Portmanteau-a-go-go #34 – Nightmare Cinema (2018)

Nighmare Cinema is a 2018 five part portmanteau which mixes up a whole heap of classic horror tropes into a two hour anthology with each part having a separate writer and director.  That’s pretty much the Creepshow formula right there and so we were excited to check this one out even if it has flown under the radar a little.

The linking story is a little bit vague but centres around a cinema called The Rialto which lures in individuals by displaying their name and a film title on the board outside. This sets up the first story as a girl called Samantha inexplicably decides to bite on the bait of seeing her name on the board, goes past the creepy unmanned ticket office and sits in the big, empty cinema. Or rather she is somehow locked into the seat. She’s then surprised to find that she’s the star of the film but is it telling her past or her future?

Who knows?  But when we start seeing evil cinemas, we start thinking Demons.  So, Nightmare Cinema started feeling like it was our jam immediately.

The Thing in the Woods

This story is a typical ‘final girl’ story in the Evil Dead/Cabin in the Woods mould. It begins half way through. Samantha is desperately trying to escape from The Welder, a masked, and armoured, assailant who has killed most of her friends and is making progress on the last few.

They really throw in all the cliches with this one, liberally borrowing from The Evil Dead but also the applying the same meta-view that The Cabin in the Woods gave us. It doesn’t hit the heights of Joss Wheedon’s excellent film but for an anthology segment it delivers in terms of humour and gore and is an excellent, if deeply silly, opener.

Mirare

The linking story is barely touched upon before the second tale starts. This one features Anna and her boyfriend David. She’s dealing with insecurities due to facial scarring from a childhood car accident and he’s a charming rich guy who is offering to pay for plastic surgery from the too-nice-to-no-be-evil Dr. Leneer (played by the legendary Richard Chamberlain) at the Mirara plastic surgery clinic.

After going under for her first procedure, Anna is in recovery and starts to get very nervous at how positive everyone is. Desperate to find a mirror, she soon realises that the clinic, and her boyfriend, have got other plans for her.

We’ve had plastic surgery gone wrong tales in portmanteaus before but this one is pretty effective, although the reveals at the end are a little silly. The overall vibe of this story in terms of the slightly over the top acting combined with the deeper body-horror aspects confirm the Creepshow vibes that the first story (and the linking tale) had already helped to establish. Two stories in and we’re very happy with Nightmare Cinema so far.

Mashit

Eschewing the comedy for more traditional horror vibes, Mashit takes the film down a darker road with its third tale, Mashit, which features Father Benedict and Sister Patricia who are a running a catholic boarding school.

Things immediately go awry when a child appears on the roof, seemingly intent on jumping off but not before pointing and laughing at a girl in the group below. When Sister Patricia attempts to talk him down, he seems to respond but his wrist breaks as he tries to reach out to her and he takes a nose dive.

What follows is a creepy take on The Exorcist as the school is visited by the evil demon Mashit. The scares here are fairly legit and continue right up until the film’s ludicrously violent finale. This story also has a fairly unique look thanks to Japanese directory Ryuhei Kitamura. That said, there is some obvious green screen that takes away from the film’s external shots but overall this was another effective tale.

This Way to Egress

Directed by David Slade who brought us the excellent 30 Days of Night, this story is the bleakest on offer here offering no humour and a whole heap of dread.

It tells the story of a woman in the waiting room with her two sons. While they are being the sort of precious little bastards you’d expect in a horror film, her main problem is the unlikeable and unhelpful receptionist there.

As she waits to see the doctor, reality seems to be disintegrating around her and while this story doesn’t do a great job of explaining why, it delivers in terms of sheer creepiness. And while the monochrome palette seems like a cheap and easy way to harness some Silent Hill vibes, we did find ourselves being creeped out by this story.

Dead

The final story on offer here follows Riley, a talented young piano player who is shot after witnessing his parents’ murders at the hands of a psychopathic car-jacker. He wakes up in hospital to find out that he was dead for seventeen minutes.

Unfortunately for him his time spent shuffled away from this mortal coil has meant that he now sees dead people and one of those is his rather insistent mother who wants him to join her in death.

This premise sets up some interesting ideas that riff on the whole The Sixth Sense idea but most of the horror tends to come from the not-dead psychopath who turns up at the hospital looking to finish the job. The tail wraps up better than some reviews would have you believe though and again, by anthology standards, it’s an effective segment.

The story is finished off back in the cinema with the mysterious projectionist (played by the ever-ridiculous Mickey Rourke) half-explaining what is going on but wrapping up the story enough.

Overall this is a great portmanteau. It follows all of the conventions of the sub-genre, mixes together five different (if a little cliched) tales and has a great blend of horror, gore and humour and is a really fun anthology that takes that original Creepshow formula and runs with it.  Serious film buffs will spot all manner of problems but people who like fun and a few scares, like us, will love it.  A definite top ten portmanteau.

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