From time-to-time, I’m apt to remind folks that – while I find them a bit too predictable for my tastes – I can appreciate a blue-collar attempt to ratchet up the appropriate tension and deliver some bloody chills and spills. Though I’ll admit that they’re rarely the kind of thing I’ll ever watch over and over, I can still marvel at those films that both stay-on-track as well as ‘stick the landing’ in the process. Those ponying up something special – be it a unique plot twist or maybe even the suggestion of the supernatural – do tend to rate a bit higher on my ranking list … but at the end of the day I’m still prone to watch ‘em once and then get back to the business of exploring bodies with a bit more meat on them there bones.
Nightmare Man is a bit of a mixed pot. It both is and isn’t ‘traditional,’ and the end result winds up being a bit too uneven to truly elevate it to the point of being something special. Those preferring to dabble in the influence of the beyond should take note of its passable charm, though I do question just how special they’ll find it’s a bit-too-predictable second half even though it closes with the suggestion that some things that go bump in the night are truly beyond our grasp.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging:
“After receiving a demonic African mask in the mail, Ellen Morris is attacked in her dreams by an evil being she calls ‘Nightmare Man’ and is labeled a paranoid schizophrenic by both her doctor and her husband. When Ellen is brutally attacked again, this time after being abandoned on the side of the road while being transported to the hospital, she flees for her life and stumbles upon a remote cabin filled with friends …”
There’s a bit more, but regular readers know of my penchant to not spoil too much of the plot. Yes, yes, yes, this is an older release finding new life on home video fifteen years later, but I’m a stickler for leaving some of the surprises to you – the audience – and I’ll leave it at that.
Suffice it to say, Nightmare Man both is and isn’t a conventional slasher picture. Writer/director Rolfe Kanefsky – a busy, busy professional with over seventy projects currently to his name – packs this Nightmare with a little bit of everything; though it has the framework suggesting it’s a lean-and-mean butchering machine, it does both suggest and develop the theme of otherworldly evil – one that’s not quite as conventional as gets depicted in here – making the second half a bit more interesting than the first. Those who prefer Horrors that are more than meets the eye should have their appetites sated when all is said and done.
While most folks don’t come to a Horror feature looking for big performances, the film is aided by some familiar faces who manage to give something interesting to the project. The comely Blythe Metz is a likeable lead; she balances the act between being a damsel-in-distress while questioning her sanity more than I think most actresses might bring to the role, so it’s easy to root for her survival in what might be an otherwise dim affair. Johanna Putnam shines – albeit a bit briefly – as the former coed who’s trying to get beyond her carnal college days even though her best friend won’t let her grow up. Lastly, B-Movie Queen Tiffany Shepis shows why she’s one of the best in the business – both in and out of her bra and panties – as she stands tall, kicks butt, and (sigh) eventually succumbs to some dark magic … as is the destiny of practically any pretty girl who ever appeared in such a picture.
Lastly, I’d be remiss in my duties if I failed to mention that the film garnered a bit of positive praise from appearances on the film festival circuit. Kudos to all involved for reaching for the stars and actually taking hold of a few in the process.
Nightmare Man (2006) was produced by Paradign Pictures and Delusional Films. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by the folks at Ronin Flix. As for the technical specifications? Though I’m no trained video expert, I thought that the sights and sounds within were all very good, but I will admit that a great deal of the night-time settings could’ve used a bit more light in a few passages. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features, then you’ve plenty to look forward to as the disc’s packaging boasts interviews, making-of featurettes, extended scenes, behind-the-scenes, stills, promo materials, film score, and a comprehensive audio commentary featuring the cast and crew. It’s a big collection, and we know that fans truly appreciate releases that go the extra mile.
Though I’m not as big a fan of conventional slasher-style flicks as the next online media knucklehead, I can appreciate a flick that comfortably stakes out its territory and adheres to the basic rules that govern such entertainment: in that respect, Nightmare Man revels in its grim efficiency, only occasionally flirting with some sights and sounds that might be enough to win converts to the sub-genre. My issues with it involve its narrative construction – I’m not a big fan of films that center on the “is she or isn’t she” crazy narrator – and the fact that it never quite settled into embracing its magical surrealism enough to sell the bloody sizzle.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Ronin Flix provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray of Nightmare Man by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.