Nightmare Cinema (2018) | 31 Days of Horror: Oct 18

by Jovial Jay

Sometimes death comes at 24 frames per second.

Nightmare Cinema has five chances to scare you from five prominent horror directors. Regardless of your taste in horror films there’s something here for everyone.

Before Viewing

This trailer shows Mickey Rourke as the proprietor of the titular movie theater where five strangers come in to watch five different films by five horror directors including Joe Dante and Mick Garris. There appears to be stories about a cabin or camp, a church (with someone falling from the steeple), and a hospital with some creepy face-off kind of surgery. Welcome to the Nightmare Cinema, the anthology selection for 2021.

Presented below is the trailer for the film.

Spoiler Warning - Halloween

After Viewing

The film is an anthology featuring a frame story with a character called the Projectionist (Mickey Rourke) who screens films for the characters, each one revealing some dark secret or fear in their life.

Nightmare Cinema

Nightmare Cinema title card.

“The Thing in the Woods” starring Samantha

In what appears to be the final act of a killer in the woods film, Samantha (Sarah Elizabeth Withers) runs from The Welder (Eric Nelsen), a man in traditional welder garb who uses a number of weapons. She runs into her ex-boyfriend Jason (Kevin Fonteyne), but he is quickly killed. Samantha gets the upper hand on the killer and as she is about to dispatch him he rips off the mask, identifying himself as Fred and asking her to remember what happened. A quick flashback to the party of young adults in the remote wooded location is told where they witness a meteorite land, releasing dozens of spider creatures that proceed to infect all the characters, including Samantha. Fred puts on the welding gear to protect himself and save his friends from being the puppets of these aliens. She remembers and then begs Fred to kill her which he does. That night, hundreds more spiders come for him, but Fred smashes them with hammers and his feet, escaping in his car. Driving towards the big city the next morning, a small shape slowly crawls beneath the skin on his forehead indicating that he was unsuccessful.

Nightmare Cinema

Anna is about to under the knife to remove a scar in “Mirari.”

“Mirari” starring Anna and David

Anna (Zarah Mahler), a young, self-conscious woman with a large scar on her cheek, gets an offer from her fiancé David (Mark Grossman) that his mother can recommend a plastic surgeon, if she’s interested. Her interest piqued, Anna meets with Dr. Leneer (Richard Chamberlain), of the Mirari Clinic, who recommends a number of other procedures as well. Wanting to look her best for the wedding Anna agrees and is booked for the following week. Waking up from the surgery in the doctor’s office Anna’s face is fully bandaged. Things seem strange when David comes in and takes pictures of her while she sleeps and then texts someone. The doctor checks on her and says that something did not work properly and he will need to fix them tomorrow. Concerned, Anna fights her way through the drugs and wanders around the office, finding another woman that is missing her nose and eyes! Anna tries to escape but is drugged by a nurse and returned to the room. Awakening after her second surgery, she pulls her bandages off her face to reveal massive scars, no nose, and a third breast. David and his mother Nadia (Belinda Balaski), who is a freakish looking plastic surgery patient herself, greet Anna and welcome her to the family.

Nightmare Cinema

Sister Patricia discovers the demon haunting the Catholic School in “Mashit.”

“Mashit” starring Father Benedict Abuelo

A young boy Peter (Brandon Tyler) commits suicide by jumping off the roof of the church at the Catholic school, but Sister Patricia (Mariela Garriga) thinks there might be evil forces at work. Dani (Stephanie Cood), a student, is scared but her mother Cindy (Jamie Lynn Concepcion ) tells her it’s ok. Father Benedict (Maurice Benard) oversees the school and has an intimate physical relation with Patricia, and it’s intimated Peter as well. Sister Patricia’s research indicates someone in the school may be possessed by Mashit, a demon that punishes those who commit lust and incest and leads children to suicide. Benedict and Patricia believe Dani to be the host for Mashit, but it turns out to be her mother instead. Mashit takes control of all the young children, mostly girls and a spectacular knife and sword fight occurs within the narthex of the church. Benedict is stabbed with a spear after killing a number of the children in a bloody battle. Sister Patricia chases Cindy onto the roof. When Cindy looks like she is about to jump as Peter did, the Sister reaches out to save her, getting pulled over the edge as well. Cindy is killed in the fall, but Patricia survives, and is now possessed by Mashit.

Nightmare Cinema

Helen sees the world in a grey, dirty, twisted version of itself in “The Way to Egress.”

“This Way to Egress” starring Helen

Helen (Elizabeth Reaser) and her two boys are waiting in a reception area to see a doctor. She begins to see weird changes around her, such as the receptionist’s face deforming and dust appearing on all the surfaces. When she finally gets to see the doctor (Adam Godley) she tells him that she noticed the changes when her husband left two days ago. Neither the doctor or her kids seem to be affected by her potential hallucinations. She has a breakdown in the bathroom after the doctor hurries her out of the appointment. She then pulls a strange looking gun out of a package, threatening a weird looking maintenance worker. No one else recognizes that she has children and suddenly she cannot find them. Approaching the doctor’s door, she overhears him talking to her boys, which are actually field workers assigned to her. She has descended from a higher reality and the doctor believes her only way out is suicide. Though, he adds, there might be another way with a resilience that she doesn’t have. She bursts into the office and shoots the doctor, who now looks deformed, with the only bullet in the gun. She grabs the two field workers that look like her boys and storms out of the building, showing a new and fierce resilience.

