“Nightmare Cinema” is a new horror anthology flick that aims to walk in the footsteps of “The Twilight Zone” and “Tales from the Crypt.” It features five segments, each hailing from a notable director from the horror genre. And while some segments are stronger than others (as is the nature of the anthology beast), it produces somewhat better results than other recent efforts of the same ilk thanks to the talent of its superstar storytellers.
In the film, which will be playing in select theaters and on demand beginning June 21, several strangers walk past an old movie theater—one by one—and find their names on the marquee. Intrigued, each of them enters the auditorium and watches their deepest and darkest fears play out on the big screen. As each reel spins its sinister tale, the characters find frightening parallels to their own lives. Mickey Rourke portrays the projectionist who appears in the short scenes that connect each of the segments, which are all quite unique.
Director Alejandro Brugués kicks things off with the teen slasher tale “The Thing in the Woods.” To reveal too much about Brugués’ segment would be a disservice to viewers who will enjoy its many shocking twists and turns. It starts off as one thing and eventually evolves into another, blending two genres in a delightfully demented fashion.
Joe Dante—whose directing credits include “Piranha,” “The Howling” and “Gremlins”—is up next with “Mirare,” which is without a doubt the most disturbing slice of the “Nightmare Cinema” pie. A woman prepares to go under the knife to remove a scar on her face and agrees to a few physical improvements while she is there. However, an anesthesia-induced nightmare leaves her a bit shaken—until reality is revealed to be even worse.
“The Midnight Meat Train” director Ryūhei Kitamura then delivers “Mashit,” the collection’s weakest entry by a mile. A priest at a Catholic school discovers that some of his students are being hunted by a demon that is getting them to attempt suicide. He does battle with the demon, which refuses to go quietly and makes every effort imaginable to survive.
“This Way to Egress,” from “30 Days of Night” director David Slade, then tells the story of a mother who is seeing a therapist—at the encouragement of her children—after the world around her begins rotting before her very eyes. However, even as everyone gets uglier and uglier, the woman’s greater fear should be the truth behind her suddenly grotesque view of her surroundings.
Mick Garris—whose directing credits include “Critters 2,” “Sleepwalkers” and “Riding the Bullet”—caps things off with “Dead.” A teenage boy barely escapes a carjacking with his life but wakes up in the hospital with some confusion as to whether or not his parents were as lucky. Having literally been dead for several minutes, the boy discovers that he can see dead people—and that he is being hunted by the murderous carjacker, who is determined to finish the job.
Three out of the five segments are excellent and are certain to send chills down your spine. “This Way to Egress,” which is presented in black and white, is visually impressive but is somewhat lacking in the storytelling department. “Mashit,” on the other hand, is a complete and utter waste of time. “The Thing in the Woods” is a lot of fun and “Dead” is on-the-edge-of-your-seat riveting but “Mirare” makes “Nightmare Cinema” well worth the price of admission in and of itself. It is a horrific masterpiece of which Rod Serling or even the Cryptkeeper himself would be proud.