Nightmare Alley (2010)
By now I hope everyone knows that I love indie horror filmmakers and their films. I’m not one of these reviewers who sticks his nose up in the air just because a film’s budget is low, the acting is a little on the amateur side, and the special f/x leave a lot to be desired. Since running anythinghorror.com I’ve seen some amazing indie horror flicks (LONG PIGS, VINDICATION, DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK, and everything Devi Snively has made); some flawed but really fun indie flicks (DENIZEN, THE CITY, HELLWEEK); and I’ve seen some really fucking terrible ones (ESCAPE, BURNING INSIDE). But one thing always stands; I have nothing but the utmost respect for every single indie horror filmmaker who is out there doing what they love and making horror films. Yes; I even respect the filmmakers who make pretty lousy flicks.
Unfortunately NIGHTMARE ALLEY falls into this last category of not being very good. Marked by terrible acting (which is NOT the same as amateur acting), stories that don’t go anywhere and often just kinda fizzle out and end, and special f/x that any 10 year old could execute with some corn syrup and red food coloring, NIGHTMARE ALLEY ends up making you wish you rented a Michael Bay movie instead (and that’s saying something … I hate Michael Bay’s films).
NIGHTMARE ALLEY is presented in an anthology format hosted by a character who’s a cross between the Crypt Keeper from TALES FROM THE CRYPT and your neighborhood pedophile who lives down the street from you. His comments after each story are neither funny nor relevant to what you just watched, and you wish he would just disappear altogether. The f/x consist in fake looking blood being sprayed around and quick edits whereby the camera cuts away from a death scene only to return when the actor being killed is replaced by an extremely phony looking mannequin. The acting? Oh the acting. I mention above that the acting here is terrible which is different from being amateurish. “Amateurish acting” (to me at least) means that there is some talent up on the screen and the actor(s) just need a little more experience. “Terrible acting,” on the other hand, means that no matter how much experience the actors get they’ll be lucky to get to the level of a Ben Affleck (and we all know how bad that is). Most of the actors and actresses pandered to the camera and over-acted as if they were in a bad production of a Shakespeare play.
In all there are seven stories that make up this anthology including “A Fistful of Innards,” “Rebellion,” “Death Chat,” “Meat,” “The Great Damone,” “Closet Case,” and “Slash of the Blade.” I happened to watch this one on my computer while I was flying up to Philly, so I was what you might call a “captive audience.” I did indeed sit through the entire film but did so only because I couldn’t figure out how to open the airplane’s door. The stories are so poorly told and most of the time don’t go anywhere that I was left feeling anxious (because I felt that something should have happened) and let down (because nothing actually happened).
Now I know that writer-directors Laurence Holloway and Walter Ruether didn’t intended NIGHTMARE ALLEY to be taken seriously. That much is clear. I can also tell that Holloway and Ruether love the genre. But sometimes it takes more than a love of the genre and a passion to make a film and to pull off a successful indie horror flick. The fundamentals just weren’t there; the storytelling was deeply flawed, the acting was uncomfortable to watch, the soundtrack was hard to hear when the characters were talking outside, and the special f/x were pretty uninspired. In one particularly disturbing moment (in the “Meat” segment) we get to witness a fat, hairy guy try to pick up a girl by the pool by pinching and rubbing his own nipples. No amount of bleach in the eyes and hot, soapy water will help you get that vision outta your head and help you feel clean again!!
Statistically I was due for a stinker of a film and NIGHTMARE ALLEY really reeks. There’s no doubt that Holloway and Reuther love the horror genre and maybe with time they will gain the experience to execute a solid offering. But with NIGHTMARE ALLEY all we’re left with is a mind-numbing flick that is sorely lacking in basic filmmaking fundamentals. Maybe next film guys.
Directors: Laurence Holloway & Scarlet Fry (also writers)
Plot: ½ out of 5 stars
Gore: 3 out of 10 skulls (there’s gore here, but it’s terribly executed)
Zombie Mayhem: ½ out of 5 brains (for the segment, “A Fistful of Innards”)
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer