Friday, March 23, 2012
Jay's Movie of the Week #12: Nightmare (Stage Fright, 1980)
There's some stalk and slash as company members wind up taken out by large, jagged pieces of glass wielded by our just-out-of-frame protagonist... I mean, killer. There's something of a running joke about TV actor Terry violating every theater superstition out there, and it's the closest thing to "misdirection" this film has. It's hard to figure out why Nightmare plays out like it wants you guessing who the killer is, since it's an open secret from the get-go as to who it is and why they do it. Even if they'd thrown some sort of twist in to make someone else the actual villain of the piece, it wouldn't make sense. This is just a study of a crazy lady taking a creative approach to dealing with the ghosts of her past and crappy co-workers. Why our trusty slasher doesn't pick the theater director to knock off first is beyond me.
There's a lot of technical issues to go along with the unnecessary slasher trappings. The score, by the Australian composer Brian May (and not the Brian May from Queen), is heavy handed beyond the point of parody. The editing is either choppy flashback cuts or interminable fade-outs. Then finally there's the acting. Uniformly undistinguished. Jenny Neumann's flat, unexplained American accent in the center of all these native Australians just makes her stand out with one more layer of detachment. She's crazy and she talks funny. Neumann is best known for being in Hell Night and "V," and retired in the early nineties. She's beautiful and stiff, but in her defense she's mostly just asked to stand there; widening eyes and flaring nostrils for yet another flashback cutaway. She's a strong enough center a silly, sleazy slasher like this. About the only other character to make an impression are the director and Bennett, the bitchy and lecherous theater critic. Once he's dispatched, you're ready for the curtain call.