Reviewed by Robert Long II © 2010
DVD Release Date: August 10, 2010 – Brain Damage Films
Director(s): Walter Ruether, Laurence Holloway
Cast: David C. Hayes, Danny Marianino, Keith Jackson, and Scarlet Fry
I was sent this screener by Walter Ruether, one of the directors of the movie. Nightmare Alley is released by Brain Damage Films. Brain Damage Films has always been a mixed bag for me. On one hand they at times have some decent low budget and no budget releases, and the company gives fledgling filmmakers a chance to get their movies seen. On the other hand, they also perhaps allow too many novice filmmakers to release very amateur productions upon an unsuspecting public. Basically Brain Damage more often than not makes TROMA look good, and I am not exactly a fan of TROMA Films. As it is my policy to describe what is right about a movie, and also offer constructive criticism on what could have been done better – we will see where Nightmare Alley stands.
Nightmare Alley is a horror anthology that comes off as a low rent “Tales from the Crypt” with some butcher shop gore thrown in. The film starts off with two thrash metal type characters talking trash in a sunny neighborhood alley. A bum comes up to them and offers to trade them the latest issue of “Nightmare Alley” comic book for a cigarette. After the exchange is made the bum promptly knifes one of the headbangers. The other takes off down the alley, still clutching the issue. He stops near a Dumpster and checks out the first few pages. They turn out to reflect his own fate, as someone in the Dumpster grabs the thrasher and cuts his head off. Something to bear in mind is that the thrasher had a scruffy goatee before his head gets whacked, and then is clean-shaven once his head is separated from the body. Apparently the killer gave the guy a shave before killing him.
The stories are now introduced by a crypt keeper type of guy (director Walter Ruether). He is sitting against one wall that has some chains and candles and a skeleton surrounding him. The camera work at this point is all tripod and the audio is pretty muffled. A sepia grind-house type of filter is applied over most of the film – to give it a slightly gritty look.
A Fistful of Innards: Three outlaws of the Old West track down a meteor – thinking it is worth money. After a scuffle the leader shoots the other two members of the gang, but the power from the meteor brings them back as flesh-eating zombies. The good is that they tried to do a period piece set in the West, and they have locations and costumes that reflect that. The criticism is that there are quite a few F-Bombs and other cussing which takes away the period flavor, and the visual effect of the meteor crashing to the planet looks like an effect from an early 1980s video arcade game.
Rebellion: A clean cut young man with a huge ponytail goes into a gift shop. He buys a demon-possessed toy rat, despite warnings from the salesclerk that it is “El Diablo.” He takes it home, prays to it, and the spirit of a foul-mouthed demon takes it over. The story moves on to six months later, where the clean-cut guy has gone to scruffy scumbag. He cruises down the highway with the ever growing toy rat in tow, picking up and killing female hitchhikers to feed their souls to the rat. The last hitchhiker he picks up leads to a cat and mouse chase in the desert. The good of this one? Hmmm. The girls were kind of pretty. My criticism towards this one is of the nature of the story. If the toy rat is “El Diablo” and people must be warned against it, why is it even IN the store? Plus the rubber rat prop in no way, shape or form can be remotely taken seriously.
Death Chat: This is a bit of a supernatural tale about a guy that uses women like Kleenex. This guy (he looks 40 but says he’s 26 on the net while he’s cruising for babes) surfs the web for sexual hook ups. He gets his butt kicked by the women he cheats on, and then cries and whines about it to his dope smoking cop friend. So this winner loses his current girlfriend and goes on line to find a sexual female fling for the night. He finds one and travels to the appointed apartment at night, only to find out things are not going to go his way and he has put his life on the line. The good: Well, this one has the most atmosphere. Instead of taking place in the bright Arizona sunlight (as the other stories do) the latter part of this takes place at night. The apartment the guy ends up with is empty, spooky, and has clear plastic draped over the doors. I also have to give positive props to the filmmakers that they got together a police uniform for this story. Even if everything were gotten at a Party City I would rather have that than all the “plainclothes cops” you get in most low-budget fare. The criticism? Well, the main character in this is really, really unlikable. Constant cussing and F-Bombs do not make for a witty script. You know from the very moment this character opens his mouth that he is doomed, so it is just a waiting game for when he will actually get chopped.
Meat: This store is preceded by the one truly bright spot of this production. A cute topless model in a Mardi Gras mask is seen on the screen for a couple of seconds. The actual story itself is about a sun-bathing Rockabilly girl that likes to cheat on her husky husband with other husky men that wear Daisy Dukes pants to show off their butt crack. This cheating gal invites Mr. Daisy Dukes over for a very strange dinner. The good: Well, the cute topless babe at the very beginning and the fact that the gore is not bad. The criticism: The guys in this story could not come off more obnoxious and stupid if they tried. Really, the guy that makes the moves on the gal is written as a complete moron.
Closet Case: The story behind this one is a Rockabilly kid waiting for a bus gets hit on by a flaming stereotype gay character. This angers the Rockabilly kid and he attacks and kills the gay character; he then proceeds to masturbate (off screen) to a gay magazine. The good: Nothing. The criticism: I’m sure the filmmakers were trying to work some irony into this story, but it just does not come off. For a horror segment it makes you wonder why they included it. Basically whether you are straight, bi, or gay this segment just ends up being pointless and offensive.
The Great Damone: This is along the lines of an old Roger Corman movie called “A Bucket of Blood.” It follows a deadbeat egotistical artist that kills his girlfriend and then uses her blood and body parts in his works of art. The good: There are actually a couple of cast members in the art gallery sequence that don’t look like they are friends with every other member of the cast and crew. In other words, they may have actually auditioned for the parts. Also there is kind of a neat shot at the end involving a devil painting the artist had done. The criticism: The part of the artist is so “caricatured” that he becomes distracting to the rest of the story.
Slash of the Blade: A serial killer dressed like Jack the Ripper (he may even be Jack the Ripper’s spirit considering how he is able to pop up suddenly from spot to spot) goes about killing 5 to 6 people in broad daylight around a neighborhood and a parking lot. That’s pretty much it. The good: the female actors are fairly attractive, the killer’s costume is nice, and there are a couple of decent gore effects. The criticism: This would have really – REALLY benefited by being shot at night. As it is it is way too sunny; there is no mood or atmosphere to it. The other factor is that there really is no story here; this guy shows up and people die.
Final Rating: 3 out of 10 dead demon rats. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, the filmmakers have their heart in the right place, but really need to work harder on story, structure, lighting, and atmosphere for their next foray into movie making. Also when it comes to the camera work, some creative camera movement would be appreciated. For the most part this movie was either hand-held or on a tripod. Some dolly shots would enhance it greatly. These things are all possible even when you’re working on a low-budget or no-budget movie. What you lack in funds needs to be made up for in creativity.
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