October 3, 2013

Netflix'ns: Nightmares (aka Stage Fright) (1980)

The early days of October find me still settling into my horror movie a day routine. It also finds me watching a movie I had never seen before. I was going through my Netflix queue and stumbled across an unseen gem. It has been in my queue for awhile, not sure why I never watched it before. Anyway, there is something about the chick with the crazy eyes and the shard of glass on the cover art that called to me. It inspired me to press play and see what was going on. The movie is called Nightmares, although an edited version can also be found under the tile Stage Fright.

When I pressed play, I found a movie that did little to hide its inspirations. It is clearly banking on the success of Halloween a few years before. It also has elements of the Italian giallo. It creates a slice of Ozploitation that doesn't seem to get mentioned all that often, yet draws influences from all over the world. I don't know why, as the movie is sleazy, bloody, atmospheric, and amateurish at the same time. It works and probably deserves more attention. To give an idea of how little known it is, the graphic movie managed to avoid landing on the UK video nasties list.

The movie begins in January 1963 and we watch a young girl waking in the middle of the night and looking for her mommy. She opens the bedroom door just to find her mother writhing naked on someone who is not her father. A month later the little girl wakes up in the back of a car, her mom is driving and another man is essentially molesting her in the front seat. She tries to save her mother, but that distracts mom and she crashes, sending her flying through the windshield, slicing her throat in the process.

The young girl sits, covered in blog and waits for help. Help arrives and everyone blames her for her mothers death. To make things worse, a grown man approaches her with bad intentions, so she breaks a glass and stabs him with a shard. This sets off nightmarish opening credits, virtually assuring us that she will have long lasting issues.

Time jumps forward to the present, circa 1980. The young girl, Helen (Jenny Neumann), is all grown up and auditioning for a role in a local theater production. She befriends a soap star, Terry (Gary Sweet), and they begin an awkward romance. You see, he is blind to reality, and she is just seriously off kilter, suffering nightmarish flashbacks, going into trances at the sound of breaking glass, and just acting very odd in general.

There is also somebody going around killing folks. This is done with point of view shots, heavy breathing, and a black gloved killer. The weapon of choice is a shard of broken glass and most of the victims either are having sex or thinking about it. Our obvious killer as some serious psychosexual issues linked to breaking glass.

Nightmares is a well paced slasher that does not overstay its welcome. It is surprising in its graphic nudity and takes the sex equals death idea to an extreme level. There is some blood, but the gore is pretty light. While the editing is seriously choppy and there is a bad flow (you could say it adds to the nightmare) from scene to scene, but it is lit wonderfully with lots of darkness and some bright, sharp colors. There is solid tracking sorts, especially towards the end. While not perfect and decidedly derivative, it is consistently entertaining, delightfully sleazy, and is rather atmospheric. Also, not to be forgotten is the solid score from Brian May (not the Queen guitarist, I always made that mistake).

So, if you are looking for something that is entertaining and you may not have seen before, definitely look this one up. I am glad I found it.


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