by Jason Coffman
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One of the best things about the rise of DVD has been the appearance of numerous smaller companies run by film fanatics which specialize in releasing forgotten or overlooked films. Companies like Code Red, Blue Underground, and Synapse Films all valiantly do their part to make sure weird exploitation obscurities are committed to digital versatile disc for future generations to enjoy. Severin Films is one of the most consistently interesting of these companies, and they deliver once again with their excellent new release of the 1980 Australian exploitation horror film Nightmares (aka Stage Fright).
Jenny Neumann stars in Nightmares as Helen Selleck, a seriously disturbed young woman who auditions for a stage play. Helen is unbalanced, and for good reason: as a child, she was involved in a car accident that killed her mother and possibly her mother’s lover. Inexplicably, her father blamed Helen for her mother’s death, and as an adult Helen associates sex with death. She suffers from nightmares in which she stalks lovers around the theater and brutally murders them— or are they something other than nightmares? Is Helen really the anonymous black-gloved murderess of her nightmares?
The answer to that is never really in question, as director John D. Lamond (perhaps best known for the Emanuelle-esque coming-of-age film Felicity) is clearly more interested in getting as much naked skin and blood on the screen as possible than in any kind of traditional story concerns. The film plays out very much like a hybrid of the Italian giallo film and a standard slasher movie, down to the black-gloved hands of the murderer and the first-person viewpoints of the murders. Anyone expecting any real mystery or even a reasonably coherent storyline is going to be sorely disappointed, but what Nightmares lacks in coherence it makes up for in atmosphere and lurid thrills.
Chances are good that video store aficionados of a certain age will remember seeing some form of Nightmares on VHS in the 80s, and Severin’s beautiful new DVD release offers a strong incentive to add this nasty minor Ozploitation classic to their collection (or upgrade from that old tape). In addition to a full-length commentary track with Lamond, this DVD includes a 15-minute featurette on the history of the slasher film and a collection of trailers for Lamond’s other films. Hats off to Severin for a great job on this release and here’s hoping there are more lost gems on the horizon.
Severin Films released Nightmares on Tuesday, July 28th.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org as well as contributing to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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