Nightmare Man (2006)

APRIL 5, 2008


A word of advice for horror filmmakers: When you set out to make a fun horror movie that’s not supposed to be taken too seriously, make sure it’s actually fun. Because if it’s not, you end up with a movie that eventually just bores, such as Nightmare Man. There’s nothing particularly BAD about the movie (other than the horrible digital video, made worse by a lazy and flat transfer), but there isn’t much to recommend, either. The films that the movie emulates and pays homage to (Evil Dead, Trilogy Of Terror, and even The Entity for some reason) are all vastly more entertaining and a better use of your time.

Remember that one Futurama where they try to explain something to Fry and after a few seconds he gives up trying to understand it and just goes “Magic, right”? That’s kind of how I feel about a lot of these horror movies that are supposed to be “fun”. Any plot hole, lazy screenwriting decision, etc, can just be chalked up to “Hey you’re not supposed to take it seriously!” But the problem is, there is a way to make a fun horror movie that DOES make sense, to a certain degree. There is nothing as glaringly stupid in Hatchet or Scream as the fact that the girl runs from her car to the house where most of the action takes place in about 5 minutes, yet it takes 40 for her husband to drive the car there. Or why the husband would say “You have company in the trunk” to his wife, when the trunk contains the very thing he doesn’t want her to know he has brought along. Fun? Not really, plus once the reveals started coming I was mainly just wondering why the guy would go through all this trouble to fuck with his wife (it's also one of those movies where the person being set up has to behave exactly as the villain needs them to for his plan to work, another pet peeve of mine).

Also, as I said, the movie has a bit of Entity in it, as our heroine is raped and presumably impregnated by the demon/ghost/whatever thing at the end. Uh... yeah that’s not exactly keeping in the spirit of fun, is it? Even though the movie never got a laugh out of me, it was at least better when they were trying, as opposed to the complete 180 for the ending.

Speaking of the ending, it’s partially spoiled by the film’s own opening credits, which promises an appearance by Richard Moll (who appeared in the more successful "fun horror" movie Headless Horseman). Since he doesn’t appear before the isolated action begins, nor is he revealed to be the killer, it’s pretty obvious that rescue WILL arrive in the form of Bull, so suspense is tossed aside as well.

And yes, I said that he wasn’t the killer. Despite the movie’s attempts to make us believe that the killer in the film is a demon, I never bought it for a second. Why? Because the fucking thing has tennis shoes on! Oh wait, “It’s not supposed to be taken seriously!” Then why bother with the whole ‘demon’ thing at all? The audience knowing for sure it’s just a guy in a mask, but not the characters, could lead to some fun situations. Or not, who knows.

And yet this is the most packed of all the After Dark DVDs so far for this year. There’s a commentary (buried in the setup menu) which actually isn’t too bad, as the director and Tiffany Shepis just pal around and point out some of the movie’s flaws. Plus some making of and deleted scenes, and Shepis’ own ‘video diary’ which is about 10 minutes longer than necessary but still kind of fun. Shepis is an engaging presence and can usually elevate a film with her natural charm (see, or not, Scarecrow) but even she can’t manage to get this one going, so at least the extras don’t betray her likability. All in all, not counting the commentary, there’s an hour’s worth of stuff here (which may have added to the abysmal transfer), which is far more than is necessary for a movie that stops cold for three solid minutes while a couple (non-amusingly) discuss their issues shortly after one of their friends is murdered by a demon wearing Converse.

I can’t call it crap, because everyone was clearly trying and having a good time, and it’s far from soulless. But it seriously needed another couple of drafts, possibly by legitimately funny writers, to make itself stick out amidst the 28 million other movies that throw a few young folks in a cabin and hope for the best.

What say you?


  1. A few issues with your review. It takes the husband so long to arrive at the house because he is in no rush. He is waiting for the NIGHTMARE MAN to kill his wife and is hoping that she will be dead by the time he arrives. He is waiting on purpose for the deed to be done.

    And he also purposely reveals the mask in the trunk because he is trying to start a fight with her so she won't insist on going with him to get gas. He has to keep her in the car for his plan to work.

    Yes, the NIGHTMARE MAN is wearing sneakers because the audience is supposed to believe that the man behind the mask is her husband or possibly Richard Moll so when the major twist with the real demon is revealed, it is more of a surprise.

    NIGHTMARE MAN is playing a game with the audience the entire time. This is why all the cliches are used like the car running out of gas and the cell phone not working. In most horror films, this just happens to move the lazy plot forward. In NIGHTMARE MAN, all of these cliches are actually part of the plot and twists in the story. I'm not saying NIGHTMARE MAN is masterpiece but there is more intelligence than you are given it credit for.

  2. Well like I said, it wasn't so much that the film was bad, just that the attempts at humor and fun all fell flat to me. Had they actually just took it all serious, it would probably have worked a bit better, because after the 20th 'funny' line in a row - "Why not ask him, oh wait you can't because he's dead!" or "We're out of towels! Not the problem I meant!" or whatever else, it just sort of lost appeal. So even when the clichés and such paid off, it didn't change the fact that the movie's goal of being fun had long since missed the mark. I can appreciate playing with genre staples and turning them around on the audience, but not people trying to be funny when they're not. And I have a pretty broad sense of humor, it doesn't take much to make me laugh... I just wasn't buying it here. Sorry!

  3. Waitaminnit....

    Are you really the "director"?

  4. This was the next to last film that showed at the Fest. Since all the other films were fairly serious, I guess I was expecting the same out of this one. Once I realized it was going to be more of a horror/comedy, I had a good time with it. It made me laugh more than a few times and got me laughing hard at least once.

    Unless I know ahead of time that I will be watching a horror movie with some comedy in it, I always assume it will be a straight up horror movie. I know there is almost always some form of comedy but some movies, like NIGHTMARE MAN, try to be more of a mix. Most times I am disappointed by these types of films but in some cases they work real well for me. I have watched one other film by this director that was also a horror/comedy mix and loved it as well.

    Maybe you were to annoyed by the plot holes that you felt were there. I have to agree with director though in saying that you missed the point a little in places.

  5. Yeah see I knew going in that it was a blend, so I was looking to laugh. But... well, no sense carrying on. I'm glad it has its fans - i'd much rather see a movie with good intentions find an audience than something soulless and awful like Drive Thru. Can't please everyone, if so I wouldn't have to keep defending Halloween III all the time.

  6. Just watched this dross and posted a review on my blog. Reading yours thereafter, it looks like we saw eye-to-eye.

    I, too, felt that the "brilliant twist" lost its potential early on. I've never felt so indifferent at the discovery that everything I've been hating about a movie is part of the plot.


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