Film Review: NIGHTMARE CINEMA (USA 2018) ***

Nightmare Cinema Poster

Five strangers converge at a haunted movie theater owned by The Projectionist (Mickey Rourke). Once inside, the audience members witness a series of screenings that shows them their deepest fears and darkest secrets over five tales.

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.



1977 Movie Review: THE LAST WAVE, 1977

Movie Reviews

Directed by Peter Weir
Starring: Richard Chamberlain, Olivia Hamnett, David Gulpilil, Frederick Parslow, Vivean Gray
Review by Trevor Hogg


An Australian attorney defends a group of aborigines who are charged with killing one of their own for violating a tribal taboo. As the murder case progresses, he becomes plagued by apocalyptic visions of water that entwine him with the prophetical beliefs of his clients.


The roving Australian director, Peter Weir, encountered his creative muse while on holiday in Tunisia. “I found a buried Roman head, a beautiful piece of marble which I somehow knew I was going to find. It was an extraordinary experience,” the respected filmmaker remarked upon recalling his moment of premonition. “I wondered what if a lawyer had found it, someone whom it was harder to assimilate, the rational man rather than the filmmaker who deals with the imagination.” The idea percolated to the point of becoming the starting point for The Last Wave.

It was not the first time the Australian had worked with Aboriginal actor, Gulpilil, who gained international attention as the star in Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout. “I used him in a T.V. episode in a very straightforward part,” Weir stated. “He was being persecuted by a white overseer in an historical series, and we were chatting in a bar one night after work; he said some things about his family, and then suddenly he said a sentence. It was something like, ‘You see my father and I and that’s why the moon isn’t.” Peter Weir was confused by the remark. “I thought about it that night and the next morning and suddenly I realized what it was. That he was talking about another perception. He was talking about an experience for which there are no words. He’d seen something in another way. That was a breakthrough for me, firstly in writing the screenplay, and secondly in my future conversations with him because then I would look out for these moments or I would provoke them.”

To ensure an authentic representation of Aboriginal culture, the director flew to Darwin where he met with Nandjiwarra Amagula, a respected tribal elder and magistrate on Groote Island. “Anything with the Aboriginals underwent change,” Peter Weir replied. “Nandjiwarra was the key. In accepting to do the film, he accepted the principal of recreating a lost Sydney tribe and their symbols and tokens.” However, there were certain conditions; Nandjiwarra would not allow the use of existing tribal symbols which resulted in the art director creating fictional ones.

Weir continued. “I wanted the film to show the contrast between the European without the dreaming and the tribal person with the dreaming, and we talked about some of those things. Later, Nandji, changed quite a bit of dialogue and asked for certain things be put in.” He went on to give an example. “The dinner scene with the family, which is my favourite scene. It was really constructed by Gulpilil and Nandjiwarra. Nandjiwarra put in all the lines about the law and the law being more important than man, and that is really the heart of the film. It was a marvelous day of filming, one where you call ‘cut’ and nothing really changes, the conversation continues. At the lunch break they didn’t really care about leaving; the conversation between Chamberlain and Nandjiwarra continued.”

On casting Richard Chamberlain as the corporate tax attorney turned trial lawyer, the renowned filmmaker responded, “There was something in his face, there was some alien quality, and in my story my character had that quality. I had one actor, an Australian I thought of using but he was unavailable. Also, we couldn’t raise all the money in Australia. Chamberlain’s name occurred to somebody and I remembered that face, those eyes in particular.”

The Last Wave begins with a group of schoolchildren playing a game of cricket; however, they are quickly forced inside by an abrupt hail storm. The strange weather intensifies as David (Chamberlain) becomes obsessed with the ongoing murder trial. Haunted by images suggesting that the end of the world is at hand, he recruits one of the defendants (Gulpilil) to be his spiritual advisor. David’s apocalyptic visions climax when he confronts a tribal shaman (Nandjiwarra) in a sacred subterranean site located beneath the city. David escapes so to warn the people above of the imminent natural disaster. He collapses in hopelessness upon witnessing the rise of a great wave high above the urban landscape.

“I think I have to be honest and say that I didn’t find the solution to the problem of how to end the film,” confessed Weir when addressing the controversial conclusion to the movie. “There is no ending. I was painted into a corner. I have seen it happen with other filmmakers dealing in this kind of area. You can’t end it. You can try to be clever, and I tried a couple of other endings that did stop short of any wave, but they were just too neat. The ending just plagued me, and it was an extremely unhappy period. Part way through the film we broke over Easter. I remember a terrible few days wrestling with this ending and pretending I had found a solution to it.” He also went on to state. “It’s just the last chapter that is missing. I just have to leave it; don’t look back.” Upon further reflection, the storyteller admitted he would have approached things differently. “I think if I did the film today, I would…stay in the court of law.”

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