I’m a huge fan of horror anthologies. Give me a classic Amicus horror like Dr. Terrors House of Horrors or Asylum; The Monster Club straight from the 80s; or the more recent Tales of Halloween-I’ll watch them all. I was excited to hear there was a new anthology coming out, helmed by Mick Garris (The Stand, Sleepwalkers) who enlisted horror directors Joe Dante (The Howling), David Slade (30 Days of Night), Alejandro Brugues (Juan of the Dead), and Ryuhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train) to direct their own unique segments for Nightmare Cinema.
Five unsuspecting people end up at the historic Rialto Theatre where they witness a cinematic premonition of their fates on the big screen. The show is presented by the Projectionist (Mickey Rourke), a gnarly looking overseer of the theatre. He is as harsh as he looks, and the visitors must endure their personalized screenings until the bitter end.
The five shorts in the anthology are pretty diverse, so there’ll be something for everyone. Take for example the surrealist “This Way to Egress”, where Helen (Elizabeth Reaser, Twilight, The Haunting of Hill House) awaits her doctor’s appointment with her two petulant sons. Shot in stark black and white, Helen’s unease is clear as her surroundings become strangely apocalyptic and the people around her more distorted. It’s my favorite of all the segments, giving an old school Twilight Zone feel. Then there’s “Mashit”, a gore-filled splatter fest starring Maurice Bernard of General Hospital fame playing a less-than-perfect priest who heads a catholic school. The students are being tormented by a demonic force and he must find his courage and faith to battle it. If you’re looking for a more exploitation, drive-in feel, this is the segment for you. There’s also the plastic surgery nightmare “Mirari”, with 80s veteran actor Richard Chamberlain; the slasher trope with a twist “The Thing in the Woods”; and “Dead”, with Annabeth Gish and a great performance by Faly Rakotohavana, who plays a teen victim of a carjacking dealing with the consequences of a near death experience.
This latest edition to the anthology genre is a lot of fun, and it feels like the directors enjoyed doing their segments too. I matched up only two directors with the correct segments because the style of each one is really out of character for them, so I suggest trying to avoid spoilers of who directed what for a challenge. Along with Rakotohavana, Reaser was riveting as a woman hanging on to her last hope, and Mickey Rourke was his usual intense self which is what any fan of his would want.
If you’re looking for variety, I’d definitely check out Nightmare Cinema. It’s got schlock, scares and scads of fun for all the anthology enthusiasts out there.