Joseph Sargent’s “Nightmares” is one of the more underrated anthology horror films to ever cross the genre and it’s surprising how constantly overlooked it is. While it’s not a masterpiece, it definitely serves up its fair share of strong horror tales. It’s probably because it doesn’t have a mascot like the Creeper or the Cryptkeeper to tell its tales. We’re essentially treated to a pair of glowing eyes in a storm, and hands that open us up to some really creepy tales. “Nightmares” wastes no time with fatty introductions and gets right to the thick of the creeps.
After a local cop is stabbed to death by an escaped serial killer, police warn about the threat of the madman. That very night Lisa is preparing to put the kids to bed and realizes she’s run out of cigarettes. Despite her husband’s demands that she stay in doors, she sneaks out to grab a pack, anyway, and things take a turn for the horrifying when she realizes she’s halfway home without gas in her car. This is a pretty predictable tale if you’re familiar with the classic urban legend it’s based on, but I still enjoyed it thanks to the thick tension, and sense of urgency is brought to the table.
“The Bishop of Battle” is another of the many warnings about the dangers of video games from the early eighties, centering on a video game addict and hustler named JJ. Determined to beat the game “Bishop of Battle” and reach the mythical level thirteen, JJ sneaks out after dark to take on the game. When he finally reaches his goal, he finds out the game has a deadly prize in the end. With some solid special effects and a simple premise, “Bishop of Battle” is a fun segment with a young Emilio Estevez. In “The Benediction,” Lance Henriksen plays a priest who experiences a crisis of faith after the horrible death of a young boy. When he is viciously pursued by a seemingly Satanic truck on the road, he realizes his faith is a valuable tool.
One of the weaker tales with a pretty barebones narrative overall, the symbolism is clunky, but the car chase scenes are at least tight. Last and certainly least, there’s the goofy “Night of the Rat” about a seemingly normal suburban couple being terrorized by rats in their home. When they realize their being attacked not by rats, but a sentient mega rat, they have to figure out what it wants before it murders their daughter. “Night of the Rat” is a weak note for a pretty strong movie and is brought down by the bad green screen and goofy twist ending. That said, “Nightmares” is a strong horror anthology with a strong sense of suspense and I’d definitely watch it again.