Nightmares (1983) is a horror anthology or portmanteau film and has four short stories within. I first saw this film years ago and it is very hard to get hold of these days: the only version I have ever come across is this region 1 NTSC release, which quickly went out of print. There is also a VHS version doing the rounds somewhere. Anyway, to the stories:
*One: Terror in Topanga On a stretch of highway, a cop is killed by a crazed lunatic and the radio and TV report him as being the killer's fifth victim. Meanwhile, Lisa (Christina Raines) is out of cigarettes and decides to drive to the garage, despite her husband's (Joe Lambie) warnings about the killer. She drives down the canyon to a mini mart and purchases her cigarettes; however, on the way back she realizes she is about to run out of gas. She pulls into a gas station for fuel, where the attendant (William Sanderson) acts very strange ... this one could serve as a warning to smokers.
*Two: The Bishop of Battle My favourite, as it reminds me of playing the old arcade games as a kid in the 1980s and also has echoes of The Last Starfighter (1984), one of my all-time favourite science fiction films from that decade. This one sees J J Cooney (Emilio Estevez), a teenager hooked on gambling and arcade games, and in trouble with his parents for having poor grades at school. One night he breaks into the arcade and successfully reaches the 13th level on the game, Bishop of Battle ... but what will the next level hold in store for him? Also stars Moon Unit Zappa and James Tolkan.
*Three: The Benediction A priest (Lance Henriksen) working in a small parish is beginning to lose his faith because of the violent death of a young boy. His bishop (Tony Plana) listens to the priest, who informs him he no longer believes in good or evil, but the priest eventually quits both the church and the village. He heads off into the desert in his car armed with some blessed water, which he no longer believes is actually blessed. He then encounters a truck which plays a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with him ... things get out of hand but he does still have the holy water?
*Four: Night of the Rat Claire (Veronica Cartwright) begins hearing the scratching of rats inside her building, but her husband (Richard Masur) just brushes it off. Disinterested, he nevertheless attempts to reassure Claire, saying he will lays some rat traps in the attic. However, the noises get worse, there are tremors in the house, and their cat does a disappearing trick. At the end of her wits, Claire calls an exterminator (Albert Hague), but Steven is not impressed by the exterminator and asks him to leave ... but they still have one big rat problem.
For plot and production values, I rate it up there with Trilogy of Terror (1975). It was not well received on its release, but I really enjoyed the movie. It is, after all, a portmanteau film, not a full length horror movie, so the stories are short with the usual twist in the tail. These stories are never amazingly original, but anthology films are just creepy and cool, and an acquired taste. See also Creepshow (1982), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Cat's Eye (1985), Creepshow 2 (1987), Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Body Bags (1993), and Tales from the Hood (1995). These are all very similar and fun to watch - not to be taken too seriously. Enjoy!
Nightmares released in 1983 is the one film that stuck with me throughout adulthood. The second segment about a kid played by Emilio Estevez and his addiction to the video arcade game the battle of bishop fasinated me as a kid. Could he really make it to the 13th level? Because a kid in Jersey had done it twice so claims Estevez. This episode is just brilliant and it comes together with a soundtrack from the likes of Fear, X and Black Flag.
So essentially what you get here are 4 stories, very much tried and tested by Amicus in the 1970's. The first story is about a serial killer let loose in a small town and a woman's addiction to smoking meaning that she just has to go out to the late night local shop to purchase her cigarettes. You can probably guess what will happen next. I really like this story, it's short, sharp and sweet. Though I do wonder if America was driving home the fact at this time that smoking was bad for you? For instance didn't we have James Woods go through hell as a smoker in Cat's Eye the year before?
This is what leads me onto Cat's Eye and how Nightmares is quite frankly a rip off of this movie. There are 4 stories here, two of which seem taken out of Cat's Eye idea. The smoking story and also the final story. In Nightmares we have a giant rat living in the walls, and ready to terrorize a young girl who has a cat. In Cat's Eye we have a monster troll living in the walls and ready to terrorize a young girl who has a cat. Emmmm....
The third story stars the excellent Lance Henrikson who plays a priest who has lost his faith. So he quits and heads for the road. Unlucky for him a 4X4 is ready to take him out 'Duel style'. Is it the devil? This is quite an effective segment, though the finale is a little drawn out.
All in all Nightmares has two very good stories and two average copied ones. It's a fairly good anthology though and easily gives any of the Creepshow movies a decent run for it's money.