Nightmares aka: Stage Fright is a relatively unknown Australian slasher from 1980 that copies the Halloween aesthetic but only succeeds with its chaotic kills and rampant nudity. From sexploitation director John D. Lamond, the film follows a traumatized theater actress whose co-stars mysteriously end up dead. Umbrella Entertainment and OCN Distribution bring this Ozploitaiton horror flick to Blu-ray with a solid A/V package and features ported over from the Australian release. Recommended.
Screams of terror, silenced only by the splintering of glass! In this textbook example of 80s slash trash, an aspiring actress (Jenny Neumann from Hell Night), haunted by the childhood memory of her mother being thrown through a car window, finds herself trapped at the centre of a brutal killing spree as one by one her fellow thespians are butchered by a psychopath with a sliver of glass.Adding non-stop bloodshed to his successful cinematic recipe of softcore sex and ample naked flesh, Ozploitation auteur John D. Lamond (Felicity) takes on the stalk 'n slash genre with a vengeance in this infamous home-grown Halloweenclone. Proudly high on body count (including a notoriously graphic full-frontal thrill kill scene) and thankfully low on subtext, Nightmares offers the rare opportunity to see a host of famous Aussie faces (Gary Sweet, Briony Behets, John Michael Howson and others) dispatched in the most gruesome ways imaginable!
directed by: John D. Lamond
starring: Briony Behets; Gary Sweet; Jenny Neumann; John Michael Howson
1980 / 83 min / 2.85:1 / English DTS-HD MA 2.0
- Region Free Blu-ray
- NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD extended interviews with director John D. Lamond and actress Nina Landis
- Audio commentary with director John D. Lamond and filmmaker Mark Hartley
- Deleted scenes
- Confessions of an R-Rated Filmmaker featurette
- John D. Lamond trailer reel
- Stills and poster gallery
- Theatrical trailer
- English SDH subtitles
Purchase Original Edition From Vinegar Syndrome.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
“For Christ’s sake Bruce, can’t you take no for an answer?”
The 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood introduced the world to Australian genre films lovingly referred to as “Ozploitation”. Director Mark Hartley gave a voice to films that rarely saw distribution or presentation outside the country leaving viewers anxious to experience these features hidden for decades. While many of those insane exploitation films have become household names like Wake in Fright or Patrick some titles featured are still unknown entities waiting for audiences to discover. Produced during a time when cheap genre flicks flooded the country thanks to a tax incentive, the sleazy slasher Nightmares retains some of the best qualities seen in other well-established Ozploitaiton fare.
As a child, Cathy (director Lamond’s real-life daughter Jennie) witnesses her mother’s handsy lover “hurting” her during a nighttime drive. Cathy screams which causes an accident. The mother dies not by the crash but by Cathy pulling on her body over the broken windshield. Developing a neurosis surrounding broken glass, Cathy can’t escape the nightmarish visions of her ordeal. Years later Cathy is now Helen an aspiring theater actress in Sydney. She meets soap opera actor Terry (Gary Sweet Alexandra’s Project) during an audition. Stodgy theater director George (Max Phipps, Thirst) is hoping for a hit even though he’s under great pressure from dissolute critic Bennet (John-Michael Howson, Alvin Rides Again). Not long after Helen and Terry land the leading roles a killer begins to slash through the cast and crew with, you guessed it, shards of broken glass.
Nightmares borrows liberally from Psycho and Halloween while attempting to function like a sexy Giallo. In an interview on this disc, Lamond admits he requested the exact camera setup Carpenter used so he could match the POV shots exactly. Best known for his sexploitation films Felicity and Australia After Dark, Lamond naturally imbues his only horror feature with plenty of full-on sex scenes and nudity. It was a smart move for sure as the narrative has little interest in developing characters or keeping an air of mystery around the deaths.
While the film looks like a Giallo in slasher costuming, the film never hides the killer’s identity leaving the whole feature up to its stock and trade: sex and blood. Kills are satisfying in their intensity even if the blood effects leave much to be desired. Ironically special effects were provided by Conrad Rothmann who did uncredited work on Halloween. Scoring from Brian May (The Road Warrior) apes the Bernard Hermann string cues from Hitchcock’s motel thriller layering it into satisfying swells and resolutions. From a production standpoint, the film is stacked with established people and should be a solid genre outing but it can’t escape a lackluster attempt at character-building and narrative momentum.
