Thursday, May 30, 2019

Nightmare Cinema Gets its Guts Out and on the Screen: A Film Review

*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by the film's publicity arm.

Directors: Alejandro Brugués, Ryûhei Kitamura, David Slade, Joe Dante and Mick Garris.

Writers: Sandra Becerril, Alejandro Brugués, Lawrence C. Connolly, Mick Garris, Richard Christian Matheson and David Slade.

Horror fans might know director Mick Garris from his "Masters of Horrors" series. In 2005, several extended shorts were brought together, from the best in horror: George A. Romero, John Carpenter and Dario Argento. Garris brings some of his filmmaking friends together again, in Nightmare Cinema. Developed as a potential series, Nightmare Cinema brings five short films together, along with a wraparound. Mickey Rourke stars as the projectionist and he brings a series of characters into his supernatural theatre. Then, tales of stalkers, vanity, Catholic slaughter, a devolution into madness and a journey to limbo with: "The Thing in the Woods," "Mirari," "Mashit," "This Way to Egress," and "Dead." Two of the short films truly standout for their imagination, while others struggle to find their message.

The film begins with a young woman, entering an abandoned theatre. This is "The Thing in the Woods," starring Sarah Elizabeth Withers. This title was directed by Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead). Beginning as a slasher film, The Welder stalks his prey with a torch and a handful of knives. But, events are not taking place as they appear. The descent of a meteorite will signal to viewers that this short film is moving into more science fiction territory, rather than just horror! This film entry was one of the best of the five and memorable for its shift in genres.

Next up, Joe Dante's "Mirari" is a look at vanity. Mirari, from a quick search, is the Latin word for mirror. And, one protagonist is tired of looking at her scarred face and so is her future husband? Anna (Zarah Mahler) turns to plastic surgery, ahead of her wedding. Yet, this surgeon is a bit over-zealous and Anna does not know when to say no. The only film that really looks at vice, "Mirari" is good in that the short has a moral message. And, Dante knows when to use humour to over-deliver that message. Overall, "Mirari" might not be for everyone, but this short is a bit better the second time around.

At this point, the Projectionist (Rourke) is introduced. Then, the next film is up - titled "Mashit." If you are not familiar with your demons, Mashit is the demon of lust and incest. In the film, Mashit has taken up residence at a Catholic, all-girls' school. The demon goes about his work, corrupting others. This priest and his loyal nun have not heard of the ten commandments, including "Thou Shalt not Murder." Because, all of the students are quickly put to the sword and there is no chance at redemption. "Mashit" is one of the weakest entries in the film outing, in that writer Sandra Becerril cannot get the humour right in all of that bloodshed.

Then, the film quickly transitions into the more artistic "This Way to Egress." From director David Slade (Hard Candy), "This Way to Egress" is visually very impressive. Shot in black and white, the film also utilizes its set, effectively. The walls are covered in grime and the floors are all dirty. Meanwhile, cleaners go about their work and they do not notice they are making the halls worse. Helen (Elizabeth Reaser) is devolving into madness. Her kids are the only ones who appear sane. And, Slade's use of the visual sphere is a triumph. Viewers may even feel they are slipping into madness themselves, while watching this short.

Last up, Garris makes another appearance (outside of the wraparound) to deliver the audience "Dead." This final short looks at life, death and what might be in-between. Riley (Faly Rakotohavana) has survived a brutal robbery. In the hospital, he is recovering from his injuries. But, his killer is not done with him and has begun to stalk him down the hospital's many corridors. Death looms above all of us. But, Garris' entry never really hits the horror mark, outside of a few grisly bodies lying around. A little long, "Dead" ends out Nightmare Cinema with Riley still trying to evade death. The curtain call could have come a bit earlier on this one.

The five shorts and wraparound offer a lot of material. This viewer enjoyed Brugués' "The Thing in the Woods" and Slade's "This Way to Egress" the most. The others are a bit hit-and-miss. But, the joy of an anthology is that viewers get several chances to find something they like. Garris' latest venture into a potential series is a good one. This viewer hopes for more, but with a little more attention to comedic delivery. As it is, Nightmare Cinema should be seen as its shows in theatres this June 21st. Also on Digital platforms on this date, Nightmare Cinema offers enough solid material to chew on here as some of the greatest horror directors team-up for another, quality anthology.

Overall: 7 out of 10.

Nightmare Cinema at Cranked Up Films: Nightmare Cinema Release Details

A trailer for the film is available here, on 28DLA: A Nightmare Cinema Trailer at 28DLA

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