‘Nightmares’ as unstable as a one-legged pirate walking a tightrope

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Directed by John Lamond

Screenplay by Colin Eggleston
1980, USA

The Italians might have done it best but the Aussies sure did have a good time trying. As unstable as a one-legged pirate walking a tightrope, Nightmares (directed by Ozploitation guru John Lamond) isn’t shy about what it’s doing. From the opening scene we are bombarded with an erratic pace and a pulsating score which quickly informs us that we are in for one hell of a ride. The film opens with a set of flashbacks, where we see Hellen Selleck (Jenny Neumann) subject to two early childhood traumatic experiences. The first, which in some way causes the second, is of a young Helen discovering her mother and her lover having sex. Helen’s initial need for mommy to reinforce that there are no bogeymen under her bed is quickly put on the backburner by a more current and real fear, her mommy getting boogie manned all up in them guts. This sighting, which echoes throughout the film, causes her to presumably go completely insane. Helen’s second episode comes roughly a month later while driving home one night. Momma’s loverboy gets a little frisky in the car causing Helen to scream “get your hands off my mommy” momentarily distracting whoever was driving enough to swerve into another car, ejecting mommy through the window, slitting her throat with the windshield. On top of this, Helen plays a further part in her mother’s literal undoing by trying to pull her mother back into the car only to worsen the cut to her throat and possibly providing the final blow to mommy dearest. Just perfect! Now the film is set up to bring us to the present, some 20 years later, and we have a very crazy broad on our hands.

Nightmares is one capricious little devil but one of the steady points is a hammering score composed by Brian May. Striking hard and cutting deep from the first chord, May’s score is fervid and violent. At times dominating the film, the score encompasses the film’s complete insanity. The look and feel is uniquely Australian, with some borrowed components from Italian and American slasher schlock. Using the giallo staple of a POV killer with black gloves, broken glass and lecherous heavy breathing, Nightmares, cuts its victims up in a fleshy display of hatred for the body. Intersplicing scenes from Helen’s traumatic past with the killer (although there is no real question as to who that is) slicing up naked people (remember this is John Lamond we’re talking about, champion of Ozploitation sleaze including The ABC’s of Love and Sex, so there are ample opportunities for genital slashing), Nightmares caters to audiences looking for blood, butts and sleaze.

It’s easy to see resemblances to Michel Soavi’s 1987 Stage Fright – which is the original title of Nightmares and is more prominently known. Both follow a self-reflexive, behind the scenes narrative structure, using the stage and theatre as the setting for their killings. Yes, Soavi’s killer dons an amazingly absurd owl mask, but Lamond’s Nightmares is inarguably more insane. Edited as seamlessly as a baseball, Nightmares jaggedly cuts through its scenes as rough as its killer cuts through a victim’s flesh. Although there’s no real sense of mystery within the film, Nightmares is completely unpredictable.

Detroit Burns


• Audio Commentary With Director John Lamond And Not Quite Hollywood Director Mark Hartley
• A Brief History Of Slasher Films Featurette
• John Lamond Trailer Reel

About Severin

Since their founding in 2006, Severin Films has become the foremost studio dedicated to rescuing, restoring and releasing the most controversial and provocative features from around the world. With offices in Los Angeles, London and New York, the company’s international successes in DVD and niche theatrical of films from Oscar nominees and cult icons alike has garnered applause in The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times and The Onion AV Club, and led BlogCritics.org to proclaim, “Severin Films are well on their way to becoming the greatest indie label of all time.”

1 Comment
  1. Mike Worby says

    Great article, I love your sense of humor.

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