Jenny Neumann’s Helen is a cardboard cutout dashing from scene to scene recoiling in fear as the bodies pile up. I first saw her in the excellent sorority slasher Hell Night opposite Linda Bair. I was hoping for more from her but she wasn’t given enough to work with sadly. Gary Sweet piles on the charm for soap star Terry as he courts Helen. The two leads here cement their sexually frustrated courtship quite easily with awkwardness showing in spades. Cathy’s childhood trauma transforms her sexual repression into a blind murderous rage. Sex is death for everyone. The narrative only allows her to behave as a murderous psychopath or a sensitive prude. What a disappointment. Thankfully the supporting cast of cliched characters makes their kill scenes memorable. The most notable is theater costume director Fay (Sue Jones, Mull) getting the run-through while naked in the pouring rain. However, the best performance in the film goes to Lamond regular John-Michael Howson as the deplorable theater critic Bennett Collingswood. Chewing through scenes and having a wonderful time, Howson hams it up as his character flirts with everyone on screen before meeting his grisly just desserts.
Ripoff slashers are typically a no-filler attempt to establish a recognizable narrative but eventually, they’ll develop a unique personality separating them from the herd. Nightmares follows these beats and rhythms but adds its own flair to the mix thanks to Lamond’s sexploitation elements and his disregard for the censor’s desire to maintain artistic integrity. While not everything works, the guts to slash up a naked woman in a rainy street or show a girl traumatized by her mother’s naked butt allows the film to stand out. As Lamond once said, “There is no point in being subtle”. I totally agree.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Nightmares arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Umbrella Entertainment and OCN Distribution. Housed in a transparent keepcase with a two-sided artwork and insert booklet, the Region Free disc loads the Umbrella logo before landing on the static Main Menu screen with typical navigation options.
Nightmares arrives on stage with an AVC encoded 1080p HD image in the film’s original 2.85:1 aspect ratio. Primaries are bold with reds and blues striking through darkened scenes within the theater. Detail within shadow allows us to clearly see the slasher’s victims receiving the consequences for their actions. The left side of the frame is consistently plagued by focus issues resulting in a soft appearance.
Black levels look solid throughout the feature. Specks are evident with Image stabilization issues showing up as early as the opening credits. Fine detail is limited to closeups and two shots. A significant upgrade here in image quality compared to the Region 4 DVD from years ago, however those with the recent Blu-ray disc from Umbrella Entertainment will find little difference between the two.
The sole audio track is a confident DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio mix. Dialogue is clear and clean though hiss is apparent during some exchanges in the film. Scoring elements are well balanced within the texture allowing room for the Bernard Hermann-inspired string sections from celebrated composer Brian May. Effects are discernible but lack clarity rendering them muddy at times.
Umbrella Entertainment ports over the extras from their Australian release, including a fantastic commentary track, interviews, and an exciting trailer reel from Lamond’s filmography.
- Audio Commentary with Director John D. Lamond & Filmmaker Mark Hartley
- Not Quite Hollywood Extended Interviews (HD 28:06) with Director John Lamond, Actress Nina Landis, and Cinematographer Garry Wapshott
- Deleted Scenes (SD 9:04) sourced from a workprint VHS copy of the film these scenes look rough but you’ll get the idea.
- Confessions of an R-Rated Filmmaker (HD 8:09) Lamond speaks at length about the challenges of making B-grade sex films in Australia versus the acceptance of low-budget filmmakers in America.
- John D. Lamond Trailer Reel (HD 21:17)
- Stills and Poster Gallery (HD 1:21)
- TV Spot (SD 0:26)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD 3:19)
Nightmares is an entertaining slasher ripoff with giallo ambitions that are never fully realized. Stacked with Ozploitaiton icons, this underseen gem attempts to cash in on the success of American slashers. Thankfully Lamond’s chaotic editing, sleazy sex scenes, and grisly kills mask the uneven narrative and disappointing character arcs. For a cheap slasher it checks all the right boxes making it an excellent watch with friends looking for a good midnight movie.
Umbrella Entertainment and OCN Distribution bring the slasher to Blu-ray with a solid A/V package and enough bonus features to please fans of the film. Recommended.
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