Directed by Rolfe Kanefsky
Written by Rolfe Kanefsky
Music by Christopher Farrell
Cinematography by Paul Deng
Cast: Blythe Metz, Tiffany Shepis, Luciano Szafir
2006/90 minutes/Color/Dolby Digital Stereo
2.35:1/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Lionsgate DVD
Not all movies are created equal. Horror movies are especially disparate, and the limitations of budget, experience, talent, and resources can impact a movie one way or the other. Horror history is filled with low budget successes such as Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Raimi’s The Evil Dead, and Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. These movies embraced their constraints and used them as an element of the film itself. They managed to overcome the low budget expectations and present intelligent, sophisticated, and scary stories.
While Nightmare Man, one of the entries in the 2008 After Dark Horrorfest, aspires to become yet another low budget classic, it fails to deliver much of anything at all. The bare-bones plot involves a young wife named Ellen (Blythe Metz) who receives a mail-order fertility mask to presumably help with some sexual issues she and her husband (Luciano Szafir) are having. Upon seeing the mask, seemingly fragile Ellen becomes so disturbed that she insists her husband take it away. After the obligatory dream sequence, the couple heads out on a road trip where apparently Ellen is to be committed to an insane asylum because of her reoccurring nightmares about a figure with the fertility mask on stalking her.
Of course, along the remote road, the couple runs out of gas and Ellen’s dutiful husband heads out on the 10 mile trek to get gas leaving his mentally unstable wife alone in the car at dusk. Within minutes the voodoo-mask wearing slasher appears and off we go into the woods for some running and falling down fun.
Meanwhile in a vacation home nearby a foursome of 20-something friends play a friendly game of erotic truth-or-dare complete with a striptease from bad girl Mia (Tiffany Shepis) that nearly redeems the entire movie. Unfortunately the game is interrupted by a screamin’ and ravin’ Ellen who seeks refuge from the menacing Nightmare Man with the group. From there, it is pretty routine stuff until the movie takes a laughable twist and follows it up with an even more laughable twist.
There are a lot of laughs to be found in Nightmare Man, but the problem with the movie is that most of them are unintentional. The performances are dismal, except for Shepis who is a standout not only for her physical presence but also because she can actually act a little bit. Metz is a mess as the central Ellen, and Szafir is absolutely hilarious as the Banderas-esque husband.
The direction by Kanefsky is ham-fisted and amateurish. This was especially disappointing considering the more professional entries in last year’s festival including Reincarnation and Unrest. Here the shots are muddled and derivative. Even the opening credits look like a high school kid who figured out how to use some of the effects on Final Cut and Photoshop. Obviously Kanefsky was looking to create an Evil Dead vibe, but he failed completely. Most of the scenes in the woods are too dark to see (not that there is much going on anyway), and the interiors have that direct-to-video one-set feel.
Kanefsky is a dual offender because his script is laughable too. The script includes so many silly dialogue moments that it is difficult to recall them all. Especially bad are Ellen’s crazed rants that seem to go on forever and Szafir’s lines that are even more ridiculous when delivered in broken English.
Surprisingly there is very little gore to speak of with only a few moments of crimson. Sadly what little grue there is can’t save the ineptitude of the rest of the movie. The dreaded “Nightmare Man” is literally an actor in what looks like a black leotard and a dollar store fright mask running around the woods. Add to that laughable description that the “horrific” killer looks to be about 5’2” and 130 pounds, and it is hard not to snicker. Put it this way, Paula Abdul is scarier than the “Nightmare Man.”
Clearly the people at After Dark realized that there was not much worthwhile in Nightmare Man, so the extras luckily are “The Tiffany Shepis Show.” The commentary track featuring Kanefsky, Shepis, and the movie’s producer Esther Goodstein demonstrates just how Shepis dominated the movie. She overwhelms the other two in the commentary with her personality and makes what would be an otherwise boring track, entertaining.
Tiffany also salvages the extended scenes with a prolonged look at her truth-or-dare striptease. There is also an obligatory “making of” feature that really provided no great insight into the filmmaking process and is often so poorly shot that it is difficult to discern what is going on. Still, even in the midst of a dry featurette, Shepis shines. Another feature is an okay gag reel that has a few funny moments. Tiffany Shepis is also given her own “behind-the scenes” featurette which includes more clothes-shedding and some funny moments with the scream queen. Finally there is a Shepis-dominated still gallery, webisodes from the “Miss Horrorfest” contest, and the requisite trailers from this year’s other festival titles. All in all, the special features are a strong suit of the release especially considering the quality of the main feature.
Nightmare Man fertilizes DVD from Lionsgate in a murky 2.35:1 image that has nothing to do with the transfer and everything to do with the lighting (or lack thereof) used by Kanefsky and his cinematographer Paul Deng. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is decent when utilizing the surrounds to effect, but the terrible and overbearing soundtrack from Christopher Farrell essentially kills any other audio moments that could have been had.
Hopefully this year’s After Dark Horrorfest has more to offer than Nightmare Man. If not, it may be time to put the festival to bed.
This Film Features:
Review by Jamie Smith. All Right Reserved. 2008. ©
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