Is the horror anthology making a comeback? British studio Amicus Productions rivalled Hammer Films in the 60’s and 70’s with their anthology movies. Creepshow was an 80’s classic. Over the last several years, The ABCs of Death, the V/H/S series, and Holidays have been fun additions to the genre. And just last year, Ghost Stories turned out to be one the better horror entries. Now Nightmare Cinema is finally hitting VOD platforms after debuting last fall. Critics seems to love it, but does it live up to expectations?
Over the course of one night, several strangers find themselves in an abandoned movie theater. Their host, The Projectionist, screens a personalized movie for each patron from his personal library. Across five different stories, The Projectionist confronts his guests with their worst fears.
Nightmare Cinema Delivers Gore With a Sense of Humour
When it’s at its best, Nightmare Cinema is gory, inventive, and fun. Its opening segment, The Thing in the Woods, subverts slasher movie expectations with a clever twist. We’ve seen so much meta-commentary and riffing on the subgenre. One has to be impressed that director Alejandro Brugués found some new life with the narrative. Though it’s gory, Brugués strikes a playful tone with the material. Not surprisingly, Joe Dante (The Howling) serves up another strong, David Lynch-inspire segment, Mirare. This plastic surgery-fueled nightmare oozes with Dante’s dark humour and some grotesque imagery.
…Slade creates a visually grim, surrealist nightmare.
Yet David Slade (30 Days of Night) delivers Nightmare Cinema’s best segment. Entitled This Way To Egress and starring Elizabeth Reaser (The Haunting of Hill House), Slade creates a visually grim, surrealist nightmare. It’s an ambiguous segment filled haunting imagery. Moreover, ‘tis is the only segment that abandons Nightmare Cinema’s darker sense of humour. This is the kin of horror that gets under your skin, leaving you feeling unnerved long after its over.
Buckets of Blood for Gore Fans
Nightmare Cinema is an independent horror movie and nowhere is this more evident than in its gore and violence. None of the directors hold back. The Thing in the Woods warms things up with one of the most inventive uses of a blowtorch in horror movie history. No one can say Brugués doesn’t have a sense of humour. Another scene in his segment involving multiple knives will likely prompt some well-earned laughs. Heads split open in Dead along with a finale that shouts out to the Maniac remake. And the third segment, Mashit, spares no one with a blood-soaked finale.
Nightmare Cinema Suffers A Little From Unevenness
Like most horror anthology movies, Nightmare Cinema suffers from some unevenness across its segments. Director Ryuhei Kitamura’s (Downrange, Midnight Meat Train) segment, Mashit, is tonally uneven. That is Kitamura struggles to find a balance between atmospheric horror and Nightmare Cinema’s more overall playful tone. Mashit’s wild and bloody church brawl is a highlight, but feels at odds with the segment’s earlier established tone. The segment feels too similar to the dozens of possession-themed horror movies. But Kitamura pulls no punches with the gore, child actors or not, making some of the derivative story elements forgivable.
…Mick Garris’ final segment, Dead, is a clunker.
Unfortunately, Mick Garris’ final segment, Dead, is a clunker. What starts with a lot of promise quickly devolves into a Sixth Sense redux. There’s more fun with the blood and gore, but it’s still too similar in its basic premise to M. Night Shyamalan’s 1999 classic. Moreover, Garris mismatches the tone with some schmaltzy bits towards the segment’s end. Aside from these segments, Nightmare Cinema doesn’t do enough with its wrap-around story connecting everything. Mickey Rourke’s ‘Projectionist’ fills a similar role as ‘The Crypt Keeper’ in Amicus classic, Tales from the Crypt. Certainly, it’s a similar idea. But Rourke was either given little with which to work or he phoned it in. Regardless, The Projectionist’s segments don’t add much to what’s an otherwise fun horror movie.
The Indie Horror We’ve Been Waiting For in 2019
In 2019, horror fans have been spoiled with theatrical horror releases. But it feels like there’s been a bit of a shortage of good indie horror thus far. Though we’ve had a few stand-outs, it feels like there have been some long gaps between releases. Nightmare Cinema absolutely fills this void. In spite of a little unevenness, it’s a fun horror anthology with plenty of gore and striking imagery.