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Straight from the mid-80's comes the mild-mannered 'Nightmares,' a
horror anthology of four seemingly unrelated tales of terror that
hardly deserve the R-rating they so unjustly received (the film was
released one year before 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,' which
resulted in the PG-13 rating, a rating this film deserves, if not a
Segment one, 'Terror in Topanga,' re-tells the old urban legend of a woman, an escaped psychopath, and a suspicious gas station attendant. In this case the woman is Lisa (Christina Raines), a cigarette smoker who needs a nic-fix so bad; she's willing to risk being horribly stabbed for some Marlboro 100's. I suspect the filmmakers were trying to comment on the health hazards of tobacco--something new in 1983. This is the third best, or second worst-depending on your point of view, segment of the film.
Segment two, 'The Bishop of Battle,' on the other hand, is undeniably the best! It stars none other than a very young Emilio Estevez ('the 'Mighty Ducks man himself!') as J.J. Cooney, a kid so good at arcade games, all the other kids stop playing to watch him. One game Cooney can't seem to beat is 'The Bishop of Battle,' which supposedly has 13 levels, although it is believed level 13 is a myth as nobody has gotten past level 12 (Cooney claims he heard about 'a kid in New Jersey' who did so twice). Cooney becomes obsessed with surpassing level 12 and defeating 'The Bishop,' the digital master/boss of 'The Bishop of Battle,' he looks like an electronic-neon version of Magic Mirror from 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' So obsessed does Cooney become, that he alienates his parents, sneaks out of his bedroom in the middle of the night, and breaks back into the arcade to take on 'The Bishop' one more time. I won't spoil the funky ending; suffice to say it evokes 'Tron,' sort of a 'Tron-in reverse.' The most enjoyable aspect of Segment two is the lacquer of 1980's youth culture it evokes. Estevez sports a neon, sleeveless shirt and a Walkman the size of a toaster that blasts punk-rock as Cooney hustles amateurs in the tough arcades of Oakland. Back at the mall, one anonymously delivered line of dialog from an unseen member of Cooney's spectators is, I kid you not, 'Totally awesome!' At one point, a flirtatious female friend asks him if he wants to 'Get a pizza!' This isn't really the 1980's I remember, it's how I'd like to remember them.
Horror legend Lance Hendriksen gives arguably the best performance of all segments in #3, 'The Benediction,' as a priest in the American-Mexican wasteland who, after witnessing the pointless death of a child, loses his faith and begins the long trip home across the desert. On the way he encounters a demonic monster truck apparently intent on killing him 'Duel' style. The truck is loud and deep black, with an upside down cross hanging in its rear-view mirror. At the stories climax, we see the truck literally burst out from the desert earth as if it were a surfacing submarine. It's a surprisingly effective, and very cool, moment in the film.
Despite a well tuned cast, 'Night of the Rat,' the fourth segment, is terrible, the worst in the film, and a poor finale. It centers on the Houston family's encounter with, as the title so eloquently eludes, a giant rat. As if that weren't enough, the rat has psychic powers as well! Wife Claire is the protagonist, played by polished actor Veronica Cartwright, who tries to convince her arrogant husband Steven (mustached character actor Richard Massur, whose demeanor mirrors his dry-toast last name) to call an exterminator. But alas, Steve refuses, and it's not until the devil-rat almost kills their young daughter (future overdosee Bridgette Andersen in a phenomenal child performance) that he whips out the conveniently closet-stored shotgun and goes-a-rat huntin'. The finale of 'Night of the Rat,' is too awfully hilarious for words to define.
Overall, 'Nightmares,' is too gentle to be scary. It reminded me of Nickelodeon's soft-core, 'Are You Afraid of the Dark?' which also had happy endings and corny fables (although I remain a fan of that series). I would recommend this film only for the nostalgic 'The Bishop of Battle,' Hendrickson's performance in 'The Benediction,' and as an overall night of laughs for 80's horror connoisseurs. 'Creepshow,' and 'Creepshow 2' are far superior horror anthologies than this film.
However I must admit I enjoyed it, in some ways, more than 'The Twilight Zone, The Movie.'
Though individually modest compared to the bloody affairs of horror
movies these days, the sum of their parts provides a uniquely
entertaining and accurate sampling of horror films of the early '80s.
With four short stories addressing different areas of terror, from
serial killers to giant rats, Joseph Sargent's Nightmares showcases a
nostalgic spattering of the genre and an amusing range of highs and
lows in substance and style.
Chapter one (Terror in Topanga) sets an appropriately foreboding mood as a maniacal serial killer is loosed upon the small town of Topanga. Recalling urban legends and classic slashers, the deranged William Henry Glazer is out on a killing spree and young Lisa (Cristina Raines) decides a pack of cigarettes is worth risking her life for. Spouting the now cliché horror film line "I'll be right back," Lisa proceeds to embark on a drive alone at night and winds up in a deadly predicament. A wise segment to open the film with, Terror in Topanga ably represents the sub-genre of slasher flicks with a pervasive atmosphere of paranoia and isolation.
