11th Oct2018

Grimmfest 2018: ‘Nightmare Cinema’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Mickey Rourke, Sarah Withers, Faly Rakotohavana, Maurice Benard, Elizabeth Reaser, Zarah Mahler, Mark Grossman, Eric Nelsen, Richard Chamberlain, Adam Godley, Annabeth Gish | Written by Lawrence C. Connolly, David Slade, Alejandro Brugués, Richard Christian Matheson, Sandra Becerril, Mick Garris | Directed by Mick Garris, Alejandro Brugues, Joe Dante, Ryuhei Kitamura, David Slade


Mick Garris, Joe Dante and David Slade are among the horror directors contributing to Nightmare Cinema, an entertaining anthology in the spirit of Garris’ Masters of Horror TV show. The stories themselves have a surprisingly high hit rate, but the film is let down by its poorly thought-out linking concept. The set-up is almost too simple, taking the title entirely literally. When random people walk past the well-lit-but-seemingly-abandoned Rialto cinema, they see their name appear on the marquee. Intrigued, they enter the cinema, where a creepy projectionist (Mickey Rourke as The Projectionist) shows them a film that features their death.

The film gets off to a cracking start with the best entry of the five stories. Alejandro Brugues directs The Thing in the Woods, which starts off as a standard Friday the 13th-style slasher – with various twenty-somethings fleeing masked killer The Welder – before becoming something else entirely. With a supremely creepy concept, coupled with superb effects work, it’s a twisty little shocker that plays some fun games with audience sympathies and standard cabin-in-the-woods genre tropes.

Next up is Joe Dante’s Mirari, which stars Zarah Mahler as a facially scarred woman whose too-good-to-be true fiancé manipulates her into getting plastic surgery before their wedding. Cue a perfectly cast Richard Chamberlain (all eyes and teeth) as her suspiciously upbeat plastic surgeon. The ending somehow ignores an opportunity to make the whole thing even more disturbing, but it’s an effective, darkly funny entry nonetheless.

The third entry is Ryuhei Kitamura’s Mashit, about a demon possessing the inhabitants (both staff and children) of a Catholic school. The weakest entry of the five, it’s clear that it was built around the concept of watching a priest brutally slaughtering dozens of school kids, but Kitamura lacks the blackly comic instinct to pull it off.

The most disturbing entry is David Slade’s surreal black-and-white chiller Welcome to Egress, which stars Elizabeth Reaser as a mother who seems to be experiencing apocalyptic hallucinations as she passes time in a doctor’s waiting area with her two sons. The situation doesn’t improve when she finally sees Doctor Salvador (Adam Godley), who seems entirely unruffled by what she tells him. Augmented by some unsettling effects work, the resolution is genuinely nightmarish and all the more effective for being under-explained.

The final entry is Garris’ Dead, a fairly standard I-see-dead-people premise, given an extra dark little twist in the relationship between a son (Faly Rakotohavana) and his mother (a nicely cast Annabeth Gish), when he wakes up in hospital after a shooting incident.

Nightmare Cinema‘s main problem is that the linking concept never really works, because it’s so poorly defined. Worse, it’s both inconsistent and sloppy, leading to a supposed twist that doesn’t make sense and lacks whatever dramatic or emotional impact it was obviously meant to have. That said, Rourke makes a suitably macabre host and the idea of a projectionist curating nightmares is a strong one – here’s hoping the set-up undergoes a few tweaks if there’s a second installment.

*** 3/5

Nightmare Cinema screened at Grimmfest on October 6th 2018.

One Response to “Grimmfest 2018: ‘Nightmare Cinema’ Review”

  • So glad that you found that the under-explained elements of “This Way to Egress” enhanced the nightmare quality of the story. One point of clarification: David Slade and I co-wrote the “Egress” segment, based on my original story “Traumatic Descent.” NIGHTMARE CINEMA’s others segments (in order) were written by Alejandro Brugués, Richard Christian Matheson, Sandra Becerril, and Mick Garris. Looking forward to seeing more of your reviews from Grimmfest. It was a terrific festival.