Wednesday, November 14, 2012

REVIEW: Nightmare City

Nightmare City
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Year 1980

Nightmare City is a gore-tastic Italian horror film that literally turns the zombie movie formula on its head as it gifts its nasty antagonists with speed, a mob mentality, and the ability to use weaponry. Shot in a kinetic style and packed to the gills with entertainment, this unusual gem storms the viewer with an onslaught of imagery that depicts a world gone terribly wrong in the most vivacious of ways. With its large doses of action, violence, sleaze, and mayhem, Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City is without a doubt a zombie apocalypse feature that really nails the feeling of chaos and despair.

The film takes place after an unidentified plane mysteriously arrives at an airport, unleashing an army of infected zombies that begin to lay waste to the Italian countryside. Caught up in this horrific nightmare are TV station director Dean Miller and his wife Dr. Anna Miller, Major Warren Holmes and his wife Sheila, and a plethora of citizens that seem primed for the slaughter. As society begins to crumble all around them and the infected begin to multiply, do they have the strength to survive in this harsh new world or will they fall like all the rest? Either way it’s going to be one hell of a show!

Hugo Stiglitz plays the role of Dean Miller, the head-strong journalist who struggles to stay alive and sane in a world turned to hell. The determination in Stiglitz acting is commendable, yet often comedic in delivery, but there is no denying his screen presence when delivery a death blow to an infected zombie. Often at times he carries the weight of the film on his shoulders and I must say that he does do a damn fine job with the tumultuous task. Paired up with him is Laura Trotter who plays the role of his wife, Dr. Anna Miller. The purpose of her character is to be the damsel in distress, and when I mean distress I mean a total fucking mess who is falling apart at the seams. Trotter falls into hilarious territory as she plays the role like a lunatic once the shit really hits the fan and there’s no hope in sight for her character. Luckily Hugo’s Dean slaps some sense into her, making for one of the craziest bitch slaps in cinema history.

The other focused surviving couples of the story are Francisco Rabal as Major Warren Holmes and Maria Rosaria Omaggio as his wife Sheila Holmes. With Rabal’s Major Warren, we get a straight-laced and serious performance which depicts a man desperately trying to reach his wife while carrying out the duties of his commanding officer. As a secondary character, Francisco does a great job with keeping his little side story compelling, while at the same time allowing for us to slowly build up a subtle bit of sympathy to the situation that he finds himself in. Likewise Omaggio’s portrayal of Sheila is performed in a surreal light, taking cues from the slasher and Giallo films of the era. With her character, she is confined to her house, not knowing the real troubles which are going on in the city, and within her story we are able to see the zombie apocalypse through a different kind of filter as she is gradually stalked by a few wandering ghouls who come upon her property.

As for the direction of Nightmare City, Umberto Lenzi does a tremendous job in keeping all of this chaos contained, even after introducing us to the bedlam only a few minutes into the film’s running time. What’s great about this devilish little feature is that it has a constant flow to it that maintains the tempo of the production to the very last climactic scene. Each set piece is interesting in its own right, and you really get a good feel for the dire situation that these characters find themselves in. As society begins to crumble around them, Lenzi makes sure to pull back and allow us to marvel at the total collapse of civilization as we know it. The scope is rather impressive for such a low budgeted Italian genre production, and I think a great deal of the credit should go to Umberto for always keeping the viewer engaged with an endless supply of violence and sleaze.

Though the production is obviously of meager standards and the zombie effects consist more or less with placing globs of mud over the actors’ faces, you still buy in to the fact that this world, and these creatures, are dangerous because of the horrific actions that occur and the abilities that they display within the runtime of this crazy film. Putting a spin on the zombie genre, Lenzi opted to gift these violent and deformed miscreants with a few additional skills which set them a bit above the rest in the walking corpse department. These ghouls can run and use weapons like any ordinary living person, and when combined with their inherent undead abilities, they have the distinct advantage of being damn near indestructible unless given a severe blow to the head in true zombie fashion. Now what makes these guys really special is their unusual obsession with ripping the clothes off of their female victims before diving right in for the kill. This odd trait, while obviously sleazy, is actually a rather entertaining peculiarity which never ceases to amuse in its inappropriate nature and gleeful execution. Combine all of these elements together and you have yourself one hell of a pleasurable apocalyptic ride.

Nightmare City is a mile a minute smorgasbord of nonstop lunacy that really needs to be seen to be believed. Displayed in that distinct Italian genre frame of mind and lensed by the aficionado of sleazy cinema, Umberto Lenzi, the film really packs a punch in its efforts to shock and awe its audience into submission. Hugo Stiglitz and the rest of the cast do an admiral job in keeping up with the insanity that Lenzi throws at them, with a select few making some very memorable performances that somehow manage to stand out amongst the insurmountable mayhem that surrounds them.

When it comes to uncontrollable movies that seem as wild-eyed as a cornered feral animal, this one takes the cake. Bombarded with an array of violent imagery and equally savage antagonists, the film is the perfect definition of chaos personified. The decision to portray the zombies as insane, armed to the teeth, horned up lunatics, was an inspired one, giving us a movie monster that hadn’t been seen up to that point, or at least on that kind of scale. The genuine energy that comes off of this film is quite a feat in itself, and if you can’t find at least something to love within the confines of this unhinged production, then I’m sad to say that you might already be dead. This probably goes without saying, but Nightmare City is…..

Talk about a Dermatologist's Nightmare!

This just in.... My beard is awesome!

Not even their Jazz Hands could save them.

Is this another one of your tricks One-Eyed Willie?

Looks like it's time to exit.... stage left!

Thanks for the ride man!

And this is where we will build Nightmare City the Amusement Park.

Someone killed a Sleestak?!?!?!

High-five buddy. Don't leave me hanging.

Well there goes her Lasik eye surgery all to shit!

It was nice of the zombie to put the hatchet away after killing someone.

You disgust me!

Hey you zombie bums! Get away from the Ghostbuster's ride!

Playing hide and seek with Nightmare City's zombies kind of sucks.

You took the easy way out pussy.

Say hello to my little friend!


I think I just crapped the bed.

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