The second chapter (The Bishop of Battle) is perhaps the most famous and features a young Emilio Estevez as J.J. Cooney, a video game hustler determined to take on the arcade game Bishop and reach the elusive Level 13. Sporting cheesy '80s special effects and a sinister green head for a villain, The Bishop of Battle cleverly plays off of obsessions and the fear of technological takeover. A virtual reality invasion of the real world and a convincing performance from Estevez make this the most engaging chapter.
Easily the weakest in both story and thrills, chapter three (Benediction) finds Lance Henriksen as a priest who loses his faith after a tragic event. Told with a multitude of traumatic dreams and sullen flashbacks, Benediction plays out like a weaker version of 1977's The Car, only this time the devil's choice of transport is a large black truck. Henriksen is capable as always, but the terror is light and short-lived even for a short film.
Chapter four returns to good form in Night of the Rat, a killer rodent story revolving around the consequences of messing with Mother Nature and the task of confronting your own fears. The suspenseful buildup is by far its greatest asset, as a climax featuring disappointing special effects and laughable solutions leaves much to be desired.
Paranoia, obsession, faith, and obstinance all merge with entertaining examples of the horror genre's many facets to produce an effective representation of the thrillers of the time. By today's standards you'll likely be spared any real nightmares as a result of viewing this '80s gem, but it's still worth the visit to a period of innovation over gory visuals.
- Joel Massie
Thanks to good writing and excellent casting choices, this is (imho) the
best of the "horror serial" movies popularized in the 1980's by films like
"Creepshow." Some genuinely creepy moments and quality acting make for an
excellent ride, although the first of the four stories is basically a
throwaway. The special effects could be better, but this was the early
after all. Watch it at night after 1AM for best effect.
Not the best anthology movie made, but it was somewhat good. I liked "Creepshow" and "Cat's Eye" better, but this one is on par with "Twilight Zone: the Movie". There are other anthology movies that this one is a lot better than. For one it has a good number of stories, though in the end they are a little like episodes of the show "Tales from the Darkside". The first one is based on an urban myth as a woman goes out for cigarettes on a night some crazed mental patient is on the loose. I can't really say much more or I will end up ruining the ending (which you will know if you ever heard the myth like I have). The next story is the best one in my book, mainly because I play a lot of video games. It features a young Emilo Estevez as this really good game player. He is obsessed with this one game called "The Bishop of Battle". He wants to get to this level that no one has ever gotten too, and one night he breaks into the arcade and he makes it to the level and let's just say he is in for a surprise at what the mystery level contains. The third story is about a priest who has lost his faith. He is driving in the desert where he is confronted by a mysterious truck with tinted windows. They do a cat and mouse routine through the desert terrain. Finally, we have the story of a couple who have a small rat problem. This anthology movie is not going to blow you away, but the tales are good enough to be rather entertaining.
For those not afraid of cheapo 80's television horror comes Nightmares. Essentially this was the remainder of the filmed episodes of Universals anthology series "The Darkroom", you know, the short lived one that was on ABC in the early eighties, had James Coburn as the host. Oh well, I tried. Anywho, the 4 story movie was very "un-scary" to most, but entertaining enough to sit through if you enjoy speculative fiction type stories. Of course the staple memory from this movie is the segment with E.Esteves called "The Bishop of Battle". After TRON failed to bag box office reciepts in the upper millions, I guess Universal thought they could do better with a video game nightmare story replete with computer graphics. Must have worked for this film as mentioning this segment, jars memories even in this day. Trivia bit: Eighties icon Moon Unit Zappa makes a guest appearance in the film, see if you can spot her.
I enjoyed this movie very much, it's a perfect lazy Sunday afternoon flick when there's nothing to do. Although this movie really isn't that scary, not many were from this time period (The Shining excepted). Each of the 4 segments have their own charm, especially Emilio Estevez as the video game addict. 22 minutes of pure 80's nostalgia!! I would recommend this movie for a fun trip back to 1983, shag carpet and New Wave background music optional.
The movie as a whole is worth watching, in any case, start to finish, but
the Bishop of Battle clearly stands out.
Emilio Esteves and the entire supporting cast give excellent performances. The story is both fun and scary, and the soundtrack rules.
Favorite scene: In the arcade in the Mexican neighborhood.
Favorite line: "There IS a level 13. I heard some kid out in Jersey got it twice."
I'm a fan of horror as well as the horror anthologies, this anthology
is an under the radar and even slightly forgotten gem. Yeah, it's not
not one of the best anthologies in my book, but I still think it's a
solid and it's true the only weakness for it would be that the first
and fourth tale are pretty lame but that what you get with most to all
anthologies there's going to be hits and misses. So all isn't lost
since there are two that I personally think are memorable and are the
ones to watch, so I'm just going to talk about them.
