Lionsgate // 2006 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 18th, 2008
One of the eight films to die for.
An emotionally disturbed woman runs wild through the woods, convinced she's being pursued by the Nightmare Man, a demonic figure with pointy teeth. And you're invited!
For Ellen Morris (Blythe Metz) life sucks. Involved in a failing marriage and besieged nightly by horrific dreams of a creature stalking and killing her, Ellen is faced with the unsavory prospect of getting dumped into a mental hospital by her exasperated husband.
On the way to the hospital, the car runs out of gas. Ellen's husband leaves to go fetch help, and Ellen promptly freaks out as the Nightmare Man, apparently arisen from her dreams, materializes and attacks. Ellen takes off and tries to lose her assailant in the woods and just manages to evade him, taking refuge in a house where two couples are enjoying a vacation.
Soon Ellen's nightmare comes there as the killer goes on a bloody rampage, picking off characters one by one.
Nightmare Man has a nice touch to it. There's a fun, intangible feel to the proceedings that keeps the film entertaining, even when it sometimes spins into mediocrity. Things work the best in the last 30 minutes, when the movie finds a faster momentum and a pair of big plot twists reveals themselves.
That said, it's still a bit of a haul until the @#$% hits the fan and Nightmare Man really starts grooving. Up until the magic 60-minute mark don't expect more than the usual, almost-tiresome routine that the typical "attractive-young-people-trapped-in-a-house-in-the-woods-getting-killed-by-a-mysterious-madman" genre entry sports: lots of clunky dialogue, some sexiness (Tiffany Shepis is not shy about wandering indoors in her underwear and even less shy about rolling around topless in the dirt outside), stupid decision-making (hint: call the cops immediately if a psycho woman covered in blood shows up at your house screaming) and a dearth of mourning when a good friend is brutally slain (she sure is taking the sight of her boyfriend's larynx pierced by an arrow surprisingly well).
The characters are relatively forgettable and, as such, disposable, so their eventual deaths carry little sentimental weight. Shepis is the headliner and is on screen the most, so her character is developed more than the others -- but not much more. She's essentially a sexpot who knows how to fire a crossbow, but hey, who's complaining? Not me. Everyone else is primarily cannon fodder. Blythe Metz screams in terror, whines a lot about not having medication and dispenses cryptic one-liners about the Nightmare Man living inside her and then ends up in about five pounds of makeup, so honorable mention there.
Nightmare Man doesn't overflow with gore and scares, as it's light enough to almost qualify as a piece of dark humor. Some too-red blood flows from arrows and knife wounds and one guy has his heart ripped out. The Nightmare Man himself generates most of the jump scenes, but his creature design is far from scary so I doubt your heart will be racing for long. To be fair, I don't think writer/director Rolfe Kanefsky set out to terrify people, but to let loose a fun throwback to corny '80s horror. I believe he succeeded.
I was disappointed by the visual quality of the film. Transferred in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the color definition is spotty throughout and the detailing fades considerably in the dark scenes, of which there are legion. A good amount of extras on the discs: a lively commentary from Kanefsky, Shepis and producer Esther Goodstein, five minutes worth of extended scenes, a gag reel, a still gallery, the series of Miss Horrorfest webisodes and two behind-the-scenes features -- an on-the-set video diary from Tiffany Shepis and a 20-minute making-of documentary.
Two-thirds of Nightmare Man is hit-and-miss but the home stretch took me back to the days of me and my stupid high school friends eating cheap take-out pizza and watching low-budget horror movies until three in the morning. That's a positive memory, by the way.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Video Diary
* Still Gallery
* Extended Scenes
* Gag Reel