Saturday, October 17, 2020

NIGHTWISH (1989) Blu-ray Review

SCARE-A-THON Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 18 
Total First Time Views: 10 
Amount raised for BOXVILLE: $1,301.76 

Nightwish (1989) d. Bruce R. Cook (USA) (96 min) (1st viewing)

A group of graduate students studying the science of dreams heads off to a remote mansion in the desert to partake in experiments of the paranormal variety, led by their fanatical professor (Jack Starrett) who hopes to communicate with entities beyond the veil. As the hours pass and unexplained occurrences arise, the researchers begin to wonder if they can trust the house, their instructor, their classmates, or even their own minds….

Following stellar releases of The Unnameable and Dark Side of the Moon, Unearthed Films has once again lived up to its name by rolling out another unsung but worthwhile offering from the VHS era. In this case, it’s the triple threat of gratuitous female nudity (thank you, Elizabeth Kaitan and Alisha Das), over-the-top gory practical effects (courtesy of a young and hungry KNB FX), and a rambunctious fresh-faced ensemble featuring the likes of genre faves Clayton Rohner (I, Madman, April Fool's Day) and Brian Thompson (Fright Night Part II, Cobra) that sell the sizzle.

However, the steak in this case is a surprisingly juicy slice of prime, thanks in large part to writer/director Cook’s bonkersville script and hypnotic “is it a dream or isn’t it” sequences that more often than not conclude with someone living ending up dead/maimed or someone thought dead suddenly coming back to life. Meanwhile, the team of Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, and Howard Berger (KNB) deliver some impressively and imaginatively messy showcase moments that include severed limbs and insects emerging from cracked skulls, as well as a haunting wall of corpses that feels like it belongs in a much more elaborately funded feature.

With a plot that references lost souls, aliens, meridian energy ley lines, contaminated drinking water, genetic freaks, mutant wildlife, and just gets crazier with every passing minute, Nightwish pretty much does away with any sense of fair play with its audience within the opening 20 minutes. Cook and Co. are just here to have a good time at our brain’s expense.

That said, they do so in such a good-natured way that we are easily won over by the WTF-rich narrative and the cast’s goofy charms (especially Thompson, intent on making his every onscreen moment memorable, for good or ill – “The highway is MINE!”) Yes, there is Tom Dugan’s rather unfortunate portrayal of a mentally handicapped character that wouldn’t pass muster today, but you can’t say he’s not committed, and fans of ’70s action cinema can’t help but smile at perennial bald-pated tough guy Robert Tessier (The Longest Yard, Hard Times) showing up in his penultimate screen role  as Starrett’s right-hand lackey.

A very pleasant surprise, and well worth checking out.


Commentary with executive producer Paul White and Stephen Biro
Alternate slip cover (1st print run only while supplies last)
24-page booklet on Nightwish (1st print run only while supplies last)
Restored color correction and new 4K mastering from the original negative

Nightwish is available now from Unearthed Classics and can be ordered HERE:

NOTE: I've said it before and I'll say it again. Could Unearthed’s website be any less user-friendly? I’m not sure if you’ve heard, folks, but there are plenty of other sites that are happy to make life easier for their customers which makes for – Shock! Surprise! – satisfied and loyal customers. I am loath to send people toward Amazon to make their video purchases, preferring to instead connect customers directly with the distributors. But since Unearthed does not provide any direct product links, requiring shoppers to land blindly in their “Store” section and scroll around for ages looking for the item in question, I’m sending you to DiabolikDVD’s site instead.

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