Aug 4, 2011

Nightmare City [18]

DIR: Umberto Lenzi

Please join me in welcoming to 24FPS, Steve Chandler. Some of you might know Steve as Psychocandy from the Joblo forums. As well as being a massive music geek Steve's a discerning fan of cinema, and particularly of horror, so he'll be chiming in from time to time with some genre reviews. Enjoy.

I’ve seen my unfair share of Italian zombie flicks. Zombie Flesh Eaters, The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue and Zombie Creeping Flesh to name a few. But Nightmare City has something none of these movies have. These zombies aren’t the slow, shambling undead that were the norm back in the heyday of Italian gut munchers. Oh no. Director Umberto Lenzi obviously felt that would be far too boring. Instead we have a gun toting, knife wielding, axe swinging breed of undead who have been brought back to life after being subjected to a serious dose of radiation and move like Linford Christie being chased by a doctor requesting a drug test. They are also somewhat obsessed with female breasts. Yup...second only to shooting, stabbing and chopping their victims to death they love the boobies. And if they can combine the shooting, stabbing and chopping to death of their victims with some boob related action... so much the better.
Something Nightmare City certainly does share with most Italian zombie “epics” is an almost complete disregard for anything vaguely resembling logic. Most of the characters make choices that seem to be custom built by some insane higher power (i’m looking at you Lenzi) in an effort to place them in a situation that will most likely end with their demise. Certainly there’s plenty of death and destruction on display (including one thrown TV that inexplicably explodes in mid air taking out a couple of our undead friends as effectively as a molotov cocktail). However, the effects are so ineffectual that the movie doesn’t even work as an exercise in gore.

The zombie makeup is perhaps the worst I’ve ever seen. It’s not even consistent. Some of the zombies bear a close resemblance to the lead character from Troma’s Toxic Avenger series whilst some look almost human. Others look like they’ve had their heads dipped once in glue then twice in a barrel of oatmeal. The movie also has an odd tendency to shy away from some gory scenes just when they are about to pay off. This could perhaps indicate the actions of a censor but I think it’s more likely that some of the gore effects looked so bad Lenzi decided to excise them from the movie of his own accord. If the latter is the case I can’t help but think it would have been for the best if he’d exercised the same caution with every other aspect of the movie. This is one inept piece of film making. There’s a scene near the end of the movie in which one of the main characters has to put a bullet in the head of his wife. His first bullet hits her right in the middle of the forehead. A nice clean shot leaving a dime sized hole oozing fake looking blood. Then the second shot takes her head clean off her shoulders. Her body slumps to the ground and what follows is a shot of her corpse that reveals that her head has mysteriously reattached itself to her body and she once again sports a neat little hole in the middle of her forehead. I actually stopped the movie and rewound it three times because I was convinced I couldn’t possibly have seen what I saw.

So what works? Well nothing really. The acting ranges from appalling to barely adequate with all the actors, even the English speaking ones, having been subjected to an inept dubbing after the fact so that the words don’t quite match their lip movements throughout. Our hero looks like a geography teacher (he’s actually a reporter) and is almost as charismatic as your average geography teacher. Most of the female characters exist for no reason other than to provide the quite remarkable number of tit shots that frequently liven the movie up.’s so boring that the numerous sightings of breasts really were the closest the movie came to making this reviewer sit up and take notice.

What about the script? Let me tell you about the script. You could restock the shelves of a hundred cheese shops with the dialogue of this movie. Most of the words that spill like a torrent of nonsense flavoured toilet water from the lips of these characters would shame a slack jawed fool if he’d written them. Now i’ve watched a lot of entertaining horror movies with risible dialogue. But when you couple the risible dialogue with the aforementioned lack of logic, an aesthetic sensibility that scream “I am inept” at the top of it’s lungs and makeup/gore scenes that look like they were cobbled together on a budget of monopoly money. Well... it’s not looking good is it?

Then comes the final kick in the nuts. The ending. I would normally stay well away from providing spoilers but the ending here is so cack handed that it beggars belief and if by revealing it I can somehow persuade even one person not to inflict this movie upon their person...well my job will have been done.

It’s all a dream.
Or a nightmare if you like.

In a movie almost totally devoid of anything resembling inspiration (machine gun toting, titty loving, olympic athelete zombies notwithstanding) this is the final insult. Mr. Geography Teacher wakes up in bed next to his wife (who in the closing moments of the nightmare fell to her doom from a rope hanging from a rescue helicopter only to suddenly transform into a woefully unconvincing dummy that proceeded to flop and flip in a most unhumanbeinglike manner as it bounced off the support frame of the rollercoaster below). We are then treated to the opening three minutes of the movie again as events in real life identically follow the opening events of the nightmare. Just before the end credits begin to role the following words scroll up the screen. “THE NIGHTMARE BECOMES REALITY...” My worst bad dream would be having to sit through another movie as bad as Nightmare City in the near future. Shame on you Mr. Lenzi. Shame on you.

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