Nightmares (1980)

Director John D. Lamond
Writers Colin Eggleston
Starring Jenny Neumann, Gary Sweet, Nina Landis, Max Phipps, John Michael Howson, Edmund Pegge
Genre Psycho
Tagline Many motion pictures promise you terror but this one is truly frightening!

Talk us through it

Waking at night a little girl, Cathy, goes in search of her mom only to discover Mummy is getting down to some horizontal action, and not with Daddy. Flash-forward and Mummy is off on a road trip during the obligatory wet stormy night. Cathy wakes in the back seat of the car to see Mummy and has picked up someone with roving hands. Cathy panics and tries to intervene, thinking Mom might be in danger here. Naturally this being a horror flick Cathy's intervention results in Mom crashing into a park car and being thrown through the front windscreen. Cathy attempts to drag Mommy back into the car but it isn't going to be the little girl's night as Mommy's throat is slit on the windscreen shards. And how was your evening?

Waking in Hospital Cathy overhears a nurse mention that she killed her Mom, and in case we didn't get the point Daddy accuses here directly in one of the better shows of parenting skill I've been privilege to observe. This clearly isn't going to do Cathy any psychological harm right? Later she fights off a Hospital orderly and slashes at him with a shard from a broken glass.

Flash-forward to the present day and Cathy, now a young woman, has changed her name to Helen. She auditions for a theatrical "comedy about death" and surprisingly gets the part. Pretty soon people associated with the play start turning up dead. You don't think?

If all the world's a stage how come we got this cast?


"For you are not an actress' big brown freckle - and, for your edification, that means arsehole!" - George.

Nightmares, for no apparent reason Stage Fright in the U.S, is one of those movies that has a number of half baked elements, none of which when combined produce a movie likely to have you immediately hitting the repeat button. Naturally it's been called a slasher by all and sundry, the killer uses shards of broken glass, yet the film does not have any common elements with the traditional "slasher" catalogue. One might better term Nightmares a murder mystery, if one somehow missed the bleeding obvious in terms of who the killer is. End of day the movie is something of a mess of half thought out ideas and mix and matched film genres, let's see if we can slice it open and shed some light on the body parts.

Director John D. Lamond at stages tries his very best to channel Hitchcock circa Psycho. There's the same unbridled insanity going down with Lamond's lead character, a number of scenes are simply a hoot as Jenny Neumann brings new meaning to "over dramatic", but whereas Hitchcock nailed insanity in the boonies Lamond drops the ball with this element. We even get the mysterious "Cathy" mentioned a couple of times, and in one memorable scene "Cathy" is being pretty bitchy behind a closed door. If only Lamond's antagonist had of been male we could have gone with a whole cross dressing psycho thing as the twist ending! As it is the Psycho element is thrown into the mix, as I guess some bizarre reasoning behind the current crop of broken glass and murder, and is then left to burn as Nightmares decides to go down yet another path. Actually Director Lamond could have pulled a Brian de Parma Sisters thing and we would be here to praise Nightmares rather than complaining about all the broken glass.

Not content with switching in a Psycho angle Lamond also throws a few bob on the giallo table. At stages I wondered if perhaps Lamond was trying to reproduce a scene from an Argento movie that I haven't seen yet. We get plenty of POVs from the killer, perhaps where the comparisons to slasher movies come in, and even an Argento standard shot of a black leather glove clad hand holding the murder weapon. Whereas killer POVs are used in both slashers and giallo extensively, to mask who the killer actually is, in Nightmares it's so obvious who our glass artist is that the POV simply proves to be distracting. But nevertheless a nice touch of European cinematic esthetics.

Can an Australian movie be considered giallo? Lamond presents perhaps the best example of the Italian genre from an Oz perspective, but doesn't get it working as say Bava would have.

I was completely stumped by Director Lamond and Writer Colin Eggleston's decision to insert a play into the movie. If you like a movie within a movie perhaps. The play is a "comedy about death", "The meaning of the lines doesn't matter. It's the juxtaposition and rhythm of the words", but at no stage (no pun intended) is the intent of the play mirrored in the actual movie, or vice versa. The play simply becomes a narrative device to get our group of victims together rather than becoming a metaphor or statement of the film's underlying themes. Actually there aren't any themes to underline but you get what I mean. Not content with throwing the play at us once Director Lamond goes for a double treat with the Victorian melodrama.

The Director does manage to mine some gold through the course of the movie and leaves you wondering if perhaps he could do a hell of a lot better with a bigger budget and something approaching a decent script. As far as I'm aware the smashing of a window or mirror in order to forge a murder weapon was a pretty unique concept. Clearly it also supply's an audio clue to the audience that the claret is about to hit the floor. Lamond's camera angles were actually pretty good as he sort to hide the fact that Nightmares clearly has a pretty low budget. The Director keeps the angles tight in some scenes to avoid the audience realizing he doesn't actually have that many extras hanging around, and only goes for wide angle in some of the play scenes. It's actually working like a brought thing in terms of the film's atmosphere and you have to applaud a film maker doing the best he can with limit resources.

Lamond is also to be applauded for not overly extending scenes that didn't need extra time. The Director goes for some rapid scene transitions, some scenes only have a line or two of dialogue, using quick fade ins and fade outs. It's striking and saves Nightmares from disappearing into the morass of ill fated horror endeavors.

Jenny Neumann achieves top billing as Helen Selleck, besides going over the top hysterical at stages it's all pretty forgettable. Neumann would go on to lose her head in Hell Night. Gary Sweet (Terry Besanko) went from low budget ozploitation flicks to Television police dramas. He was actually a lot better in the TV stuff which is just as well as he's terrible in Nightmares. There's a whole bunch of supporting Actors who we never heard of again, though notably Down Under horror regular Briony Behets gets to do it one more time.

Special mention of John Michael Howson (The Critic) and Max Phipps (The Director) who, besides some sparring between themselves, also get to deliver some punch lines and do so with panache. Nightmares rocked when either Actor was center stage.

We're hitting T&A central here folks, John D. Lamond isn't known as a leading figure in ozploitation for nothing. Boobs galore and full frontal gratuitous nudity. Lamond has the T&A coming, no pun intended, at you every few minutes or so. I'm surprised Kleenex didn't get behind this flick!

Brian May, no not that one, once again hand's in the score to an Aussie horror flick, with May this time round dusting off the Psycho CD to get inspiration. Plenty of screeching violins and the like to ensure everyone is aware that we're dropped in on the Down Under equivalent of the Bates Motel.

Summary Execution

I was having a hoot all the way through Nightmares as I waited for one of the two shock twists I could envisage the Writer coming up with to round things out. Unfortunately there's no twist coming out you, what you see is what you get, which is slightly disappointing post final credits. Overall the film doesn't help itself out by switching between genres as the mood takes it and I was left feeling pretty ambivalent towards it really.

Director John D. Lamond pumped out a number of ozploitation movies through the 1980s, though unfortunately not a lot of actual horror films. The Dude remains unapologetic about his content even to the present day. For the purpose of this review I grabbed a copy of the R4 release, which is the same one released in region 1 apparently. For those in Britain, be careful the movie was cut for release in your part of the World. Hey hit the net and buy the Down Under version from folks

Nightmares gets a recommendation due to at least some attempts being made at lifting it above the, by 1980, run of the mill horror flicks being released. So the flick isn't going to be a classic or have a wide fan base, but it does have it's moments. Dive on in for a smashing time.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

A passable movie that falters when it should get stuck in, worth a look if nothing else strikes your fancy on a Sunday arvo.