‘Nightmare Cinema’: The goriest, most twisted movie of the year so far

Five short films, anchored by a chilling Mickey Rourke, are the best kind of bloody.

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The possessed children must be stopped in the “Mashit” segment of the horror anthology “Nightmare Cinema.”

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“I’m The Projectionist, sweetie pie. I’m the curator of a hundred years of nightmares, trapped in a silver screen that never forgets.” – Mickey Rourke as, yes, The Projectionist in “Nightmare Cinema.”

Meet The Projectionist.

He looks like he just left his day job as the lead dancer for the senior division of a Magic Mike-type male stripper ensemble.

A leather getup. Long blond hair falling into his face. An orangey complexion that cries out, “Fake bake!” A glistening, bared chest revealing some serious man boobage.

‘Nightmare Cinema’


Good Deed Entertainment presents a film directed by Alejandro Brugués. Joe Dante, Ryûhei Kitamura, David Slade and Mick Garris and written by Garris, Brugués, Slade, Richard Christian Matheson, Sandra Becerril and Lawrence C. Connolly. Rated R (for horror violence/gore, grisly images, language, some sexuality and brief nude images). Running time: 119 minutes. Opens Friday at the Pickwick in Park Ridge and on demand.

Mickey Rourke plays The Projectionist, who is the one common thread among the five short films that make up the horror anthology “Nightmare Cinema.”

Conceived by Mick Garris (the Showtime anthology horror series “Masters of Horror”), who also directs one of the episodes, “Nightmare Cinema” as a whole is the bloodiest, most violent, most gruesome and most twisted movie I’ve seen this year.

And I mean that mostly in a good way.

Some of these horror shorts are more effective than others, but there’s no disputing the chilling, creepy, haunting presence of Rourke as The Projectionist, a grim reaper of the balcony who welcomes a series of guests to his old-school movie house and shows each of them a film starring … themselves. And we’re not talking happy home movies here.


The Projectionist (Mickey Rourke, standing) treats a guest (Maurice Benard) to a highly personal fright flick in “Nightmare Cinema.”

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The Projectionist’s theater is like the Hotel California: You can check out any time, but you can never leave.

“Nightmare Cinema” opens with one Samantha Smith (Sarah Elizabeth Winters) approaching a theater with a marquee advertising “The Thing in the Woods” with Samantha Smith.

Samantha goes inside. Oh boy. You sure about that, Samantha?

Almost instantly, Samantha is watching her blood-spattered self on screen, running through the woods like the classic heroine in the final act of a slasher movie — and sure enough, she’s on the run from the Welder, a Jason Voorhees-like killing machine who is stalking Samantha and her friends.

Director Alejandro Brugués (“Juan of the Dead”) segues from standard splatter movie material into something darker, weirder and creepier, leaving us cringing and laughing at the same time. It’s an effectively disturbing opening chapter.

Next up: The legendary scare-meister Joe Dante (“Piranha,” “The Howling,” “Gremlins”) is behind the camera for “Mirari,” which has strong echoes of one of the great “Twilight Zone” episodes of all-time: “Eye of the Beholder,” from 1960, which was about a conventionally beautiful woman who is seen as ugly and disfigured in a world in which the typical human has the face of, well, a pig.


Zarah Mahler stars in the “Mirari” segment of “Nightmare Cinema.”

Cranked Up Films

In “Mirari,” Zarah Mahler’s Anna, who is about to be married, wants to have plastic surgery to remove the scar across her face. Enter the great Richard Chamberlain (Dr. Kildare himself!) as Dr. Leneer, the best in his field, who tells Anna as long she’s going to be under the knife and under anesthetic, he can make some other “adjustments” as well. He suggests narrowing the nose, giving Anna “a bit more chin and cheekbones” and “more proportionate” breasts, as well.

“We’re here to make dreams comes true,” says the ever-grinning Dr. Leneer.

Easy, Dr. Franken-Makeover!

The 85-year-old Chamberlain is a hoot as the malevolent Dr. Leneer and is the best thing about a story that begins with promise but becomes predictable and borderline silly before ending with a whimper.

By far the goriest, most disgusting and worst episode is “Mashit,” from Ryuhei Kitamura, who seems intent on irritating, annoying and offending the viewer with a Catholicism-bashing piece of garbage featuring a pounding synthesizer score and a bunch of nonsense involving demons and possession and religious statues “bleeding” from the eyes — all of it an excuse for a protracted, exceedingly violent final sequence in which a priest leads the battle against scores of possessed children.

Heads roll, literally. Director Kitamura might well have been aiming for shock and dark comedy, but it comes across as desperate, ugly, obscenely stupid schlock.

From that low we segue to a truly original and searing piece of work: “The Way to Egress,” from the accomplished director David Slade (“Hard Candy,” “30 Days of Night,” episodes of “Breaking Bad,” “Hannibal” and “Black Mirror”).

Filmed in black and white and filled with unforgettable, sometimes deeply troubling visuals, “The Way to Egress” has a Hitchockian vibe. Elizabeth Reaser is absolutely sensational as Helen, a mother of two who finds herself in a world where things are becoming increasingly surreal and dreamlike — or should we say nightmare-like. Is she trapped in a horror house, or losing her mind?

We close things out with Mick Garris’ “Dead,” which owes more than a little to the basic framework of “The Sixth Sense” but takes the whole “I see dead people” thing to an even stranger, sometimes wickedly funny, sometimes wicked and not at all funny place.

Imagine being a kid who can indeed see dead people — some of whom might want to have the kid join them on the other side. The kid manages to kill a bad guy, but that just means the dead version of the bad guy could resurface and try to kill him anyway!

Remind me never go to a film festival programmed by The Projectionist.

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