Nightmares (1983)

directed by joseph sargent

Allegedly produced for NBC TV, though for what, or which anthology series, seems to be in dispute – you can’t trust Wikipedia and I’ve noticed IMDb is far from infallible as well, but let’s ignore for the moment any debate about notions of authority in this exciting modern age – this set of four short vignettes isn’t bereft of effective moments, even if nothing gets visceral or even very threatening, in keeping with its origins. (Aside from the third segment, “The Benediction,” which features some intense moments courtesy of its classic tale of a “duel” on the highway with an unidentified motorized antagonist.) Otherwise, the first segment is piffle, and too short to build any momentum, the second features Emilio Estevez echoing notions of Tron with a ripping punk soundtrack, and the final chapter – which further makes use of Black Flag’s “Louie Louie” – is capped with wild-kingdom FX highly reminiscent of the end of Devil Dog. Strictly for nostalgists.

why did i watch this movie?

It’s one of the “roles” on Lee Ving’s dossier.

should you watch this movie?

The renditions of classic FEAR tunes heard during “The Bishop of Battle” are not the versions from The Record. That’s what I thought upon hearing them, anyway, and the end credits appear to bear out my impression.

highlight and low point

This picture really isn’t that bad, but even for episodic horror it feels slight. None of the tales have any kind of staying power, regardless of content or execution. Honestly, it would have worked far better delivered by cathode ray tube. Estevez is pretty good, Lance Henriksen is solid, Richard Masur is convincing, and the late Bridgette Anderson turns in one of the better
performances you’re likely to see by a 7-year-old.

rating from outer space: C−

Kuntilanak aka The Chanting (2006)

directed by rizal mantovani
mvp pictures

Basically the equivalent of the wave of American teen-idol horror flicks from the ’90s – except that it would have garnered a PG-13 rating – this Indonesian production features a 17-year-old female lead playing opposite an MTV VJ/pop singer. It’s a fairly typical ghost story, this time based on Malay folklore, involving a female entity whose spirit lives in a tree (in the cemetery next to the boarding house, natch) and is summoned into this world by the intonation of durma, a form of traditional Javanese song poem. In this particular case, the Kuntilanak enters our realm via antique mirrors. An occasional barely seen twitch might startle you, and the first couple times the ghastly spirit enters (or exits, I guess) from the mirror are pretty effective, but in the end, this picture is middling at best. It spawned two sequels, because of course it did, and a 2018 reboot – all from the same director, which may be a new world record.

why did i watch this movie?

I came across this title while reading up on cultural influences in the other Indonesian films I’ve watched recently, and figured I may as well take in another one.

should you watch this movie?

Plenty of others are better.

highlight and low point

The fact that the conduit for the dangerous spirit becomes its summoner through no fault of her own is a nice touch, and subtle comical moments here and there (and some not so subtle) help keep things grounded. Little tension is involved in the resolution of what should be a major conflict, however, and the not altogether surprising ending doesn’t carry quite enough weight, either.

rating from outer space: c−