In Nightmare Cinema, five very different segments portray five characters’ worst nightmares. As people stumble across the titular cinema, they are drawn inside by their own name above the door only to find themselves watching themselves play out their individual worst fears.
The first of the five segments in Nightmare Cinema is certainly the silliest and also happens to be the weakest. However, that isn’t necessarily a negative thing when you consider that all segments of this anthology are impressive in their own unique way. The first embodies the spirit of a teen slasher movie before a pleasantly surprising twist turns it into something a little more.
The second is a morality tale on vanity and the lengths society will go to in order to ‘look good’. Rather appropriately, this segments introduces a little body horror to the Nightmare Cinema with some cosmetic surgery gone very wrong indeed. This segment’s message is a clear one; love yourself for who you are. Giving in to vanity can lead to some very ugly, and in this case, incredibly disturbing consequences.
The third tale in Nightmare Cinema is a personal favourite as we see a hellish demon take over a Catholic school. Filled to the brim with religious imagery and themes, it is certainly the most entertaining of the segments. A religious atmosphere has always been central to the horror genre so whenever it crops up, it always feels very welcome. After all, hell is humanity’s first and ultimate fear. A delightfully intense story with yet more impressive effects work.
Up until now, the film has switched tones nicely but in the fourth is really where we see a dark turn. Seemingly an exploration of introverted depression and a feeling of helplessness, it is shot in bleak black and white and boasts the most haunting performance in the whole film courtesy of Elizabeth Reaser (Ouija). The body horror is also ramped up here as we start to see the people around Reaser’s character grow uglier and more deformed as her outlook on the world seems to get darker. This one will stick with you.
The fifth and final segment of Nightmare Cinema felt like it could have been a full feature all on its own. Telling the story of Riley (Faly Rakotohavana) whose parents are shot and killed by a madman in front of him, Riley himself dies for 17 minutes before doctors are able to revive him but this appears to leave him with the ability to see dead souls wandering around the hospital. The spirit of his mother comes to him and asks if they can be together forever but after meeting Kasey (Lexy Panterra), who also sees the souls and acts as his conscience to stay alive, he is left with a difficult decision.
Nightmare Cinema and all its characters come together in the titular location at the will of the sinister projectionist, delightfully portrayed by Mickey Rourke. The film proves for a great deal of entertainment for the entire two hours and with this central figure of the projectionist seemingly having everyone’s individual nightmares ready to screen for them until they die, the over-arching story is just as satisfying as all the various segments.
When anthology horror can be made in such a way that showcases the huge variety of tones within the genre yet keeps the focus of a delightfully sinister throughline, it is well worth watching over and over again. The plethora of directors including Joe Dante (Gremlins) and David Slade (Hard Candy) all bring their own creative flair to their segments. Yet another reason this film will entertain you from beginning to end. Nightmare Cinema is a personal favourite of this year’s Grimmfest so far!