Growing up I loved all those horror anthologies of the 1980s like Cat’s Eye, Creepshow 1 and 2, Tales from the Darkside, Twilight Zone: The Movie, and countless others. I remember catching parts of of Nightmares on HBO back in the day, but never saw the entire thing from beginning to end before.
Nightmares consists of four stories: “Terror in Topanga,” “Bishop of Battle,” “The Benediction,” and “Night Of The Rat.” Each one contains a supernatural angle. Unlike some of the other anthologies, there’s no “bookend” story to hang the segments on. Here, they’re simply unrelated “chapters” packaged together.
Each segment can be completely summarized with a single sentence. In “Terror in Topanga,” a serial killer on the loose ends up in the backseat of a woman’s car. In “Bishop of Battle,” a young Emilio Estevez is so obsessed with an arcade game that he plays it until the game literally consumes him. In “The Benediction,” a priest who has lost his faith does battle with evil itself in the form of a black Chevy pickup. Finally, “Night of the Rat” is about some rats that attack a family in the night (some larger than others).
I’m being a bit factitious in my descriptions, but in all honesty none of the stories in Nightmares are particularly deep. A couple of the stories (most notably “Terror in Topanga”) feel less like complete stories and more like clips taken from other movies. Unsurprisingly my favorite of the lot was “Bishop of Battle,” most of which takes place in 1980s arcades. The graphics of the game seem silly in retrospect, but then again so do most of the film’s few special effects.
What I took away from Nightmares is that death is pretty avoidable. When there’s a serial killer on the loose, don’t get in your car with the gas gauge pointing to empty and head out for cigarettes. if you hear a rat scratching inside the walls of your house, call an exterminator. If you’re a priest who has lost the faith, read the Bible instead of abandoning the church and setting out on a drive across the desert in a car with no air conditioning. And whatever you do, if the Bishop of Battle taunts you into playing level 13, put down the quarters and your Sony Walkman and walk away…
Despite Nightmares’ 17% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I kind of liked it. Even a bad segment in a horror anthology is only twenty minutes long. I suspect the financial backers of the film ended up with more nightmares than the viewing audience, but I didn’t think it was as terrible as many other mainstream reviewers did.
(This review is a part of my month-long October 2014 A-Z Horror Reviews.)