Written and Directed by: Rolfe Kanefsky
Starring: Tiffany Shepis, Blythe Metz, and James Ferris
Reviewed by: Brett G.
"Look, let's just put the knife down, okay?
"Yeah, we have a gun. It's better."
"Yeah, we have a gun. It's better."
The inaugural After Dark Horror Fest must have proven to be a success so, in true horror fashion, its sequel rolled around in November of 2007 featuring another set of independent films to terrify audiences around the nation. The films then arrived on DVD in March earlier this year, and the low price tag (along with my status as the resident After Dark guy here at OTH) prompted me to snatch them all up. Trudging through the initial After Dark offerings proved to be a bit of a chore, so I was a bit hesitant to jump right in to the latest wave.
As I went through the stack of these new films, one film in particular caught my eye: Nightmare Man. Maybe I'm a sucker for any horror flick with the word "Nightmare" in the title, but call me intrigued. After receiving an African fertility mask from her husband, Ellen is tormented by visions of a supernatural killer she refers to as "The Nightmare Man." Thinking that she is obviously mentally ill, her husband and doctors recommend psychiatric treatment; however, before they make it to the psychiatric ward, the car breaks down (in typical horror film fashion). Of course, the husband leaves Ellen alone, and she is soon attacked by the nightmarish phantasm before escaping into the woods. Here, she stumbles upon a cabin inhabited by two young couples who are quite sure Ellen is mentally unstable; however, it soon becomes clear that something is amiss, as someone or something begins to pick off the characters one by one.
To put it simply, Nightmare Man is quite a bizarre pastiche of flicks that can't seem to figure out if it wants to be more like Friday the 13th or The Evil Dead. It ends up being a little bit of each, as the film quickly descends into a campy romp that deviates significantly from the film's opening tone. This means the film ends up feeling a bit disjointed overall, but it does remain extremely watchable. By no means is it a great film, but it's on par with most of the other After Dark offerings. In an age where many films seem to be purposely trying to recapture an aged quality (see Hatchet), Nightmare Man seems to pull it off without even trying because the film truly does feel like a send-up to the low-budget, shot-on-video romps of the 80s.
One reason for this is quite obvious: this film is low budget and shot on (digital) video, and and this cheapness pervades the entire film, from the film's look to the acting. The latter is especially amateur, but it does get the job done. Most horror fans have surely sat through worse. The fact that the characters are already your standard horror stereotypes doesn't help matters, but, again, it's nothing we haven't seen before from the genre. There's a bit of drama between the two couples that attempts to spice things up, but it's ultimately a negligible plot development because the film is obviously much more interested in dispatching these characters in a grizzly manner (in true slasher fashion). The two leads, played by Tiffany Shepis and Blythe Metz, are the most prominent of the cast members. Interestingly enough, Shepis is set to star in the upcoming Night of the Demons remake, and I would say that Nightmare Man is comparable in tone to the original film.
As far as this goes, Nightmare Man isn't too terribly revolutionary here, either. The kills are decent, at best, and the film does ramp up the violence as the film roars to its conclusion. Instead, I actually found the story's twists and turns to be more interesting than the gore here, as the film does take a few surprising turns and leaves you in a place far removed from the film's beginning. As previously mentioned, however, the film does get a bit campy, which might turn off some viewers. This is not to say that the film becomes a parody or satire, but it does seem to have its tongue planted in its cheek a little bit. Thus, despite the title's connotations, the film isn't likely to leave you with any nightmarish visions that will linger long after the film is through. Instead, expect a fun little romp that's worth at least a look, especially if you're a fan of these types of films.
Like last year's After Dark Films, Nightmare Man arrives on DVD via Lion's Gate home video. The film's presentation is solid, as the film's transfer accurately reflects the film's digital origins. Thus, the film isn't exactly demo material, but it is nice and sharp. The 5.1 audio track is quite aggressive and will give all your speakers a workout, as there are all kind of bumps and thuds throughout the soundstage. The disc is also quite packed with extras too and includes a commentary with Tiffany Shepis, Director Rolfe Kanefsky and Producer Esther Goodstein, some extended scenes, a gag reel, and a making-of documentary that will surely tell you all you ever need to know about the film. I wouldn't say it's a film that one has to own, but the film is definitely worth a look, and all the extras should keep you occupied for an evening. Rent it!
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