I’ve always been a big fan of anthology horror. Seldom does a film get it completely right – Creepshow, Tales from the Hood, Tales of Terror – but even when they’re uneven, there tends to be at least one gem out of the few stories offered. But, what I enjoy most about the anthology format is that it allows for various sub-genres to co-exist in one feature without ever having to intersect. And 1983’s Nightmares does this rather deftly.
Nightmares is pretty odd – and very uneven – as far as anthology horror is considered. It’s not all that well known, it isn’t credited to a filmmaker known for horror and it all feels surprisingly dated, even for the early 80s. It contains four stories, all to some extent dealing with the supernatural with creepy gas station attendants, possessed (?) arcade games, evil cars and – my personal favorite – an absolutely ridiculous ghost rat, all dolling out the thrills over its runtime. It’s directed by Joseph Sargent, best known for the original Taking of Pelham One Two Three, who devoted most of his career to working in TV. Which is no surprise that Nightmares feels like it came off of the airwaves rather than the screen.
This feels very much like something that was made-for-TV and the commentary track on the disc makes mention that some of the material here may have been originally planned for that platform. But here it is, in a theatrically released feature. And, for the most part, it works. The first story, featuring the gas station attendant, is the worst of the bunch and is all too predictable. The second one, featuring Emilio Estevez vs an arcade game plays out like a dulled down but still fun version of Arcade. The third features an evil car and is not all that much unlike The Car. The fourth, and arguably both the best and silliest, of the bunch features a domestic haunting by a rat. They’re all different degrees of ridiculous with nothing ever reaching legitimate scares but there’s a lot of fun to be had if you’re in the right frame of mind for it.
Scream Factory have brought Nightmares to Blu-ray with both 1.78 and 1.33 transfers. Not sure why a 1.33 version is offered as everything that I can find show this as being released theatrically in 1.85, but it’s here. And I suppose that can only add to its made-for-TV feel. This is a pretty dark movie with a color palette that’s anything but robust. As such, it’s hard to truly judge this transfer as being appealing or not. There is a nice layer of grain throughout though, which allows for an organic presentation if nothing else. I had never seen this one on any other home video format but I’d imagine this is faithful to its source and fans should be pleased. Audio is DTS HD MA 2.0 and it gets the job done well. There’s some audible scares to be had and everything is balanced well.
The only major supplement that we get is a commentary with producer Andrew Mirisch and actress Cristina Raines. It’s a fairly lively track, with the participants offering anecdotes as well as information regarding the production history of the film, including its potential TV history. Definitely worth a listen for fans. After that, we just get a trailer and radio spots.
Nightmares is a fun, albeit uneven, entry into the horror anthology genre. It’s not particularly scary and it feels more dated than most, but it has character to spare and should serve the right audience rather well. Scream Factory’s presentation is solid and they’ve included a worthwhile commentary for fans of the film. Recommended.