Mick Garris is inviting you to a screening at his Nightmare Cinema: slashers, sadistic plastic surgeons, and killer priests….oh my! But is this a series of nightmares worth remembering, or is it a forgetful endeavor altogether?
Horror anthologies, by their very nature, tend to be mixed bags. However, a great horror anthology like the EC Comics inspired, bright and garish Creepshow, or more recently, the creepy genre-bending Trick ‘R Treat, somehow surpass the limitations of the format.
Nightmare Cinema is a brand new horror anthology by Mick Garris, who is probably most well-known recently for the Masters of Horror TV series. In many ways, Nightmare Cinema feels like a failed series pilot, now being shoehorned into a theatrical movie. In fact, if one didn’t know the pedigrees of some of the filmmakers involved, one might think this is a grouping of shorts by first-time directors.
There are five horror shorts, linked by a device of each story’s main character happening upon the abandoned Rialto movie theater, run by a crypt-keeper-esque projectionist. The projectionist is played by an ambulatory wad of overcooked bacon with hair and teeth known as Mickey Rourke.
The stories go as follows:
“The Thing in the Woods,” directed by Alejandro Brugués, who is probably most well-known for Juan of the Dead, is a mashup of Friday The 13th, The Evil Dead, with a bit of alien invasion thrown in. This might be the second best of the segments. Even though it never rises to the campy heights of either of its inspirations, it does offer a high energy story with some effectively chunky practical gore effects.
“Mirari,” directed by the formerly great Joe Dante, is like the film equivalent of watching Kiss on yet another reunion tour, still trying to put on the makeup and rock and roll all night, through the Ben Gay haze. Coming from a director who brought us Gremlins, as well as one of the best segments from Twilight Zone:The Movie, this story is sad and derivative. Mirari is about plastic surgery gone very wrong, with homages to Total Recall, while nearly being a direct ripoff of the legendary “Eye of the Beholder” episode of the original The Twilight Zone.
“Mashit,” directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus, The Midnight Meat Train), offers arguably the weakest short. Mashit is a demon that somehow causes the kids at a Catholic church to go crazy and….it’s a mess. This is a third-rate The Exorcist/ The Omen ripoff that seems to have the off-kilter tone of an 80’s Italian horror film, but instead just ends up laughable. The one notably bonkers sequence is of a priest graphically hacking up 10-20 possessed children. Just terrible.
“This Way to the Egress,” directed by David Slade (Hard Candy, Bandersnatch), is by far the best story. It’s far too short and doesn’t offer a very satisfying conclusion, but it is the only story that seems truly inspired, evokes a sense of mystery and dread. At times, it even veers into the strange reality of early David Cronenberg or David Lynch. Solid and unsettling work that is difficult to describe.
“Dead,” directed by Mick Garris, is the last segment. This is a middling effort that, like many of the stories, pays homage to more superior works. Here we find a young man who loses both parents in a botched carjacking, nearly dying himself, then finds himself in a reality reminiscent of The Sixth Sense . It is never as scary or emotional as it wants to be.
Overall, Nightmare Cinema is not a dismal failure, just another mediocre entry into the tired horror anthology sub-genre. If not for the talent involved, this would be a direct to streaming release, forgotten immediately. If one runs across this on one of the streaming platforms, skip to “This Way to the Egress” and stop there.
2.5 out of 5 stars (a full star demotion for the TV quality cinematography throughout and horribly overbearing/cheesy score)
***Nightmare Cinema is now playing in theaters and is available On Demand.
To learn about other films to check out (or skip) this month, take a listen to CinemAddicts, a podcast that’s housed on our site: