At its best, the horror anthology serves as a delicious amuse-bouche of scares. Ideally, the spread will feature complementary flavours and textures but in life, you rarely get exactly what you want. Mick Garris’ new horror anthology, Nightmare Cinema, is frankly a mix of good and bad. Featuring five filmmakers and six short films, Nightmare Cinema is an international anthology of fears from Alejandro Brugués (Juan Of The Dead), the great Joe Dante, Ryûhei Kitamura (Versus), David Slade (30 Days Of Night) and Garris himself.
The anthology opens with the best short of the bunch, a slasher horror comedy by relative newcomer Brugués. The only short to truly capture the spirit of the anthology (the wrap-around has characters wandering into the cinema), we jump into the short as if we are walking into the final act of a film. Brightly coloured and bonkers crazy, it takes slasher cliches in unexpected directions. Unfortunately, the films mostly trend downward afterwards.
Joe Dante’s short about plastic surgery isn’t necessarily bad, but it falls woefully short on the creep-factor and originality. Everything picks up again with Ryûhei Kitamura’s ‘Mashit‘, a nunsploitation with exorcisms featuring one of the best film scores of the year. The short doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense but is overflowing with style and sensuality. David Slade’s black and white short feels like a weak Twilight Zone episode but is undeniably unnerving. Unfortunately, Mick Garris’ final short, ‘Dead’, which closes off the anthology is an overdrawn nothing story about having to grow up too fast.
The film’s wrap-around, featuring Mickey Rourke as The Projectionist (also directed by Garris), has a strong concept but suffers from shaky execution. This is not necessarily any better or worse than your average anthology film but such a high calibre of talent does make that conclusion especially frustrating. Still, for horror fans there will be at least one gem here to make the journey worthwhile.
Nightmare Cinema was seen and reviewed at Fantasia 2018.