Nightmare Man (2006)

Rolfe Kanfesky‘s Nightmare Man is a disorganised jumble of a film. At first glance it appears to be a supernatural thriller, at second a straight slasher flick and finally ends up being an Evil Dead style horror comedy. It never seems to know what it wants to be and because of the constant shift in tone, never grips in the way it should. Despite this, it’s a film that caused me to smile more than once and regardless of my more shrewd thought processes, I just couldn’t bring myself to hate it.

A young woman named Ellen receives a package containing what she believes to be an African fertility mask to use in a last ditch attempt to try and conceive with her long-suffering husband. When the mask causes her to lose her grip on reality and she seemingly creates an imagined threat which she calls the ‘Nightmare Man’, she is assumed to have developed some kind of Schizophrenia. On the way to an institute one day, her husbands car breaks down on a stretch of barren highway and while he trudges off in search of a gas station she is left to sit in the car alone, her imagination running away with her. When, in the dark of night, she is coaxed out of the car and confronted with a real life ‘Nightmare Man’, she is left running for her life. It’s at this point that she stumbles upon two couples on a retreat in a house in the middle of the woods and brings the real-life nightmare right down on their heads.

It’s obvious that Kanefsky might have a great love for Sam Raimi’s early work as the effects work and overall tone of the second half of Nightmare Man is very similar to his previous effort The Hazing. Along with the parallel themes and visuals, Nightmare Man also shares The Hazing’s leading lady Tiffany Shepis. Shepis is a reliably wry scream queen and is responsible for much of the more accomplished acting that’s present. She is also reliably undressed for much of her screen-time which will neither surprise nor disappoint genre fans and hot-blooded males alike.

As the central couple, Blythe Metz and Luciano Szafir are a car crash of acting misery. Both are severely over-the-top and chew up their respective dialogue and spit it out without any discernable acting talent. They add an almost Giallo-like feel to the proceedings which instead of creating a fun atmosphere, unfortunately cheapens things somewhat. Thankfully, the former is unconscious for at least some of the running time and the latter is absent from most so neither ruin things completely.

The film lacks any serious gore, until the final reel where it becomes a mish-mash of old-fashioned grue and supernatural chicanery. My main complaint with the wrap-up is that there are one too many false endings for my liking. There is a predictable twist, followed by a hugely unexpected twist, followed by an immense ‘WTF?’ moment. The unexpected elements though, actually help to redeem an otherwise run-of-the-mill movie.

Although the characters grate a little, the acting is fairly elementary and the story isn’t strong enough to stand on its own two feet, Nightmare Man is surprisingly enjoyable. It doesn’t tread any new ground and is bewilderingly confused but still makes for a decent B-movie effort. If all else fails, you could at least glean some enjoyment from creating a drinking game based on its multitude of continuity errors…

Rating: ★★★★½☆☆☆☆☆

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