Release Date(s)1983 (December 22, 2015)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: C
- Audio Grade: C+
- Extras Grade: C-
Nightmares has a somewhat unclear history as far as how it came into being. It’s been said that it began life as a series of stories for the short-lived anthology series from the early 1980’s Darkroom, while others have insisted that only one of the stories was meant to be included in that show. Others have also said that it was meant to be an entirely different anthology TV series altogether. Whatever the reasons for it eventually being made into a movie, it’s mainly been in obscurity for a number of years since its ill-received release.
The first story of this portmanteau involves a young woman (Christina Raines) who has left her home in the middle of the night to pick up a carton of cigarettes at the risk of running into a murderer. Along the way, she must also stop for gas where an attendant (William Sadler) is waiting for her. The second story takes a look at a teenager (Emilio Estevez) who is obsessed with an arcade game, so much so that it begins to take over his daily life and eventually, everything else. The third story involves a priest (Lance Henriksen) going through a crisis of faith who is faced with his ultimate challenge: a murderous truck in the middle of the desert. The fourth and final story involves a family (including Veronica Cartwright and Richard Masur) with rat problems in their home, only these are no ordinary rats.
Being that the movie isn’t well-remembered and was directed by Joseph Sergeant, who also directed the great The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and the truly awful Jaws: The Revenge, it’s no surprise that the movie is quite a middling affair. None of the stories really have much to offer in terms of scares. There’s even some unintentional humor sprinkled in from time to time, especially in the last story where the crude special effects have no impact. It just further illustrates the lack of any seriousness it might have. That said, there’s still something charming about it. I’ve always been a fan of anthology horror movies, both the good and bad, and I’m always happy to see a new one come out of the woodwork the way that this one has. It lacks cohesion and each story is just sort of presented as is, but Nightmares is good for a lazy Saturday afternoon. It’s very middle of the road, but not so much that you can’t find something interesting about it.
Scream Factory’s release of Nightmares features a transfer that is, well, problematical. It’s not a bad-looking presentation, but it isn’t as strong as it could possibly be. It’s very organic in appearance, but very soft without much definition to it. Grain is mostly steady but somewhat unresolved, while colors, including blacks, have very little richness to them. Contrast and brightness suffer a bit, as well. There aren’t any signs of digital enhancement to be found, but there are some film artifacts left over. It’s a very grindhouse-looking presentation without much of the sharpness or clarity that you might expect from a high definition transfer. The only audio track available is an English 2.0 DTS-HD track, derived from the original mono soundtrack. It’s pretty much in the same ballpark as the video presentation. There isn’t a whole lot of fidelity, and it definitely shows its age from time to time, but dialogue, score, and sound effects all have some decent push to them. It’s mostly clean but still sounds a little rough around the edges. There are also subtitles in English SDH for those who might need them.
The extras are few, but you do get both widescreen and full screen presentations of the main feature, the latter being included I’m sure to satisfy those who prefer to see the movie the way it’s been presented for nearly all of its home video life. There’s also an audio commentary with executive producer Andrew Mirisch and actress Cristina Raines, as well as the original theatrical trailer and a set of radio spots.
Nightmares probably won’t make a huge splash in the horror community, but fans of the genre are bound to enjoy it. Considering the cast of familiar faces, it’s likely to get a small amount of recognition. Scream Factory’s presentation leaves a little to be desired, but is still an admirable effort for a mostly unseen horror movie.
- Tim Salmons