by Hope Madden
Horror short compilations can be tricky business. Mick Garris, far better known for being a horror fan than a horror filmmaker, collects a handful of new shorts for Nightmare Cinema.
As he did with Masters of Horror, a sometimes wonderful and generally competent cable program he produced in 2007, his latest effort pulls in the talents of a few of his pals.
The through-line “The Projectionist” ties the disparate group of shorts together as, one after another, individuals see their names on the lonely marquee of a single screen theater and wander in to sit alone in the dark and watch as their nightmare unspools, controlled by the man in the booth (Mickey Rourke—shirtless, natch).
Those nightmares boast the direction of Joe Dante (The Howling), Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead), David Slade (Hard Candy), Ryuhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train) and Garris himself.
Things open briskly with Brugués’s “The Thing in the Woods,” a slasher/SciFi mishmash with a bit of novelty hiding behind the mask of The Welder, the seemingly unkillable marauder stalking a group of good looking college kids in the woods.
What the short lacks in originality it mainly makes up for with humor, blood and an entirely unexplained basement full of corpses.
Important tangent: If you have not seen Brugues’s glorious 2011 caper Juan of the Dead, you should feel compelled to do so right now. Right now.
Dante’s “Mirare” plays like a particularly corporeal Twilight Zone, with a predictable outcome but a fairly wild journey.
Kitamura’s “Mashit” offers the most compelling visuals and nothing else. It’s just one more tired, lazy entry into the tedious “Catholicism is so bad” subgenre.
Slade’s “This Way to Egress” impresses. Feeling like a genuine nightmare with that same kind of illogical logic and terrifying vaguery that frustrates the dreamer, the short follows Helen (Elizabeth Reaser) through a moment of madness set in a doctor’s office that’s increasingly marred with filth and populated by disfigured janitors grunting through their endless cleanup.
A mysterious plot, Reaser’s wonderfully committed performance and some unsettling imagery combine to make this one the most intriguing of the shorts.
Garris’s own “Dead” completes the lineup with a bland “I see dead people” drama that collides with the framing “The Projectionist” to remind viewers that Garris is better at enjoying horror than he is at creating it.