Nightmare Man (2006)

Rating: B

Dir: Rolfe Kanefsky
Star: Blythe Metz, Tiffany Shepis, Luciano Szafir, Hanna Putnam

Ellen (Metz) is insane, believing herself possessed by a demon she calls ‘The Nightmare Man’. While being driven to an asylum by her husband (Szafir), their car runs out of gas in the middle of nowhere; he goes to get help, and the Nightmare Man attacks. Ellen takes refuge in a house where two couples have gone for a weekend getaway – but is Ellen really mad? If so, is she a danger to others? And if not, what’ll happen when her medication wears off? You may be forgiven for thinking this sounds a fairly-cliched story, and being honest, there really isn’t much new there. This is especially so early on, with some moments likely to trigger eye-rolling; the line, “Game time…Erotic Truth or Dare!” can hardly do otherwise.

But as in Kanefsky’s previous film, The Hazing, the beauty is in the execution, which takes familiar pieces and re-arranges them into something that’s thoroughly entertaining. Characters and situations which initially seem like stereotypes, end up being much more, helped by dialogue which is sharp without seeming forced. I can’t say we were surprised by the twists, though the elements are combined nicely; some of the character motivation also seems a little weak. On the other hand, there are some truly creepy sequences: when Ellen is left alone in the car, her descent into terror is enormously effective, and when the film kicks into top gear, it just doesn’t stop from then on.

Shepis and Metz are great, old-school horror heroines, and the rest of the cast does pale somewhat in comparison. However, they are present, largely to provide gory deaths (Chris correctly predicted the order of demise five minutes after Ellen arrived at the house), and there are some nice moments in this area – horror film survival lesson #189, never say “You’re killing me!”. The most obvious influences are Haute Tension and The Evil Dead, yet Kanefsky has avoided the glaring weaknesses of both. This won’t win many prizes for originality, yet in just about every other area, it’s a lot of fun.