Nightmare City (1980) – Review, Rating and Synopsis

Nightmare City (1980)

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  • Release Date:  1980
  • Genre:  Virus
  • Director:  Umberto Lenzi
  • Screenwriter:  Antonio Cesare Corti, Luis María Delgado, Piero Regnoli
  • Cast & Crew: 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, and Mel Ferrer.

Nightmare City (1980)Rating:

  • Dylan = 7.5 / 10;
  • Ronan = 2 / 10;
  • IMDB = 5.7/10;
  • Rotten Tomatoes = 4/10.

Nightmare City (1980) Synopsis:

After an emergency plane landing, a group of mutants departs the plane and causes havoc in the city/ countryside. In the meantime, a local news reporter tries to share the news to the public but the military step in and try to stop a state of emergency.

Nightmare City (1980) Review:

To begin with, I don’t regard this film as a zombie film (and neither does Lenzi), although it has similar themes, like being bitten and getting infected that doesn’t mean it is. As far as horror goes, it fails to provide anything to remotely startle or scare making it already a pretty dissatisfying horror film, In fact, I would class it as cash in for the success of Dawn of the Dead (1978).

At least with Dawn Of The Dead (1978), the characters are interesting and fun. Here, however, the characters seem to notice the apparent danger around them but wander around aimlessly in search of help like they were trying to understand why they are in the film, to begin with. Some of the characters were unnecessary.

Let’s start with the flaws first. The dubbing is some of the worst I’ve seen. Like most cheap, exploitive Italian films from the 70’s/80’s, it was done to draw western audiences in to watch it. Unfortunately, it really extracted some of the atmospheres out of the film. Thereee are some scenes that make no sense; here are a couple of examples:

The Generals wife, Sheila, discovers a blood-soaked knife in one of her sculptures and decides to ignore the fact that there could be someone possibly in her house yet continues to re-build her sculpture. From a car explosion to a TV that explodes into a bursting fireball left me questioning whether or not it’s supposed to be scary or whether or not I’m watching a Michael Bay film?

The film had a lot of potentials, it really did! But the characters and plot (and at times bad special effects) ruin it. Again though, I couldn’t care less for the characters, what is interesting about them? Where are they going? The only character I found interesting was the mad doctor at the beginning – but he just disappears for the rest of the film and we are left with burnt pancake faced mutants for the next 80 minutes. And don’t get me started on these “Radiated people” with only face defects, which happens to make them all look the same. Where’s the imagination in that? What about body modifications? That would have made them a lot more frightening!

Whilst the film may not give us body modifications, Lenzi Tries to give a fresh take on the “Zombie” sub-genre by having these Mutants play with machine guns. Despite that being pretty cool, it doesn’t really make it scary either, it makes it more absurd and comical.

The film, however, narrowly manages to have some advantages. The music by Stelvio Cipriani is very enjoyable, both groovy and in tempo with some scenes,  it reminded me of something from Argento’s work with Goblin. At times, the soundtrack even closely resembled a sleazy Joe D’amto “Emanuelle” film. For fans of Lenzi, you’ll have the equitable amount of fun with it. Thereee’s exploitation, thrown in with Lenzi’s typical trait of eye and breast violence (as seen in Cannibal Ferox).  The best of the lot is the hospital scene, which provides a high body counts and plenty of slit throats to please the fans. The gore isn’t top notch but it’s fun; especially when a Kevin Bacon look-a-like gets harpooned in the chest!

Overall, it was very bad, there was no final pay-off or something to redeem itself by, the ending is perhaps the most clichéd, frustrating and one of the worst sins you can commit to storytelling and even to celluloid too. In the end, though, it had potential and a couple of redeeming features. Unfortunately not enough to save itself from the nightmare that watching it was.

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