Nightmare Cinema (2019)

While I wouldn’t peg the Mick Garris fueled “Nightmare Cinema” a horror masterpiece, I had a good time with the selection of horror stories, and loved how various storytellers in the film managed to go in completely different directions than I originally thought they would. Despite a shifty story frame, like most horror anthologies, “Nightmare Cinema” is a mixed bag of horror treats that will click with most lovers of the format, if only for its ambition and style.

With a mysterious movie theater in the middle of the night screening five unusual, and terrifying films, five strangers are individually drawn in to view what will most likely become their horrific fates. Run by an unseen film projector, segments unfold depicting some gruesome stories directed by myriad filmmakers from around the world. Alejandro Brugués’s “The Thing in the Woods” is my absolute favorite of the film, as it features a group of college students being stalked by a masked man in the woods. Little do they know that the man behind the mask is someone they know. I won’t ruin it for you, but this segment is packed with so many fun twists and turns, invoking “Friday the 13th,” “Evil Dead,” and “Slither.” I loved how this segment just threw me for a loop, in the end.

“Mirari,” directed by Joe Dante is a morbid and grotesque bit of body horror focusing on a girl who is marrying a very wealthy young man and, despite being self conscious about her looks, is anxious to marry him. After he agrees to pay for her corrective surgery, she’s horrified when she realizes he’s doing more a mere alteration on her. This segment excels on its disgusting and dark humor and great overtones about body image and the extremes we’ll go through to fix what we perceive as flawed on our bodies. “Mashit”, directed by Ryûhei Kitamura, is an okay segment that doesn’t quite sail by on quality and originality, but invokes some very interesting themes about religion, religious corruption and loss of innocence.

After a forbidden affair between a priest and a nun unleashes a demon, they must work to stop it before it consumes their boarding school. It’s a violent segment but one that feels under developed and probably could have benefited from ten more minutes. “This Way to Egress”, directed by David Slade, is the weakest of the compilation, exploring the idea of alternate dimensions, grief and the peril of sinking in to insanity. Despite the welcome appearance of Elizabeth Reaser, the story’s biggest pitfall is its ambiguity as it offers almost no real resolution. “Dead” by Mick Garris is a closer on a downbeat that takes no prisoners. A piano prodigy named Riley witnesses the horrible death of his parents at the hands of a vicious robber.

Managing to survive a gun shot from him, Riley awakens in the hospital realizing he can see ghosts. Torn between dying and being with his parents, or battling with the relentless man that murdered his family who is anxious to finish him, Riley fights for his life and must decide his own fate. Overall, “Nightmare Cinema” is a very good anthology that never really bored me. Even with “Egress” as the weakest of the series in the anthology (despite Elizabeth Reaser), this is a very good combination of talents and storytelling skills. I hope there’s a sequel somewhere down the line.