Blue Underground // 1981 // 103 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // June 24th, 2011
The terror that hides inside your mind.
On the advice of her psychiatrist, agoraphobic horror novelist Lauren Cochran (Robin Groves, Silver Bullet) takes a respite in the country to write and gather her wits. She rents an octagonal, spired Victorian house -- eerily similar to one she described in her book -- from Daniel Griffith (Michael David Lally, Do Not Disturb) and his aged, eccentric grandfather (John Carradine, The Grapes of Wrath). Little does Lauren know that during World War II the house was a brothel run by Florinda Costello (Gloria Grahame, It's a Wonderful Life. Lauren's presence stirs up the ghosts of the domicile's violent past, and those ghosts begin terrorizing misogynist pigs throughout the podunk town, including sleazy handyman Frank Beasley (Bill Rowley) and his even sleazier white-trash buddy Abner Welles (David Tabor). Despite the terrifying goings-on, Lauren sticks around because of the vague feeling that the house may be the key to revealing past secrets and resolving her debilitating fears.
Armand Weston, who spent most of his career directing porn in the 1970s (bow-chicky-wow-wow), definitely deserves auteur credit on the solid little early '80s horror picture that is The Nesting (aka Phobia and Massacre Mansion). Weston wrote, directed, and produced the movie. Heck, he even painted the poster art (which was compelling enough to make me want to see the flick, what with its photorealistic image of Robin Groves screaming in terror with a glinting sickle framing her face). The Nesting isn't a great picture, but it has enough going for it to make one a little sad that Weston wiled away the years in the smut biz rather than pursuing a more legitimate brand of moviemaking. Though released only a year after Sean S. Cunningham's Friday the 13th, Weston's experiment in terror stands firmly outside the slasher craze initiated by the sleeper success of Mama Voorhees' murderous rampage. The Nesting is punctuated by a couple instances of competently executed prosthetic gore, but at its heart the movie is a ghost story. Weston demonstrates a studied talent for producing creepy atmosphere and a pervasive sense of edge-of-your-seat dread. The Nesting is most effective when Weston allows it to play like a grue-filled haunted house flick, stumbling to one extent or another when the director attempts to add bloody elements of the slasher genre or the cartoon misogyny of female revenge pictures.
Weston demonstrates far less facility for writing dialogue or directing actors than he does for creating smothering horrific atmosphere. The Nesting's screenplay is riddled with howlers, and the actors' performances are mediocre at best (Groves) and laughable at worst (Tabor). The director resorts to stunt casting in the cases of John Carradine (who looks frail, is saddled with ridiculously awful expository dialogue, and performs an unintentionally hilarious death scene) and Gloria Grahame (who looks fairly well-preserved in her late 50s, but appears in silhouette through most of the movie and then looks bored when she actually has to read dialogue during the big finale). Despite those flaws, however, The Nesting is an engaging little gothic horror -- long unavailable because of its hard flop during initial release -- that makes for a fascinating and compelling 100 minutes of viewing for fans of early '80s horror.
Given the movie's low profile, Blue Underground has done a fine job serving it up on Blu-ray. The 1080p/AVC transfer lacks depth, but detail in close-ups is often crisp and colors are rich and accurate. Sourced from a clean or meticulously restored print, the image is free of flecks and scratches, and is consistently stable in the gate. The transfer isn't reference quality, but I found it a pleasant surprise considering The Nesting is so obscure that it doesn't even qualify as a cult favorite.
The audio options are almost as insane as the movie's protagonist. The flick's original mono track has been preserved in a two-channel Dolby mix, but the default option is a DTS-HD Master Audio expansion in 7.1 surround -- yeah, 7.1. It's complete overkill for the cramped analog recording, but still nicely realized. The rear soundstage is mostly used to increase the creepy ambience by beefing up the soundtrack's ghostly whooshes and bumps in the night. In addition to the lossless expansion, there's a Dolby Digital 5.1 option.
Extras include 12 minutes of individually indexed deleted and extended scenes, theatrical trailers and TV spots, and a sizable gallery of production stills.
If you love '80s horror, The Nesting is worth a rental, though it probably doesn't have enough replay value to warrant a purchase. The flick is a product of its time that also defies the conventions of its day. Its uniqueness proved to be box office poison at the time of its release, but makes it a fascinating relic of days gone by for today's fans of old school horror.
Review content copyright © 2011 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Blue Underground
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Extended/Deleted Scenes
* Photo Gallery
* TV Spots