“Nightmare Man” Is Here To Haunt Your Dreams in High-Definition! Blu-ray Available at Amazon.com
To channel mystical help with her and her husband’s fertility issues, Ellen purchases a mask from overseas that supposed to provide fruitful results. Instead, Ellen is plagued by nightmares of a demon figure, forcing himself onto her with a maniacally grin. Diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic and on medication to dilute the vivid dreams, Ellen’s husband chauffeurs her to the mountain isolated Devonshire Institute to commit her for treatment, but when the car runs out of gas and her husband ambles for gas, Ellen finds herself alone in the car at night and with the nightmare man lurking outside, Escaping barely with her lift now that the physical form of her tormentor is no longer just in her dreams, Ellen takes refuge with a pair of couples celebrating an engagement party. Rambling erratically about an entity no longer inside her, a debate between the group of friends question Ellen’s sanity until the nightmare man shows up and slaughters anyone in his path, but the party’s just beginning when another killer has been freed from suppression.
Pivot stories are the best! The investments into a foundation roots a focus, provides a clear understanding of the forthcoming, and can be, for better or worse, an expectation of narrative structure. What happens when a monkey wrench is thrown into the story and completely bends the storyline at a 90-degree angle onto another totally unexpected path? Some would be too jarred by the jerk toward another direction, coming out of the film with a severe case of whiplash that joggles and boggles the mind, while others, like myself, would find a refreshing phoenix out of the tired ashes of a stale genre and welcome it with open, grateful arms to keep my rear-end sewn to the couch and eyes glued to the television to see what happens next! Writer-Director Rolfe Kanefsky (“There’s Nothing Out There,” “Art of the Dead”) alters the early 2000s post-“Scream,” masked-slasher with a twist and never second guesses the decision to bounce from out of one subgenre and into another without skipping a beat. “Nightmare Man” is a production of Delusional Films and is non-SAG, shot in the area of Big Bear, California, produced film by the father-son team of Rolfe and Victor Kanefsky and Esther Goodstein, and Frederico Lapenda.
What’s very curious as well as fascinating about “Nightmare Man’s” character hierarchy is that there isn’t just one lead principal throughout the film. In fact, lead principals change hands at least three times and also misleads audiences into thinking someone is going to charge of the situation only to be cut down in a blink of eye and a jolt to the normal hardwires of our cerebral higher functioning. The titular star of Rolfe Kanefsky’s “Jacqueline Hyde,” Blythe Metz, returns to work with the filmmaker as a woman overwhelmed by dreams of a demonic dybbuk of sorts who chases her and tries to force himself onto her, into her, in a violating way. Metz convinces much later as someone suffering from delusions and paranoia but her Ellen character, a woman who is supposed to be wealthy from some of the dialogue bits, is a bit more lucid and grounded early into the story with only her frustration to lean back on to warrant being committed, which seems like a harsh and unconvincing setup for the character that also induces early suspicion on her husband’s (Luciano Szafir, “Hopekillers”) eagerness to check his wife into a mental institution. Before long, we’re introduced to two couples, played by Jack Sallfield (aka Jack Sway), Johanna Putnam (“Feast II and III”), James Ferris (“Jacqueline Hyde”), and every fan’s favorite scream queen, who’s currently playing a reoccurring character in season 3 of “Picard,” Tiffany Shepis (“Abominable,” “The Black Room”), partaking in an intimate celebration and partaking in what mostly early 2000s portrayed characters love to participate in – sex themed conversation, games, and forbidden secrets. Soon, the two parties collide when Ellen is chased through the woods by her African horn-masked dream stalker (Aaron Sherry) and then the situation turns into mice in a glass cage with a snake circling hungry. Shepis doesn’t stray terrible too far from her normal cache of credits or Tromaville antics as a provocative, promiscuous, and downright master of her domain with intent. While Shepis doesn’t necessarily compete with any other onscreen personas, as the long-time horror vet can steal a show with ease, we’re also treated to strong performances from her costars, such as Metz splitting into thirds with her diagnosed paranoid-schizophrenia, and we’re introduced to Johanna Putnam in her debut role as an engaged woman has who a dangling lesbian secret from her past hanging over her head. The dynamic works not in a dramatic means but rather as a comedy portico tossed into the narrative structure to spruce up character conversing toward something humorous and interesting as arrows plunge into chests and knives are puncturing through lower jaws. “Nightmare Man” rounds out the cast with Richard Moll. Yes, Bull from Night Court, as well as “Scary Movie 2” and “Sorority Party Massacre, makes brief cameo appearance as the local sheriff and you need look very closely because the scene is so dark, you can barely tell it’s him.
