Nightmares (1980) DVD Review: Australia’s Contribution to the Slasher/Giallo Genres

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And, while they may be correct in their assumption, they obviously never saw Australia’s 1980 contribution to the slasher/giallo genre, Nightmares. Originally released in the U.S. under the title Stage Fright, this Ozploitation thriller begins with an adolescent lass named Cathy, who causes the demise of her mother (and her mum’s lover) after causing an automobile accident — and (inadvertently) finishing the job by rubbing her matriarch’s throat upon the shattered windshield. In the hospital, Cathy again embraces her dark side — slashing her own father’s face with broken glass.

Years later, a young, slightly off-kilter actress named Helen Selleck (Jenny Neumann, a year after appearing in the cult classic Mistress of the Apes) lands a part in an abysmal stage play by an egotistical writer/director (Max Phipps) with several oversexed stars, including a prominent soap opera star (Gary Sweet). Coincidentally, a killer is on the loose — an assassin with a passion for executing via broken glass. Staying true to slasher movie protocol, most of the victims here usually meet their maker after copulating with one another. And yes, Nightmares is chock full of nudity (including a lot of full frontal goodness), too.

Nightmares is by no means a great film. In fact, it’s rather forgettable. You’d have to be devoid of all but one brain cell and inebriated off your ass to boot in order to not figure out the killer’s identity straight from the get-go — and there are some downright Psycho-esque moments of said murderer talking to their imaginary mother that only distract from one’s suspicions further. Producer/director John D. Lamond (who wrote the story with John Michael Howson and the late Long Weekend director Colin Eggleston) moved up from making sexploitation flicks with this one, bringing us a bloody (and silly) feature that reeks of amateurishness — but of course, that’s a good thing when you’re after a slasher/giallo flick from the ‘80s, now isn’t it?

Always devoted to bringing us the absolute best (even the crappy best), Severin Films presents Nightmares in a fully uncut widescreen transfer and a number of special features. Included are an audio commentary from Lamond and Not Quite Hollywood’s Mark Hartley, a featurette entitled “A Brief History of Slasher Films” with host Adam Rockoff, a trailer reel for John D. Lamond titles, and several other trailers for the disc’s feature film itself as well as other Severin titles.

While I really wouldn’t recommend Nightmares for its originality or shock value (I’ll certainly suggest it for its nudity, yes), it is nonetheless an important footnote in the annals of horror films — and completionists will definitely want to look it up.

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Luigi Bastardo

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