The Benidiction: this one is my second favorite tale. It's pretty much a Christianity version of "Duel" which is cool, the tale is both thrilling but also has a good message at the end about faith. Lance Hendrickson whom is an actor I really like I think is very good as a priest whom has lost his faith after a tragedy which pushed him over the edge.
His character really is sympathetic because the questions he asks and anger with them is the same as ours depending on what faith you serve, on why is there so much suffering and why is God if he/she exists allows it to happen, why doesn't he/she do anything about it. I hate to admit it but sometimes when things don't go my way even I sometimes ask those questions.
And of course his faith is put to the test as Satan comes in driving in, like in "Duel" we never see the driver which is fine by me. But I really like the design even color of the 4 by 4 pickup truck which is just menacing looking, almost made to seem like a rolling beast.
The chase sequences are done very well and very suspenseful, the driving and stunt work is well choreographed. But I also like that it's not just a chase but also a deadly game of hide and seek, as that truck at time just appears out of nowhere and anywhere. Your constantly hopping Lance will find a way to evade and outrun the truck.
But of course the biggest highlight of the film is the second tale which is my favorite "The Biship of Battle". This tale was a dream come true for me since I'm a gamer and I've been to the video arcade myself ever since I was six. In a way this tale is sort of a time capsule since I'll admit seeing those video arcades and the cabinets really made me miss them now that most video arcades has gone extinct like the drive ins.
Anyway, it was a fun and suspenseful tale. This was a first film for Emelo Estavez and all I can say is great start, I like his performance as the character J.J. which I thought was believable, whom at first seems like a cool guy you could almost be friends with but then further on we see he's became or is an addict. I don't know whether the video game put a spell on him as there was some hints from the mom and his best friend saying he's not himself or his own free will all the same from the way he's behaving you already know he's going down. Like for example J.J. ditches a would be date just to play another round of the game; if I had a girlfriend that looked like Emma Watson and she asked me to go for pizza I'd just go because a. want to spend time with her and b. I'm hungry; so yeah J.J. doing that is not a good sign.
However the real star of the tale is of course "The Biship of Battle" game which just looks awesome, it's a shame that video game doesn't really exist. It was the use of 3D and Polygon technology for the programing and design of the game which at the time was revolutionary and was used in video games like "Tempest" and the underrated "I Robot". One of my favorite moments of the game was level 12 which predates the video game "Doom" where the game goes into first person shooter mode and the cinematography is great you really feel like your in the game going thorough the maze and shooting down the minions.
The CGI effects I think are just fantastic because they are an example of the technology used the right way and reasons, and this was way before the technology was common place and they still look great in my opinion. I really love the designs of the minions of the Biship and whey they come out of the game they don't disappoint. Along with the bishop himself voiced well by James Tolken another actor I really like. His voice acting is just excellent it has that detached friendly but also cold and slightly sinister/menacing tone which is the kind of voice I sometimes hear in the pinball games sometimes.
And the battle sequence is well chirography, Emelio had LAPD gun maneuver training for two weeks and it shows, he really does it well. It's just one of my favorite battles of all time as the video arcade becomes a battlefield and he's armed with only the laser gun, just blasting away at the minions and they also return fire both causing some explosions to their enviorment, it's just fraking awesome.
If the story has a message it's simply don't let video game be your whole life, unplug once in a while otherwise just like in the video games life will beat you. At least that's what I think.
So just like all the story in an anthology, give this one a try and pleasant dreams.
Rating: 3 stars
Nightmares came out in the same year that Twilight Zone:The Movie was
released. Whether this movie was intended to directly compete with TZ by
copying it's style, or whether it's release date is simply a coincidence,
may never be known.
Both movies focus on short horror tales, each about a half hour in length, that feature odd twist endings. While TZ has the legacy of the great Rod Serling behind it, Nightmares has for the most part, wallowed in obscurity. This is undeserved.
The first story, about a chain smoker whom encounters a killer at a gas station is the weakest of the four, and is easily dismissed. The second, "The Bishop of Battle" is clearly the strongest story, featuring a young Emilio Estevez as a video game champ eager to beat a hot new video game. Just gotta get to level 13! Great special effects, and a claustrophobic ending highlight this one. The third story, about a priest getting pursued through the desert by a mysterious driver in a pick up truck, is very well paced and creepy. The final story, about a giant rat living in the basement of a suburban home, can be a little silly, and seems to borrow more from the "Night Gallery" style of horror.
Give this one a try for a solid entry in the horror anthology genre.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I liked this movie a lot.
It had 4 stories in it,
Witch were unique ones at that.
story#1- A hard-working Mom goes to the store. Her horrifying experiences that she encounters that night will keep her away from them for good.
story#2- A teenager is obsessed with video games, and he sneaks into a arcade to play his favorite game. The results are disasterous.
story#3- A Priest, after a murder, looses his faith in God and takes off across the desert, only to be chased by a evil satanic truck.
story#4-A family, living in a colonial, is attacked by a monsterous rat.
Despite the poor effects, I give it 3 and-a-half stars out of 5 for this gem.
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