The one theme that keeps popping up in the recess of the mind is perhaps the one theme that eludes being talked enough about when overhauling “Nightmare Man” as a message bearer. Being an early 2000’s horror in the long established and well-dipped into the shadow of the “Scream,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” and “Urban Legend” franchises that defined the turn of century before it even happened might have had something to do with “Nightmare Man’s” lack of enticements for distributors to feel love for the man of nightmares and notice it for the novelty and the theme for what it is, an instilled paranoid fear that one’s sexual attacker leaves behind as a post-traumatic stress bomb that is everything all consuming. Kanefsky patterns the hallmarks of rape trauma stealthily into the script, disguised as a shadow, with a teethy mask, and vividly glowing and menacing eyes. Some other scenes are more obvious than others, such as Ellen’s dreams of the sinister smiling figure pinning her to the attic floor and spreading her legs right before she wakes or when she cries out, “I still feel him inside me,” while held up inside the cabin, with Kanefsky painting with a broader brush on “Nightmare Man’s” obscured presence and masked killer with an agenda that attaches itself directly in avoidance of calling a spade a spade. The kills and gore effect gags can stand up against any big budget, Hollywood production and are just unique enough to make the killer interesting in diversity and brutal enough to give “Nightmare Man” an edge sharper than the knife he wields.
If a Tiffany Shepis fan, or a fan of Tiffany Shepis in her underwear holding a crossbow and won’t be rattled by the bent elbow plot pivot, the Rolfe Kanefsky picture is an enjoyable, campy romp that gives homage to the horror films that have set the scene for “Nightmare man” to exist. Ronin Flix plucks “Nightmare Man” out of standard definition dreamland and into the reality of high-def, 1080p Blu-ray. Presented in an anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the story is set almost entirely at night with more household lighting for interior shots and not too much exterior lighting to brighten objects or even cast hard-edged shadows. While this creates more realistic atmospherics of isolating apprehension in the woods horror, Kanefsky and cinematographer Paul Deng (“Trancers 6,” “Song of the Vampire”) bathe many of the night shoots in deep blue tint and the Ronin Flix transfer appears to display in low contrast and is very dark, leaving focal objects nondelineated and obscured. I haven’t checked out the Lionsgate After Dark DVD print of this film so I can’t compare. There some dip in the compression decoding as the release hovers in the mid-30Mbps for good periods of time but does dip into the lower 20s and it shows with light phasing macroblocking. When not bathed in blue, skin tones and grading often look natural and palpable. The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio is balanced between all levels tracks, putting the dialogue in the forefront, keeping the range of ambient noises at an appropriate depth, and a soundtrack that maintains tensions rather than over intensifies to a fault. I will say that the multi-channel lacked a significant stalwart production that didn’t provide the anticipated strength of audio. Dialogue is clean and clear with no perceptible issues and the overall package track can be said the same. English SDH are optional. With the Ronin Flix release, new bonus supplementals extend more background and insight with retrospective discussions and distribution challenges associated with “Nightmare Man,” such has a new interview featurette with director Rolf Kanefsky, producer Esther Goodstein, and star Tiffany Shepis in There’s Something Out There: The Making of Nightmare Man and a new audio track isolating the film score by Christopher Farrell (“Bus Party to Hell”). Also included is Creating the Nightmare: The Making of Nightmare Man – a raw footage behind-the-scenes look at some of special effects, makeup, and off-the-cuff tomfoolery during in between take down time, extended scenes, Tiffany’s Behind-the-Scenes of Tiffany Shepis weaponizing a handheld camera with her flare of sexualized humor and potty-mouth pizazz, an audio commentary track, on the audio setup, with director Rolf Kanefsky, producer Esther Goodstein, and star Tiffany Shepis, Flubbing a Nightmare Gag Reel, still photos, and a promo reel. The physical features include a David Levine package design of an abract-esque composite of the Nightmare Man mask, Tiffany Shepis in a bra, and a knife all splashed in red lined inside a traditional Blu-ray snapper case with no insert. The release is locked on Region A playback and the film has a runtime of 87 minutes and is rated R for horror violence, gore, some sexuality/nudity, and language – what Tiffany Shepis release wouldn’t include all of that? “Nightmare Man” is a dream of a subgenre-bending film; sexy, gory, intense, and unpredictable, all the prefigures of a hell of a good time.