Thursday, October 6, 2016

Nightmare Weekend (1986) - Part 1 of 3

Our last film, Blood and Lace (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) was a gritty human drama. Our next film, Nightmare Weekend (1986) is completely different: a complexly plotted high-tech thriller combining espionage, computers, robotics, Dale Midkiff, and murder. (Nightmare Weekend is available on Vinegar Syndrome Blu-Ray and streaming on Amazon Prime.)

Again, the critics of your backward universe fail to understand and appreciate this groundbreaking thriller.

At Horror Society, impatient reviewer Blacktooth writes, "the film moves at a terrible pace resulting in a rather boring many scenes creep by which really tries the viewer’s patience." Reviewer Drew "Greezus" C. on Amazon writes, "I must say that this movie is the longest, most trying experience I have ever had." Also on Amazon, Mark O. writes, "This was a really, really stupid film that believes the viewer is stupid."

It must be noted at the outset that the machinations of Nightmare Weekend's interconnecting plots are quite complex, and some are subject to interpretation, which is part of what makes the film so great. I will attempt to describe the plot in sufficient detail. Rest assured, however, that if some of my description seems confusing, it is a weakness of your faculties and not of this masterfully scripted film--and certainly not a reflection of my narrative abilities!

Nightmare Weekend begins with a gripping, high-tech heist attempt. A private plane lands on a runway at night. Two men ride motorcycles to a mansion they call "the target." Their mission is to access the mainframe (or, more properly, "main frame" in this film) by hooking up a box labeled "Programmed Disk" to a satellite dish.

But someone, somewhere has detected the intrusion. A robotic hand puppet named George, attached to a computer, interfaces with the main frame. George, through the main frame, is able to convert silver balls from digital form to the real world. He sends one instantaneously toward "the target" and it slams into the eye of one of the intruders, causing a painful bloody death. His partner Ken, played by the great Dale Midriff only three years before his starring role in Pet Sematary, watches him bleed to death as the main titles begin.

The theme song, "Nightmare Fantasy," became a big hit in my universe. Its perceptive lyrics deserve to be quoted in full:

"You are a nightmare,
You have a hold on me.
You move in silence.
You do not speak to me.
You are a darkness,
A total mystery.
You are a nightmare...
A nightmare fantasy.

You are the nightmare,
A moldy tapestry.
A frightening stranger,
A stillborn ecstasy.
You have no conscience,
You have no sympathy.
You are a nightmare...
A nightmare fantasy."

Truer words were never sung. Moldy tapestries indeed have no conscience, and certainly no sympathy.

After the title sequence, we move to a college in Florida, where we join two young women at a dancersize class. They are considering what to do over the presumably non-nightmare weekend. Annie wants to make $500 by participating in a scientific study. Jessica, a famous scientist's daughter, feels obligated to spend the weekend with her father.

As the credits finish, we see Jessica driving her Jeep to her father's house. The film then cuts to a Mediterranean-style house. In a less accomplished film, we would understand that the Mediterranean-style house is Jessica's destination, but the filmmakers of Nightmare Weekend always want to keep us on edge. This is not Jessica's father's house but another house entirely.

This house is presided over by Julie Clingstone. Julie, who just happens to be the woman guiding the two intruders to infiltrate the main frame in the prologue, inspects the servants. She keeps them in line with instructions like "I don't want to smell any booze on your breath" and "You may look innocent, but you're a slut just like your mother."

The film then skillfully introduces us to even more characters. A motorcycle rider wearing a high-tech Walkman parks his bike and dances in footloose fashion into a bar called Stage Stop to check out the action. There is a brief, unexplainable confrontation with a man wearing a leather jacket. One of the other patrons is the chauffeur from the previous scene, drinking out of a flask. He gets a call on his walkie-talkie from Julie Clingstone telling him to pick up the girls--now!

Meanwhile, at Jessica's father's Victorian-style house, which is overrun with satellite dishes, Jessica finds her father, Edward Brake, sitting on the verandah.

After kissing him on both cheeks in the Floridian manner, Edward tells her he won't be able to spend much time with her this weekend because "we're coming to the end of the tests on the biometer." Jessica asks, "Who's we?" Edward tells her he is working with Julie Clingstone, much to Jessica's disappointment.

Speaking of Julie Clingstone, she interrupts Dale Midkiff's flashback of his partner dying. Again the film attempts to throw us off our guard. This flashback shows the partner dying in a motorcycle accident, hit by a large truck. This seems to contradict the earlier scene that showed Dale Midkiff's partner dying by means of eye trauma caused by a flying metal sphere.

Back at Jessica's father's house, Jessica has a heartfelt conversation with the robotic hand puppet George, her best friend and an excellent example of the state of artificial intelligence in 1986.

George is attached to a television and oscilloscope, and is able to play the ColecoVision version of Turbo, complete with the Expansion Module #2 racing controller.

Because the video game is connected to the main frame at the time, Jessica's playing connects to Julie Clingstone's car--Jessica is actually driving the car by remote control, in fast-motion no less! Julie is horrified by her loss of control of the car, but when the experience is over she calmly starts up her car and drives off.

Julie's alcoholic chauffeur picks up three college girls in a limousine. When the girls complain that the sandwiches packed by one of their mothers is too dry, the chauffeur stops at the Stage Stop bar so they can get a drink. It turns out Stage Stop is a combination bar/video arcade/pick-up joint. Two of the girls immediately start flirting, then dancing, with two of the barflies, one of whom tells Tony (the dancing Walkman-wearer from before) to slit the limousine's tires. Tony does so, dancing the entire time.

The chauffeur, the three girls, Tony, and one of the barflies get into the limo. Despite its slashed tires, the car makes it to a grassy area. We watch as the chauffeur puts on the spare tire while one of the girls and the barfly engage in heavy petting inside the car, dropping clothes and underwear out the window, all to the amusement of dancing Tony and the other girls.

Julie Clingstone, recovered from her remote-control car problem, drives to Jessica's father's house with a Doberman that was previously described as her "killer dog." She shows Edward some test results, presumably from the biometer invention. "Cats 100%. Rats 100%. Mice 100%. Killer alley cats to good-natured house pets. You've had complete personality reversals," she says.

But Edward is reluctant to test the biometer, which they also call Apache, on humans. It's too risky.

The chauffeur drives the college girls--they dropped off Tony and the barfly--to Julie's Mediterranean-style house, where they meet the maid and the butler. They are invited to relax for the weekend.

What will happen next? Far too much to preview here. Find out in Part 2.