TV news reporter Dean Miller waits at the airport for the arrival of a scientist that he is about to interview. There, an unmarked military plane makes an emergency landing. The plane doors open and dozens of zombies burst out stabbing and shooting military waiting outside. Miller tries to let the people know of this event, but General Murchison of Civil Defense will not allow it. Then, Miller tries to find his wife and escape from the blood-thirsty zombies that are all over the city.
Directed by: Umberto Lenzi
. Starring: Hugo Stiglitz
, Laura Trotter
, Maria Rosaria Omaggio
, Francisco Rabal
, Sonia Viviani
, Eduardo Fajardo
, Stefania D'Amario
, Ugo Bologna
, Sara Franchetti
, Manuel Zarzo
, Tom Felleghy
, Pierangelo Civera
, Achille Belletti
. Music by: Stelvio Cipriani
This film is difficult for me to review, because there are so many parts that work, and so many parts that don't work, and oftentimes those are intermingled with one another, so it's difficult to really explain it clearly.
A big thing that did work was how the "zombies" were handled. I've heard the director wanted to go away from the George Romero staple of zombies lumbering around screaming "BRAINS!" at the top of their lungs, and he succeeds greatly. These monsters are well realized, and I would argue they elicit far more fear than "real" zombies. For one, they're intelligent: they attack power sources, cut off phone lines, hunt down their victims like a serial killer would, etc. For another, they move fast - and if I recall correctly, this was one of the first instances of fast moving zombies, long before "28 Days Later" or "World War Z" (though I'm sure some horror buff out there could refute me). Finally, they don't just bite into your scalp; rather, they use weapons. Zombies hack, stab, and bash in their victims, which again gives them more the feel of insane, unstoppable killers than just mindless undead. They even get downright sadistic with their victims, cutting off nipples and tearing out eyeballs, all while their victims still live.
Another thing that worked is the panic and tension that erupts in the chaos of the zombie attacks is well realized. Sure, sometimes it turns into a case of extras running around aimlessly in the background (a bit like a Scooby Doo chase down a hallway), but other times it captures well the panic that an attack like this WOULD cause. When the zombies attack an area, I actually felt SCARED for the characters, and wondered how I would have handled such a situation.
Then there are the parts of the film which DON'T work...
One problem is the consistency of the special effects and acting. While the special effects are your standard fair for an Italian film of this era, sometimes there can be bloopers: eg., in one scene, a woman gets her head blown off, but literally a second later she has her head back, safe and sound. Also, some of the actors are better at doing the "Owe, I'm getting hit by bullets" motion than others. When people are shooting zombies, some of the actors remember that, even if you're impervious, there's a little thing called "kinetic physics," and a high caliber bullet is going to make your body move when it hits your flesh and bone; other actors, however, act like those little kids you knew when you played war, and who ran around like crazy even after you had "shot" them about 500 times. In scenes where people are clearly being shot at, and yet not even reacting to being shot at, it makes it more obvious that the soldiers are using blanks and not real bullets.
Another major problem is the portrayal of the government forces. Now, I'm not going to sit here and pretend that all militaries are perfect, or that any one country has the best military in the world...but geez louise, I'm pretty sure even the worst army on this planet would have handled a zombie situation better than the government forces in this movie do. A lot of these soldiers just fire aimlessly at the zombies, then gawk stupidly when they draw near, permitting themselves to be killed. The most widespread gripe about the soldiers in this movie is that, even after they are told that these creatures can be killed by a shot to the head, literally NONE of them do that! Now again, I'm not saying every soldier in the world is a smart fellow, or the best shot, but I am pretty certain if you told a group of soldiers "Hey, you know those crazy monsters hell bent on killing you all, and your families? Yeah, you can knock them down flat by a bullet to the head"...well, I'm PRETTY SURE most of them would remember that, and try to carry it out to the best of their ability. This is, in fact, one of the problems with horrorsci-fi films in general: in order to make your monsterenemy more threateningintelligent, you have to either work hard to try and make it believable, or you have to make your governmentmilitary forces incredibly stupid and incompetent. When a film does the latter, it doesn't do much except aggravate and annoy the audience.
But by far the biggest thing that ticked me off about this movie was the ending. I understand the ending brings about mixed feelings, even from die-hard fans of this movie, but it absolutely ruined the movie for me. Basically, right at the part where the reporter's wife dies from falling from a helicopter...the reporter wakes up. OH! IT WAS ALL A DREAM! That's right - one of the endings they tell you in a fiction writing class NOT TO DO, this film does it. And to top it off, that day the reporter goes to an airport where...guess what...A RADIOACTIVE PLANE IS LANDING! Then the words "The nightmare becomes reality..." appear, and that's literally it. That's the end of the movie. I half expected a zombie M. Night Shyamalan to pop out of the plane and shout, "Ooooh, what a twist!" Some people have tried to explain that this is in reference to the movie's title (NIGHTMARE City, derp derp), but that just turns this whole thing into an hour- and-a-half pun, which makes it all even more dumb.
Like I said, this movie has some cool takes on the zombie genre - I wanted to like this movie. Sadly, it has too many other aspects to it that either ruin the story, or just make it annoying to watch. If you love zombie movies, definitely give this one a viewing, though.
Review by Machiavelli84 from the Internet Movie Database.