TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: NIGHTMARE CITY (1980)

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NIGHTMARE CITY (1980)

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Italian filmmaker Umberto Lenzi is probably most known for his notorious cannibal film Cannibal Ferox, thought, many believe this to be his best film. Story has a radioactive spill occurring at a nuclear power facility and a group of people becoming contaminated by the radiation. It gives them a mutated appearance, superhuman strength and an appetite for blood, as the radiation depletes their red blood cells. These mutated, zombie-like creatures lay siege to a nearby city and soon all bloody hell is breaking loose as they kill and spread the contamination. The film focuses on the efforts of the military to contain and stop the outbreak, while a news reporter (Hugo Stiglitz) and his doctor wife (Laura Trotter) try to get out of the city alive.

The fact that this nonsensical flick has three writers attached to it is actually the most entertaining thing about it. The film has a bare bones plot, but is basically a series of random ultra-violent attack sequences as the creatures butcher their victims in a variety of ways. It gets tiresome quickly and despite a lot of gore, it and the make-up effects are cheesy, even for an 1980s Italian gore movie. The story makes little sense as the ‘zombies’ appear to be animalistic and bloodthirsty one moment, then very coordinated and strategic the next. They savagely rip their victims apart yet, seem to be organized enough in their attack patterns and smart enough to hijack and fly a plane, then later take out the airports to avoid military bombings. They seem crazed and don’t speak, but act as if their is distinct communication between them and possibly leadership, but we never see or hear evidence of it. Even more ridiculous is that the army figures out quite early that they can be stopped by a bullet to the brain, yet soldiers and police rarely use that option when in direct combat. It’s just silly. There is no suspense and Lenzi doesn’t seem to have much in terms of choreographing in the mayhem, so the film almost seems made up as it goes along. If not for the continual violence and bloodshed, which as stated, gets quite monotonous early on, there really isn’t much to recommend as the acting, dialog, story and action are all bad…and it’s up to you as to how much entertainment you can find in such epic fail badness.

So, despite liking these 80s Italian flicks and certainly having a strong tolerance for bad in my movies, I found Nightmare City to be tedious, repetitive and just, overall, bad. This flick has it’s fans and I can understand why, but even my ‘so bad it’s good’ tastes couldn’t find much to entertain me with this. I was not a big fan of Cannibal Ferox either, but did find some amusement in Lenzi’s scatterbrained Ghosthouse. Apparently this flick is set to be remade with horror legend Tom Savini in the director’s chair…and this is one flick that could use an update!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 (out of 4) irradiated zombies with make-up and acting of equal badness!

nightmare city rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GHOSTHOUSE (1988)

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GHOSTHOUSE (1988)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Ghosthouse is a 1988 Italian haunted house flick written and directed by Umberto Lenzi under the amusing pseudonym of Humphrey Humbert. Lenzi is best known for the cult classic Cannibal Ferox which also goes by the name Make Them Die Slowly.

This oddball supernatural thriller opens in 1967 where funeral director Sam Baker (Alain Smith) has given his daughter Henrietta (Kristen Fougerousse) a creepy looking clown doll that was supposed to be buried with it’s owner. He locks the now strange behaving girl in the cellar for killing their cat with a pair of scissors and soon he and his wife (Susan Muller) are brutally murdered and the young girl dies locked away there. Still with me? The film jumps to 20 years later where HAM radio operator Paul (Greg Scott) and his girlfriend Martha (Lara Wendel) get a strange signal that they track back to the now abandoned Baker house. Joined by a group of people who are camped out by the house in an RV…don’t ask…they decide to investigate. Obviously, something evil lurks within the house and if malevolent entities, creepy clown dolls and ghostly dobermans don’t get them, the mentally unbalanced caretaker Valkos (Donald O’Brien) will.

This is not a good movie in the strict definition of the word, but I did have fun with Ghosthouse for the entertaining mess it is. The plot is nonsensical and all over the place. There is no reason ever given as to why Paul and Martha are contacted…and by HAM radio, no less. Also, once it quickly becomes obvious that there is nothing but danger and death in this creepy old house, why do these nimrods stay and continue to enter it…even when their numbers start to gruesomely dwindle? As for the backstory…what funeral director in his right mind would give his daughter a doll from a deceased child, especially a creepy one like this. And since no background is ever given on that child, we have no idea why such malevolent forces are so pissed and vengeful about it. Also, why does Henrietta…who died when she was about seven or eight years old in 1967…have a tomb that says she was born in 1933. That would make her 34 at the time of her death. I could go on and on about the plot holes, character illogic and delightful stupidity, but that would ruin a fun ‘so bad it’s good’ horror. Lenzi does manage a few creepy moments. There is a spooky score by Piero Montanari and Franco Delli Colli creates some nice atmospheric cinematography. Lenzi’s dialogue writer Sheila Goldberg needs to be left in a haunted house for her awful lines, though, they provide a lot of the chuckles, and the acting is as entertainingly bad as one might expect. The FX are amusingly cheesy, except for some nice gore, but there’s not as much bloodshed as I would expect from an Italian horror of this era.

I enjoyed this flick, but obviously for all the wrong reasons. The plot is entertainingly nonsensical, the dialogue and acting is laughably terrible and the FX are, for the most part, delightfully cheesy. There is some decent gore and Lenzi does manage some creepiness despite how silly and random his script is. Definitely a ‘so bad it’s good’ Italian horror that can be thoroughly enjoyed with the lights out and your pint glass kept full…and just try getting that annoying song that plays whenever the clown doll appears, out of your head!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 creepy clown dolls.

ghosthouse rating

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