Thursday, October 13, 2016

Nightmare Weekend (1986) - Part 3 of 3

This is Part 3 of our discussion of Nightmare Weekend. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here(Nightmare Weekend is available on Vinegar Syndrome Blu-Ray and streaming on Amazon Prime.)

The girls, Annie and Linda, party with Gary and Tony. Annie, however, has a bad feeling about the house. She recognizes the staircase from a picture Jessica showed her, and she reveals Jessica warned her about Julie Clingstone. This revelation, however, does not stop her from dancing with Gary.

Meanwhile, Julie Clingstone continues to put her plan into motion. She lets a tarantula loose in the kitchen. She sends one of Apache's silver spheres into a cup of sugar. The maid, preparing coffee, is scared by the tarantula and drinks the cup of sugar to calm her nerves, ingesting the silver sphere. She falls unconscious to the floor, where a pattern of concentric circles is projected onto her face. After she wakes up, she is no longer afraid of spiders. She caresses and kisses the tarantula. Apache has worked on her, removing her phobia of spiders.

In one of the bedrooms, Linda is getting passionate, and quite nude, with Tony. Afterward, Linda goes into the bathroom to brush her teeth while a silver sphere flies to her panties, which are lying on the carpet.

In probably the most famous scene from the film, one that depicts a true nightmare, Tony picks up the panties--and they suddenly attack him! They snake their way into his mouth and choke him. Again, our understanding of the Apache program means we can only infer that, pre-Apache, the panties were mild-mannered and quiet, but now they have lost their inhibitions and are out for murder.

Julie Clingstone watches approvingly through her bank of monitors.

Elsewhere, Jessica and Dale Midkiff consummate their budding romance beside a picturesque lake.

Julie is at the top of her game now. She sends a sphere into Annie's mouth, then gets the butler to steal Gary's keys so she can send a sphere into his mouth. Annie falls into the pool, so we can conclude she was previously afraid of water, and Gary starts vomiting, so we can conclude he, like Jerry Seinfeld before him, had avoided vomiting for an impressive period of time.

In the morning, Edward returns home from his overnight visit to the veterinarian in time to discover what Julie is doing. He fires her, but she knocks him out with a metal canister and ties him up in the bathroom. When Jessica returns from her overnight visit with Dale Midkiff, Julie tells her that her father wants her at the mansion, which refers to the Mediterranean-style house, not the Victorian-style house that appears to be equally large and mansion-like.

Julie gets in her Jeep and drives an indeterminate distance to the mansion. She looks around for her father but he is nowhere to be found. She does find the girls, who have been grotesquely transformed by Apache into mutant monsters. One of them lunges vampire-like for her throat. Another pushes her down onto a bed and threatens her with scissors--obviously, she had previously been terrified of haircuts.

While Jessica tries to escape her attackers, in the other house, George sounds the computerized alarm and Edward manages to free himself and turn off all the power, shutting down Apache, at least temporarily.

The damage has been done to the research subjects, however. The Mediterranean house is a chaotic den of rape, cannibalism, and knifings. Jessica tries to hide. Julie Clingstone takes the limo to the Mediterranean house to confront Jessica and blame everything on Jessica's father. Jessica doesn't believe her. It's not possible that her father is to blame.

When Edward arrives, Julie says it's too late. The tapes are already in San Jose. She is taking over the project.

Julie leaves with a suitcase, leaving Edward and Jessica to explain the murders, deformities, cannibalism, etc. As night falls, she takes the limo to her planned rendezvous with Dale Midkiff at the air ranch (I am told your universe's word for an air ranch is airport). He has collected the money from San Jose and the plane is all warmed up.

But Dale Midkiff has a surprise for Julie. The cashier's check, standard for such criminal transactions, was made out to him, not Julie. Julie races through the night to stop him.

 In the next scene, with sunlight streaming through the blinds, Edward is shredding the evidence linking him to Apache. Jessica says she can't help him because she is meeting Dale Midkiff at the air ranch.

The film cuts to the air ranch at night. Julie gets out of her car, but she is immediately knifed by her maid, who was hidden in the back of the limo. Presumably, the maid's newfound fondness for spiders also translates to murderous feelings toward her employer.

Jessica pulls up in her Jeep and yells to Dale Midkiff to warn him about the knife-wielding maid. A reactivated George detects that Jessica is in trouble and initiates the "protect Jessica" protocol. Back at the air ranch, Jessica screams in the dark.

Freeze frame.

The end. Weekend over. The shock of the finale is mitigated only by the reprise of the theme song, but with additional verses, reproduced here:

"You are a temple,
And you have taken.
I cannot sleep yet,
I cannot waken.
You have no conscience,
You have no sympathy.
You are a nightmare...
A nightmare fantasy.

Is it just meant to be?
It should happen to me.
Cause I know that for sure
I can't take anymore.
Will I really lose my mind?
How can a dream be so unkind?
Will you never let me go?
Will I never, ever know?

You are a nightmare,
A marbled tapestry.
A frightening stranger,
A stillborn ecstasy.
I can't go on anymore.
You hold the key to the door.
You are a nightmare...
A nightmare fantasy."

(This haunting song—music and lyrics by Martin Kershaw, sung by Miriam Stockley—should be experienced in the context of the film, but it is on YouTube at

As even a cursory reading of the description above will show, Nightmare Weekend is a tightly plotted, complex thriller with its many narrative strands woven together in original and exciting ways. It could be compared to films of Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson, but it predates them by a decade and puts them to shame. It is made even more impressive by observing the Aristotelian unities of time, place, and action, occurring over a single, some would say nightmarish, weekend in only two houses and a bar/arcade. And a university campus, but only at the beginning. And, of course, an air ranch.

Nightmare Weekend was made by French filmmakers shooting in Florida. As with the Italian filmmakers shooting Beyond Darkness (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) in Louisiana, the combination of European and American perspectives and performers creates a unique cinematic experience. The sophistication of the European film tradition brings a respect for the audience's intelligence, the knowledge that the viewer will not need to know such simplistic and unnecessary details such as why personal possessions are needed for Apache to work, why the opposite psychological experience of arachnophobia is murderous rage, why the larger house in the film is called the house and the smaller house is called the mansion, and how silk underpants can be possessed by a silver sphere and commit murder. I could go on but you get the point. The answers to these questions are found in the experience of viewing the film.

And the American perspective brings actors who can, in most cases, speak English.