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Nightmare Man

Directed by Rolfe Kanefsky

Written by Rolfe Kanefsky

Starring Tiffany Shepis, Blythe Metz, Luciano Szafir, Richard Moll

Produced by Rolfe Kanefsky, Victor Kanefsky, Frederico LaPenda, Esther Goodstein

Rated R

90 minutes

***

Now, this one’s sort of a surprise. The last time I saw a Rolfe Kanefsky flick (as most of his usually say in the title credit roll), it was The Hazing, and it also handily featured Tiffany Shepis. But that, The Hazing, was just a straight direct to video romp. Rather unremarkable, halfway decent, especially compared to its peers.

Now, all of a sudden, out of nowhere comes Kanefsky once again with a piece that’s supposed to be so good it can rank on the After Dark Horrorfest? Oh, sure, he’s got always-kickass Tiffany Shepis involved, who is still, if I may say so, a total badass. He’s even managed to bring in crowd-favorite Richard Moll, whom most remember from his Night Court stint back in the eighties.

The plot is nothing to write home about, which doesn’t exactly bode well. Ellen Morris believes she’s being attacked by an otherworldly figure she can only refer to as “Nightmare Man.” Naturally, her husband thinks she’s a total loon and thus drives her to the insane asylum to be committed. On the way to the nut hatch, the car runs out of gas and Bill leaves the crazy lady by herself in the car.

Which is a logical inconsistency the likes of which I’ve never seen before, and my suspension-of-disbelief engines are glowing white-hot and making a really unpleasant whining sound. What will completely blow them is when Ellen, now alone in the car, sees her “Nightmare Man” vision once again and runs for…safety?…finding at least a tentative form in a cabin full of friends who now become prey for Ellen’s vision monster.

Which may or may not be real.

Son of a bitch, Kanefsky! This is your entry into the After Dark Horrorfest? A cheesy monster movie? You’re making the whole thing look bad! This is not some shitty little direct-to-video romp here! This is the After Dark Horrorfest! This is supposed to be the best the industry can muster! The stuff that’s too good and too graphic and too downright powerful to be shown in theatres! And you’re mocking the entire concept by bringing a sad little retread to the party?

Kanefsky’s sheer lack of respect for the work horrifies me, or would, except for one minor detail. Though he has made little more than a cheesy monster movie, he actually made a pretty damn good monster movie, pulling out all the stops in terms of building suspense and burning it off with plenty of creepy little surprises. Even better, he’ll manage to throw in some laughs, which is no small surprise given the genre.

Ten for ten on style, Kanefsky! Minus several million for piss-poor judgment, but still. You definitely put together an insane little romp that should manage to scare some people. You even managed to get my adrenaline humming, and that’s a feat!

The ending is actually a couple pretty big twists out of left field, and thus is something of a credit to Kanefsky’s somewhat low-end concept. Even the shaky parts manage to look better in light of the ending and that’s a definite credit to Kanefsky.

The special features include commentary tracks, extended scenes, a behind the scenes featurette, a making-of featurette, a gag reel, audio and video options, Miss Horrorfest contest webisodes, and English and Spanish subtitles.

All in all, despite the fact that this is one of the oldest and most horrendously misused themes in all of horror filmmaking, Kanefsky has managed to put together a very high-quality example of the art. It may have been done before, but very rarely so well.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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