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Nightmares (Blu-ray Review)

NightmaresOn December 22nd, 2015, Scream Factory brings you four tales of horror, complete with shocking twists that will freeze the scream in your throat! The fan favorite horror anthology Nightmares brings a supernatural twist to popular urban legends. Available for the first time on Blu-ray, Nightmares includes a new audio commentary withexecutive producer Andrew Mirisch and actress Cristina Raines as a bonus feature, as well as the original theatrical trailer and radio spots. Fans can pre-order their copies now by visiting ShoutFactory.com.  In Nightmares, a pack of cigarettes, a video game, a pick-up truck and a stately colonial home all become key elements in four petrifying tales of terror in the anthology film directed by Joseph Sargent (The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three, White Lightning).

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Film 

A chain-smoking homemaker insists on going out for cigarettes even when an escaped madman is on the loose in “Terror in Topanga.” Then,  J.J. Cooney, a video game hot-shot, dares to take on a strange challenger – though it may cost him his life – in “The Bishop of Battle.”  A troubled priest seeks to find the faith he has lost on the road, but instead he finds that someone (or something) in this desert is trying to drive him out of his mind in “The Benediction.”  Claire hears rats in the walls. Her husband believes he can take care of the problem with a few rat traps, but this problem is only going to get much bigger in “Night of the Rat.”

Horror anthology films hit a stride in the 1980s and then disappeared off the map up until recently when they’ve made a bit of a resurgence.  Films like Creepshow, Twilight Zone: The Movie and others had much more regularity.  Instead of one horror movie, you’d get three or four.  Each tale would usually offer up a host of different screenwriters and directors to keep things tossed up and fresh when going from story to story.  Sometimes these would bring along notable casts too.

With Nightmares, you have the same director for each segment and the same writer for most of them.  When I saw that in the credits, I was a little let down, but that quickly when away.  These all have a different sort of look and feel to them.  But, what I like a lot is Joeseph Sargent’s aesthetic when it comes to horror.  This is the perfect sense of darkness and spookiness.  The opening imagery alone is pretty scary and reminds me of all those “Mysteries” series of Encyclopedia Britannica books they used to advertise on TV and would scare the piss out of me.  Whether a story is working or not, they all at least have “the look” and that’s plenty to appreciate.

Also fun here are some of the notable cast you get to see.  I recently just reviewed Cristina Raines in the horror film The Sentinel, which was also from Scream Factory.  One of the most fun is seeing a young Emilio Estevez as a video game wizard back in the old arcade days.  And I’ll also always welcome getting to see such great veteran actors like Veronica Cartwright and Lance Henriksen showing up in my horror movies.

Like most anthology movies, you may not like them all, but there’s a good chance at at least one of the stories will work well for you.  And with Nightmares, I think most of them sailed pretty smoothly for me.  The odd part about this one, is that there was no wrap-around story to tie these together or weave in and out of to transfer smoothly from one to the next.  It doesn’t hurt the movie, it works just fine, but its just something that most others have and this one was lacking.  But, its a solid venture and one that still has some creepiness to it despite its age.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 & 1.33:1 (Selectable before menu).

Clarity/Detail:  Right here seems to be about your average Scream Factory transfer on a film from this era.  Its naturally a bit soft, but looks the best it ever has with some really solid detail work.  

Depth:  Solid distance work here.  Movements are cinematic with minimal blur.  Background imagery is as good as focus will allow.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and consuming.  Grain reveals itself much more in darkness.  No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors come across as very natural.  The video game portion is the most colorful with green being a solid standout.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent.  Close-ups provide your best look at facial details like stubble, wrinkles, scars and the like.

Noise/Artifacts:  There is some grain and dirt/specs.  The print is overall in good condition and I didn’t notice any real troubling compression issues or anything.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  This is an above average little 2.0 mix that really gets the job done decently.  It features a decent balance between effects, musical score and vocals.  There is also a nice range of volumes to provide action and scares in the mix.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is loud and clear with a little bit of an analog sourced sounding vibe to it.

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Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With Executive Producer Andrew Mirisch and Actress Cristina Raines.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:44) 

Radio Spots (HD, 1:35) 

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Summary 

Nightmares is a film that I think may be under the radar in the vintage horror realm.  Its a nifty little anthology that ranges from spooky to groovy to funnily dated.  There’s a really terrific aesthetic on display and fun to be had with some known actors.  This Blu-ray has a good presentation and provides a little bit of extras.  This is one to take a chance on as you may just be surprised and enjoy it.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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