Samantha (Sarah Elizabeth Withers), who is chased through the woods by a man hidden behind a welding mask. We ponder the man’s purpose, but we’re captivated by the techniques he uses to kill his victims. Exploding heads and unhurried knife insertions recreate the joy of watching iconic Friday the 13th executions. Furthermore, the film excels with Brugués seamlessly stitching multiple genres together in twenty minutes. This horror became a romance and sci-fi by the second act, using clever camera work to manipulate our mood. (And let’s not forget the first person view of the spider!)
In the next short, Mirari (directed by Joe Dante), we get to know Anna (Zarah Mahler) and the scar on her left cheek, caused by a car accident when she was two years old. Her fiancé David (Mark Grossman) insists that looks are overrated, but he schedules a plastic surgeon to free her from her torment. Fears increase as we witness the friendly Dr. Mirari’s persistence on doing unwarranted work. Before we can object, anesthesia hits. Anna awakes from her surgery, face fully bandaged. She rises from bed and explores the clinic to discover that Dr. Mirari (Richard Chamberlain), the nurses, and David have definitions of beauty that are – unconventional.
Third to be lured into the Rialto is Father Benedict Abuelo (Maurice Benard). His movie Mashit (directed by Ryuhei Kitamura) opens to a Catholic school’s rooftop where a possessed student is compelled to jump to his death. Sister Patricia (Mariela Garriga) climbs to the rooftop, begging the student to live. As they reach for each other, the demon inside the student breaks his hand. The student plunges backward. His body and blood spread before the school’s entrance. There is gloom for the student. But the gloom is short-lived as the other students of this school continue to be tormented. This leads to an unforgettable scene in which Father Abuelo wields a sword through heads and limbs that fly into the air like birthday confetti (classic Kitamura-style).
A visual spectacle of mental illness, the fourth film is entitled This Way to Egress. Director David Slade introduces us to Helen (Elizabeth Reaser), a woman trapped in her mind. First, we rest in her black and white world with spotless people and symmetrical settings. However, as Helen interacts with these people and places, they start to become deformed and soiled with black netting. We suffer through her struggle to decipher the difference between false and reality, ultimately understanding that this puzzle can push anyone to insanity. Instantly, Slade brings heightened levels of discomfort, which is a testament to his own psychological grind to consistently construct abstract storylines.
The last short, Dead (directed by Mick Garris), forces us to run down parallel planes of terror and sadness as we watch young Riley (Faly Rakotohavana) lose his parents before losing his own life. Seventeen minutes in darkness, Riley opens his eyes to Dr. Michaelson (Dan Martin). The bullet wound in Riley’s chest is bandaged. We are relieved this innocent child is alive, but the relief fades once we realize that Riley’s time in the afterlife embedded an ability in him to see the dead. We observe these battered bodies walk around casually, searching for things in this world they are attached to. Frankly, bearing his parents’ executions should’ve been enough for this young boy, but now Riley must learn to endure the dead – and to survive the one living person still calibrated to kill him – his parents’ murderer.
How Nightmare Cinema comes together is proof of exceptional teamwork and extraordinary planning. Each director brought their experience to the table to create something epic. As with any nightmare, this movie will have you thinking about it right after you watch it.
Nightmare Cinema is for all horror and non-horror fans. If you adored the TV series Masters of Horror (2005-2007), you’ll enjoy the zaniness of this film. It represents exceptional teamwork and extraordinary planning, with each director bringing their experience to the table to create something on their own terms. As with most nightmares, this movie will have you thinking about it long after you watch it.