Wednesday, December 23, 2015

NIGHTMARES (1983) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Scream Factory 
Region Code: A
Duration: 99 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1), Fullframe (1.33:1) 
Director: Joseph Sargent
Cast: Cristina Raines, Richard Masur, Tony Plana, Veronica Cartwright, Emilio Estevez, Lance Henriksen, James Tolkan, William Sanderson

Nightmares (1983) is an horror anthology I caught on TV numerous times growing up in the '80s and loved it as a kid, I've always had a weakness for the anthology format, and even third-tier stuff like this got my horror heart pumping. I've long held onto my DVDR'd copy of the movie dubbed from a late night presentation on cable, as I refused to pay the ridiculous $100 plus dollar price tag the old Anchor Bay DVD was fetching on eBay for years since going out of print, praise be to Scream Factory for bringing this one to Blu-ray. 

Against what I've heard about the origins of this movie for years the commentary tells us it was actually a failed TV pilot for a new anthology series, and not merely unused episodes of the Darkroom TV anthology series. The movie begins without the benefit of a warp-around story, straight into 'Terror in Topenga', a nice moody slasher entry, featuring chain-smoking homemaker (Cristina Raines, The Sentinel) who insists on going out for cigarettes against the advice of her husband. Stopping off at the local corner store where she encounters a somewhat threatening attendant who frightens her. She leaves and discovers that she's about out of gas, and what a night to run out of gas, when an escaped mental patient is prowling the are. This is my favorite of the bunch, I like the simple set-up, the escaped mental patient angle, and Raines is always great. A local cop gets massacred at the top of the segment, which is decently gruesome, but this one operates on atmosphere and suspense for the most part, and does a damn job about it.

Up next we have video gamer J.J. Cooney (Emilio Estevez, Repo Man), a video game hot-shot obsessed with the arcade game The Bishop of Battle. The young punk has to hustle kids at the arcade to feed his obsession. His parents are down on him since his gamer obsession is seemingly ruining his life, some things never change. When his parents forbid him to go to the arcade he sneaks out and breaks into the arcade in the after hours to spend some quality time with his video nemesis, pumping quarters into the slot to get to that elusive next level. I can somewhat relate to this one, as a kid who loved the arcade with an obsession for the game Galaga, I would skip school to play it at the grocery store next to my house. I still have to stop and pump quarters into the damn game whenever I come across it. As a child of the eighties I loved the vintage video graphics on this one. Estevez would go onto star in Repo Man the following year, and the films shares a pumping punk soundtrack, each featuring the songs of punkers Black Flag and Fear!

In 'The Benediction' we have troubled priest (Lance Henriksen, Aliens) who leaves the church after the death of a young boy, the conflicted priest is travelling the desert alone with a jug of Holy Water to quench his thirst when he encounters a malevolent Chevy 4x4 which pursues him, nearly driving him out of his mind. This is an obvious riff on the better movies Duel and The Car but it pales in comparison, but director Joseph Sargent does a decent job with what he has, creating some pulse-racing chase scenes, one scene of the 4x4 erupting from beneathhe ground is fun, and seems to have been ripped-off from the Eurocult classic Psychomania (1973)!

The movie goes into the night on a whimper with 'Night of the Rat'. Here we have harried housewife Claire (Veronica Cartwright, 
Alien) who hears the sound of rats in the walls of her home. Her asshole husband (Richard Masur, License to Drive) refuses to allow his wife to hire a professional and chooses instead to lay down a few traps. The rat-invasion only intensifies, threatening the structural integrity of their home and the safety of their young daughter. This could have been a lot of fun ...and it is, but for all the wrong reasons. The poorly composited scenes of the monstrous (and telepathic) rat are just pathetic, but Cartwright and Masur are just fine in their respective roles. 

Audio/Video: Scream Factory offer two viewing options for Nightmares (1983), a widescreen (1.781) presentation or full frame, which is he framing I am most familiar with. Comparing the two I can now see that the fullframe is not open matte as I had always suspected, it is cropped on the right and left sides. The 1080p HD image is not exactly eye-popping, the image is soft and the colors are a bit on the muted side, but it is an improvement over my DVDR. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 offers decent fidelity, dialogue and score come through clean and the punk soundtrack on The Bishop of Battle segment are strong, optional English subtitles are provided. 

A bit light on the extras we have an Audio Commentary With Executive Producer Andrew Mirisch And Actress Cristina Raines moderated by blogger Shaun Chang of the Hill Place Blog who also moderated the commentary with Raines for Scream Factory's Blu-ray of The Sentinel. Mirisch and Raines offer a splendid track with Mirsch offering loads of information, but moderator Chang doesn't seem to have a lot of knowledge about the movie, more a super-fan of Raines, which is fine but he doesn't contribute a whole lot to the commentary. The only other extras are the fullframe theatrical trailer and two-minutes of radio spots. 

Special Features
- Audio Commentary With Executive Producer Andrew Mirisch And Actress Cristina Raines moderated by Shaun Chang of the Hill Place Blog 

- Original Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins)
- Radio Spots (2 Mins) 

Not sure how this would watch with someone who didn't grow-up with it on TV as I did. As horror anthologies go this is a bit anemic on the gore and suspense, with the exception of the 'Terror in Topenga' segment, which I give high marks all the way around, a tight bit of suspense. A definite nostalgia enhanced recommend for me, glad to see this one become widely available again and at a reasonable price, now I can throw that DVDR in the trash! 2.5/5