NIGHTMARE CINEMA is a horror anthology, something quite common in horror flicks of the past and re-appearing now again with 5 stories. The common thread is the cinema theatre where several characters converge only to watch their scariest nightmares on screen. The theatre owner is the projectionist (Mickey Rourke) who is as scary as the nightmares.
The first story is THE THING IN THE WOODS directed by Alejandro Brugues. There appears to be a serial killer nicknamed the welder who is doing away with a group of teens. There is a reason the welder is carrying on these violent killings which is revealed later as the thing in the woods. This episode is passable at best and works like a slasher film with lots of blood, gore and flying body parts.
The second entitled MIRARE directed by Joe Dante is the second best of the lot as it involves besides the horror, paranoia. The theme has been done before – where the plastic surgeon is not what he seems. A young bride disfigured from a car accident is convinced by her fiancé to undergo plastic surgery for the wedding. Upon recovery, she discovers other disfigured bodies in the hospital besides hers.
The third of the anthology MASHIT (the name of a spirit) has the most promise but unfortunately is the most muddled of the lot. Perhaps Japanese director Ryūhei Kitamur is working in unfamiliar territory here. A priest and a nun has a sexual relationship amidst some possession that is taking place with the children under their care. One suicide leads to another. A young girl is currently under prey but tuns out that it is her mother who is possessed.
The next one, THIS WAY TO EGRESS, directed by David Slade where everyone speaks with a British accent involves a woman visiting a doctor after things get weirder and weirder with her. She wonders if she is crazy but is ushered out the door by the doctor without the answer. This one has the best cinematography and excellent disgusting looking production sets, black and white with interiors all seemingly covered in blood. Everything looks very sinister as the woman keeps asking strangers (with faceless features) if they have seen her children. The ending is a tad of a disappointment given the tense buildup.
The best is reserved for the last and indeed, the last episode DEAD directed by Mick Garris (who also directed the inter-joining projectionist parts) is an excellent horror piece combining a return from the dead and slasher scenarios. After performing his concert piece, a boy and his parents are attacked while in their car in the parking lot. The parents are killed while the boy survives a bullet wound. Things get complicated in hospital recovery where the boy’s mother appears and ask him to cross to other side, the side of death.
Though a bit inconsistent, the horror anthology works, bringing back memories of those old anthology classics like TALE FROM THE CRYPT (1972) and DEAD OF NIGHT (1945). The anthology ends up a mixed bag of tricks – some good and some bad segments. For horror fans, NIGHTMARE CINEMA should still satisfy.