aka Stage Fright
Director: John D. Lamond
Extras: Audio commentary with director John Lamond and Mark Hartley / Featurette: “A Brief History of Slasher Films” / John Lamond trailer reel
Young Helen, dressed in her innocent little nightgown, hears strange noises coming from her mother’s bedroom and upon investigating, she walks in on some carnal goings-on as her mum nakedly writhes on top of an equally nude man. A few days later she is in the car with dear ol’ mom and another man who begins groping Mommy and Helen takes offense to this and creates a commotion that leads to the car swerving off of the road, crashing and her mother smashing through the front window to her death. The cops, paramedics and psychologists all tell the impressionable girl that she is the cause of her own mom’s death. It’s all her fault. This, along with the trauma of walking in on the matriarchal sexy time, has unhinged Helen a bit… but to what extent?
Years later she is a stage actress struggling to make it in the business. She makes the cast of a local play and soon catches the eye of Terry, the handsome leading man. The harder he tries to get close to her, the more she resists and unknown to everyone, people begin to die horrible deaths behind the scenes. Hacked and slashed with large shards of broken glass. One by one the cast and crew begin to die these bloody deaths, all of the in the midst of some state of nudity or sex. Since the horrible events of her childhood, Helen has had terrible nightmares or visions or memories of all of the deaths happening around her. She goes into trances when she sees broken glass or hears glass breaking. All signs point the viewer to her as the faceless, black-gloved killer but could someone else be trying to drive her mad(der)?
This Aussie giallo/slasher was released in the U.S. as Stage Fright which is a clever name but really Nightmares is much more appropriate. The surreal direction, set-pieces and camerawork create a definite nightmare-ish feeling throughout. Director and co-writer John Lamond uses intense stage lighting and flashes of color to great effect. In some scenes using naked lightbulbs in the foreground as the only lighting in the scene which gives off streams of illuminated color on camera. It’s an interesting method to say the least. Those techniques also make the shadows in the movie very effective. Lamond could use the focus a little more on his camera as some faces are distractingly blurry. The music by legendary Australian composer Brian May (not to be confused with the Queen guitarist) whose credits include classics like Mad Max and the Road Warrior is a great mix of doomy strings and brass.
I was very surprised at the ferociousness of Nightmares. Expecting a pretty ho-hum “cut by the numbers” horror movie, my sleaze antennae went up after the first scene where the mother is getting her rocks off. The level of depravity only increased from there with loads of total female nudity and pretty graphic sex including one scene where there is almost finger penetration of a vagina. The whole premise of the movie is sexual psychosis, and it delivers. The weapon of choice being a giant shard of jagged glass makes this a very bloody and violent affair as well. It’s on the sexually violent scale of Fulci’s New York Ripper, sans the quacking of course. Unfortunately the freakin’ gorgeous leading lady Jenny Neumann (Hell Night) never peels off her clothes, at least not for the camera. She is though, one hell of a bat-shit crazy sex machine… just without the actual sex.
Severin Film’s new release of this stylish slasher is pretty solid. The widescreen transfer from the original vault elements beats the hell out of the shitty, chopped up Stage Fright VHS and is a bit better than the Anchor Bay DVD if memory serves me. The disk extras include commentary from Not Quite Hollywood and Machete Maidens Unleashed! director Mark Hartley along with Lamond as well as the featurette “A Brief History of Slasher Films” which was also on the Bloody Birthday DVD. If you are into gory, violent, sleazy slasher flicks, you must pick up Nightmares.