Nightmare Cinema follows the unsuspecting guests of a haunted theater run by a mysterious projectionist (Mickey Rourke). In an anthology format, each guest is forced to endure their worst nightmares on the screen.
Nightmare Cinema Review
After a strong run of acclaimed films like Sin City and The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke's meteoric rebound finally began to cool in recent years, now appearing in a B-movie horror anthology movie as the interconnecting story's villain. But I'm not complaining. I love Rourke and seeing him in a fun horror anthology film just made me thirsty for more when the credits rolled.
The interconnecting was interesting enough. I found myself a little starved on the story for each character preceding their vicious screening, but at the same time I appreciated that the tale portrayed for each victim was a macabre caricature of their fears, allowing us as an audience to piece together the "why" on our own.
The self-awareness of most of these stories bordered on satire at times in the vein of Scare Package (reviewed during our time at Telluride Horror Show). And like Scare Package, the opening story of Nightmare Cinema was my favorite, particularly for its gory hilarity that pokes fun at the "terror in the woods" tropes. While it certainly doesn't take it as far as the THS gem, it's certainly just as entertaining.
But, because the film opens up with such a strong performance, there is a bit of a gradual letdown the rest of the way. Don't get me wrong, Nightmare Cinema offers plenty of gruesome laughs in its near-perfect portrayal of 80s schlock, but there's just something missing in the charm as each story moves along.
The exorcism satire doesn't quite hit the funny bone even though that feels like the intended goal more than once, while perhaps the most unique tale of a plastic surgery gone wrong feels like either it missed the punchline or finished before it was able to get there. And the final story is by far the slowest piece, which murders the momentum that was already slowing. It's an interesting tale that tackles familiar themes, but it was a slow-burner that feels more comfortable as a mild Netflix thriller rather than a fitting for the style Nightmare Cinema kicked off with.
But still, the Shudder gem is more than worth watching. I was able to catch it after finishing up the last episode of the first season of the Creepshow remake. It made for the most entertaining night of horror I'd had in a long time. So by no means is Nightmare Cinema something to pass up. It's definitely worth a watch as a popcorn horror flick.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 8/10 Horror Quality: 6/10 Film Quality: 5/10