Nightmare Cinema

Riley and his parents have their last moment together after his concert in “Dead.”

“Dead” starring Riley

Young Riley (Faly Rakotohavana) is a piano prodigy. After a concert, his parents (Annabeth Gish & Daryl C. Brown) are both killed by a car jacker (Orson Chaplin), while Riley is shot in the chest. He awakens at the hospital seeing weird apparitions, including a recently stitched up man wandering out of the room and his mother comforting him. The nurse informs Riley that he was dead for 17 minutes, but is lucky to be alive. The killer returns to the hospital looking for the boy, but is shooed away by a nurse. Riley meets Casey (Lexy Panterra), a girl that can also see the spirits in the hospital. She intervenes when the spirit of Riley’s mom returns and tries to convince him to give into the pain and “crossover.” Casey is found the next day having re-committed suicide and succeeding, but Riley knows it was something else (the audience sees his mom coming for the girl). The killer finds and chases Riley through the hospital. They fight in a broom closet and just as Riley is being choked to death Casey appears to him and convinces him to fight for his life. Riley manages to kill the murderer with a ragged mop handle. The wounded and weak Riley is found later by hospital staff and escorted back to his room where a bloody killer appears and smirks at him saying, “sweet dreams kid.”

Riley asks the projectionist if he’s dead. The man indicates that the other characters from the previous stories are and that he should “Run!” The projectionist rewinds the film reel of Riley’s life and places it in his vault with hundreds of other films.

I’m the curator of a hundred years of nightmares, trapped in a silver screen that never forgets.” – The Projectionist

Unlike many other anthology films, Nightmare Cinema is a unique entry with five stories directed by some of the top horror creators. Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead), Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling), Ryûhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train), David Slade (30 Days of Night) & Mick Garris (Stephen King’s The Stand) create five distinct and creepy tales that span the gamut from slasher film to psychological horror and good old fashioned ghost story, all with some interesting twists. Anthologies are known to be hit or miss with their various stories, with usually a couple falling short. But this film has five very strong stories that all provide horror in very different ways.

Brugués’ “The Thing in the Woods” starts off like so many films horror fans know and love. So he takes that knowledge and uses it against the audience to turn the hero into the villain and vice versa. The setup of the film makes for a great twist as well. By starting near the end of the story, and using a flashback to tell the beginning allows for a big surprise as it really pulls the rug out from under the audience. This story would not work as well if it was written in a chronological way.

“Mirari” by Dante creates a wonderful parable about vanity and beauty. Anna is overly concerned with the scar on her face, to the point of neurosis. She obsesses over it. So when the ability to have it taken care of (along with a “few other things”) presents itself she doesn’t ask too many questions. The story is reminiscent of the Twilight Zone episode, “Eye of the Beholder,” where a “disfigured” woman has numerous surgeries to look “normal” but when the bandages are removed she looks normal, and it’s the doctors and nurse that look disfigured. Obviously David’s family has a much different idea of what passes for adorable.

Kitamura’s “Mashit” (pronounced ma-sheet) is the one that might provide the most chills per moment. Dealing with a demon, the filmmakers insert one or two frames of a monster lurking around the characters. This is the creature seen on the posters for the film. There’s one specific shot where the demon is out of focus in the shadows behind Cindy that seems absolutely terrifying. A super high spine-tingle factor. This may also be the only story where the audience doesn’t really seem sorry for the main character. Father Benedict is shown having intercourse in his office with Sister Patricia, and it’s highly suggested that he has also had relations with at least one boy in the congregation. His downfall is strictly justified.

The fourth story, Slade’s “This Way To Egress” (which is shot in black and white) is the most cryptic of the episodes. Helen’s mental breakdown apparently comes from her transcending dimensions into a world not her own. The world constantly seems to be sloughing off dead cells as debris drifts through the air. But the presentation of the story, since it’s told from Helen’s point of view, also makes it the least reliable in terms of what is really happening. Maybe she really is a woman just having a psychotic break. It definitely seems other worldly, and provides some food for thought about the nature of reality, hers and ours.

The final episode, Garris’ “Dead” is the most intense, and ties directly back into the frame story at the end. Any person that has seen The Sixth Sense will recognize what is happening in this story, light years before Riley does, and that’s what makes it the most intense. The audience realizes that he “sees dead people” and that the killer is coming back to silence the boy. But not only is Riley in danger from the killer, but also his mother, who wants him to die to be with her. Using Casey to show how dangerous the mother’s character is, but then having the carjacker pop out instead to scare the audience is a nice switch. Usually dead parents are much more helpful.

Overall these stories are a nice balance, with a frame story that is negligible. It’s not completely clear why The Projectionist has these films of the characters. Some seem like they’re close to the real story that the characters have lived, like Father Benedict, who shoots himself at the conclusion of his screening, and Riley, who is shown the dead characters from the other episodes before being told to flee. They all have a similar thread running throughout that makes them more enjoyable as an overall film, like Trick ‘r Treat, rather than just a collection of short films, like Holidays. Nightmare Cinema has definite rewatchability.

Assorted Musings

  • The end of the film has a dedication to Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper and George Romero.
  • Instead of a standard title sequence, the title of the film is presented as a marquee at the Rialto Theater, an actual theater in South Pasadena used in a number of films including La La Land and Scream 2.

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