Directed by Joseph Sargent
In the late 1970s, video games were not much more than nearly blank screens (blue or dark gray) with wire frame symbolic figures that moved side to side, shooting a glowing dash to simulate a bullet. Nevertheless, they were mesmerizing. You had to visit arcade game rooms to play them (no home consoles yet) and there was a excitement to these Game Rooms, a buzz. You’d walk in and every game would be bleating with sounds and explosions, ray guns, missiles, and spacecrafts. Whatever your game was, you’d be able to pick it out of this cacophony and hone it down. You needed your pocket full of quarters and you were set. Galaxia was my game of choice and although my score ranking was never high enough to be permanently on the screen (never in the Top 5) I would sometimes get my initials MK with a high score for the day.
Why am I telling you all this? because my love for the film Nightmares is heavily biased by my connection to the 2nd story in this 4 story anthology. I imagine it’s not a great film compared to the modern horror scene, but it is going to get a good review from me. Anyways, with that said, lets get on with the film.
This is an anthology with no introduction, no unifying thread and no wrap around story. There were several of these no frills anthos released in the 80’s. The stories in Nightmares are all loosely based on urban legends of the time.
The first story, Terror in Topanga, is based on a very popular urban legend of the time. Everyone knew someone that this had happened to, my friend’s cousin or my co-workers sister-in-law, etc. It was quite effective when told at parties causing most women to change their routines in order to avoid a similar fate. In the tale, a woman tells her husband she needs to drive to the Mart for milk (she wants cigarettes but doesn’t want to tell him.) It’s almost 11:pm when she leaves. After stopping at a bodega and running into some shady characters she heads home. She doesn’t get far when she realizes she needs gas. Finding an open gas station, the attendant fills the tank, but seems to be acting very suspicious. He tries to get her out of the car by saying her credit card had been denied, but she stays put handing cash out the window instead. Finally the attendant smashes the window and drags her out of the car. As she fights to get away the attendant pulls out a gun. But he doesn’t aim it at the woman, he aims it at the car where a bloodied, escaped lunatic was waiting in the back seat with a huge butcher knife!
The Bishop of Battle
Emilio Estevez stars as a young gamer punk (J.J.) who swindles other gamers out of their shiny quarters to pay for his expensive gaming habit. He is obsessed with the game, The Bishop of Battle who speaks as a figurehead, taunting gamers to spend another quarter and attempt to reach the 13th level. The 13th level is only a rumor and only twelve levels are listed in the game play. JJ sneaks out of his house in the midnight hour and breaks into the game room so he can play the game with no distractions. After hours of playing, he reaches the end of the 12th level and the machine tilts, electric sparks breaking the seams of the console and self destructing. JJ assumes the game has been beaten so bad it has short circuited. But his celebration is cut short as the attacking figures from the game appear in the room with him and open fire. Level 13 has just began, good luck brother.
The third story features a young Lance Henriksen (interesting to horror fans for that aspect alone) playing a Priest who is leaving the rectory and his beliefs in God behind him. He doesn’t get too far in his beat up Chevy when he is suddenly being stalked and hounded by a black pick up truck with tinted windows. It somewhat covers ideas that had been seen in the earlier film, The Car, but there are some additional interesting visuals making it a decent segment.
Night of the Rat
Finally is the story of a young girl and her father’s quick temper which leads to him killing a baby rat she had befriended. Turns out the rat has a huge mother rat with a paranormal connection. The arrogant dad is determined to get this beast out of his home, but the situation turns from bad to worse in this battle of wills.
These tales were first filmed for a TV series but were considered too strong for the television audience. The first two stories are very good and the last two are somewhat derivative of other tales we have all seen before. If you have some nostalgic feeling toward the early video games The Bishop of Battle should put a smile on your face (it‘s better than Tron). The film still has that 1970s feel, and had not been influenced by the over-the-top eighties style that would permeate films from that era.
A fun popcorn movie for those who like a little nostalgia in their horror.
I give it 4.0 battling bishops and bloody rats out of five on the analogous anthology of horror tales scales.