Friday, May 4, 2012
I've only seen Romano Scavolini's Nightmare once, on a Swedish x-rental - uncut. This was during I time I demanded non-stop action, violence, gore... whatever, and Nightmare just didn't deliver that. The only thing I remembered from the movie was the spectacular and extremely bloody murder scenes. My relationship with Scavolini has always been a bit on the edge and I once claimed in a newspaper interview that The Savage Hunt, made the years before Nightmare, was one of the worst movies I've seen. Maybe I need to give that one a new chance because Code Red's DVD of Nightmare is a revelation.
Nightmare has traces of the traditional slashers of the time, maybe most of all Halloween. But that's just one layer of a fairly ambitious psycho-thriller. What's most refreshing is the lack of slickness. It's not a movie that looks amazing. Well, it looks fantastic - but the style is realistic, handheld camera, gritty locations, most of them seem to be real locations - not shot in studio. A man with deep psychological problems, played by the excellent Baird Stafford, decides to skip his appointment with his doctor and goes on a killing spree armed with a knife and a fury like no other killer. That's it and that's what you get when you see Nightmare.
Much of the story is focused on the last family he wants to visit and their troubled little son who's too fond of pranks. The body count is not high at all, but somehow Scavolini makes the show running in a good pace, even if most of it is good old social-realistic drama with beards, "natural" acting and maybe even traces of improvisation. He directors past career as a arthouse-director is clearly visible all over the movie - but with a script that echoes generic slasher.
Just this combination makes Nightmare a surprisingly good movie, way better than I remember it to be. The extremely gruesome effects is just the icing on the cake, and still manages to make the audience stunned. The prosthetics are actually just "okey", but the sadistic close-ups, the huge amount of spurting blood and the gritty cinematography makes them a lot or effective. Scavolini wants us to see the gore and blood and except two murders he never shy away from showing everything and a little bit more.
I've heard some comparing this to New York Ripper. In a away that's true, because they're both cynical and very sadistic - like neo-realistic splatter movies aimed to break every possible border and provoke over-sensitive censors the world over. Nightmare is a much more streamlined slasher flick than NYR and never even pretend to be a mystery - even if there's a twist of some kind at the end that never manages to give the audience that punch that probably was intended. Now it's a bit sloppily thrown in and disappears instantly before no one really notices.
The Code Red DVD is a must-have. It's OOP now but you can probably find it at eBay or stores who still might have it in stock. There's not less than three different prints included in this release, and I decided to watch the third one - "a recently discovered slightly better 35 mm print" and it looks damn fine. A bit beat up, but sharp and with that aging grindhouse-print feeling.
Nightmare still holds up with its shocking and gory effects, good acting and nice directing. Get the DVD before someone else does!