In this twisted horror anthology, five strangers are drawn to an abandoned theater and forced to watch their deepest and darkest fears play out before them. Lurking in the shadows is the Projectionist, who preys upon their souls with his collection of disturbing films. As each reel spins its sinister tale, the characters find frightening parallels to their own lives.​

Initially conceived as a followup TV series to writer/director Mick Garris‘ 2005 Showtime series Masters of HorrorNightmare Cinema was intended to showcase an international collection of short films created by some of the genres great directors and writers. Various circumstances resulted in the concept being re-crafted into an anthology film instead. Along with Garris, who not only directs his own short but the wrap-around segments as well, directors Joe Dante (Gremlins), Ryûhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train), Alejandro Brugués‘ (Juan of the Dead), and David Slade (30 Days of Night) join in with their shorts.

The Rialto Cinema is haunted by the Projectionist (Mickey Rourke), a man who confronts those that enter the cinema with films of the greatest fears. A passerby spies their name up on the marquee and is intrigued to enter and view their film. The five films are each of a different style and do well in representing the filmmaker behind each. If you are familiar with these gentlemen and were not aware going in who directed which film, I guarantee you would be able to figure it out.

The setup for the film finds people walking down the street past the cinema noticing their own names up on the marquee. Curious they each head in and find themselves watching themselves up on the screen.

Brugués’ comedic entry, The Thing in the Woods, starts things off and is a film that showcases Brugués’ sense of comedic timing mixed well with the natural tension of a horror movie. Just when you think the tone has shifted to something more terrifying and serious, the tone shifts again to an almost macabre slapstick. Dante’s piece, Mirari, recalls episodes of The Twilight Zone, specifically Eye of the Beholder. Here Dante presents a film that could be a cousin to that classic episode with his plastic surgery story starring Richard Chamberlain as a creepy doctor.

Mashit, sees Japanese director Kitamura direct a film written by Mexican screenwriter Sandra Becerril. The result is an amazing mashup of a Catholic demon story and Asian gore. My favorite of the bunch is Slade’s This Way to Egress. The film is like a black and white, Lynch-esque,  existential dream in which a woman feels her grip on reality slowly slip away.

The final film, Dead, and the wraparound segments, The Projectionist, were both directed by Garris. Dead focuses on a young boy who survives a car jacking that sees both of his parents killed in front of him. Having been shot himself, the boy was dead for 17 minutes before being revived and thus is able to see the dead souls around him. The Projectionist is the one area of the film that feels like it may have been shortened in the editing process. The wraparound segments are inconsistent. We don’t even get a hint of the projectionist until after the second film. Likewise not ever film is followed by some kind of in theater epilogue. When the first film ended, the second one started immediately without us ever seeing the girl who came into the cinema again. This may lead us to think she had been pulled into the screen but we see with the others that is not the case.

Each of the films in Nightmare Cinema were very well made and I enjoyed them all. The weakest part, as I mentioned above, were those wraparound segments. Watching the film made me long for the series version of this which I feel would have been able to better create a mythology around the projectionist and the cinema as a whole.

Horror Movie Night

We were honored to show Nightmare Cinema during its opening weekend and equally as honored to be joined by directors Mick Garris, Ryûhei Kitamura, Alejandro Brugués, and screenwriter Lawrence C. Connolly (This Way to Egress) for a post show Q&A hosted by our friend Miguel Rodriguez of Horrible Imaginings. Joe Dante was originally scheduled to join us as well but unfortunately had to cancel. The Q&A lasted for over an hour and featured some really good questions from the audience.

The accompanying short film from the Midsummer Scream Screaming Room was The Nightmare Cows by filmmaker Mark Pontrelli.  This film, which features Pontrelli’s son describing the Nightmare Cows along with crayon drawn images, is a favorite among the Screaming Room team. Mr. Pontrelli was unable to attend but sent along a wonderful video introduction featuring his son and wife who also participated in making the film.

Nightmare Cinema

Nightmare Cinema – Official Theatrical Trailer 2019 from Good Deed Entertainment on Vimeo.

Runtime: 1 hr. 14 mins.
Directed By:
Alejandro Brugués, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Ryûhei Kitamura, David Slade
Written By:
Sandra Becerril, Alejandro Brugués, Lawrence C. Connolly, Mick Garris, Richard Christian Matheson, David Slade

It was a great night with a terrific turnout. These Horror Movie Nights are the highlight our month and we hope you will be able to come and join us. Next month, we will be screening Joe Dante’s 1990 classic sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch on Saturday July 20th at 7:30 at The Frida Cinema. Ticket are available here.

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About the Author

A lifelong movie fan of all genres, Eric has a special appreciation for the wide and varied genre of horror. In addition to writing for, Eric is active in the many of the events we put on throughout the year. Most notably our annual Screaming Room Film Festival at the Midsummer Scream convention and our monthly Horror Movie Nights at The Frida Cinema.
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