Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nightmares (Joseph Sargent, 1983)

My misguided attempt to watch everything in the cinematic oeuvre of Moon Unit Zappa continues abated with her brief yet integral appearance in the horror anthology, Nightmares, a film that includes four unrelated stories slapped together in a semi-haphazard, semi-entertaining manner. And they include, "Terror in Topanga," the tale of Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fishel), a shapely teen whose virginal vagina becomes haunted by the ghost of a recently deceased serial killer named Bojangles McGillicutty (voiced by actor/game show show Bert Convy), "Bishop of Battle," a frightening...Hold up, you're not going to do a fake synopsis for all four segments, are you? Why wouldn't I? And besides, what do you mean, "fake"? That's totally what "Terror in Topanga" is about. No, I get it, "Topanga" is the name of Danielle Fishel's beloved character from the '90s classic, Boy Meets World, and when you saw the words " Topanga" flash on the screen, you immediately thought of Topanga's not-taciturn vagina. Don't be ashamed, I'm sure most people you're age probably thought of that too. The only problem with your joke is Danielle Fishel was only around two years-old when this film was shot. In other words, your joke has gone from being mildly creepy, to extremely creepy in the blink of an eye. I see? Okay, say Danielle Fishel was 18, don't you think a movie about a poltergeist living inside her pussy–don't you mean, pulsating pussy? fine, inside her pulsating pussy–would be a lot more compelling than one about Cristina Raines (The Sentinel) going out after 11pm to buy cigarettes? That's not the point, you should always try to review the movie that's on the screen, not the one that's inside your head. Either way, don't sell Cristina Raines late night cigarette run short.

Don't tell me, Cristina gets abducted by aliens. Not quite, but there's a deranged mental patient on the loose and she's low on gas. Is that it? I'm afraid so. Oh, I just remembered, the guy who plays the store clerk is played Anthony James (The Teacher); one of my favourite actors. Shouldn't he be playing the deranged mental patient? Technically, yes, he probably should. But the first chapter of Nightmares is filled with little twists like that. Speaking of which, another twist just came to mind.

Keep an eye on the grainy picture of the deranged mental patient that appears on the news, as he looks eerily similar to a character who shows up during this chapter's cryptic climax.

Anyway, to say that I was unimpressed with "Terror in Topanga" would be one of them understatement thingies. However, things pick up when "Bishop of Battle" gets underway. I won't lie, this chapter is the reason I watched Nightmares in the first place. And, yes, I realize it's the video age, and that I could have easily just watched this chapter and skipped the rest. But I wanted to experience the film the way director Joseph Sargent and producer/screenwriter Christopher Crowe (he wrote chapters 1-3) originally had intended. Sure you did.

It's true, I haven't checked out what the general consensus is regarding "Bishop of Battle," but I can safely say that the sight of a video game addicted Emilio Estevez hustling Chicano gang members while listening to Fear on his Walkman is pretty badass.

Getting off the bus (to "I Don't Care About You" by Fear), J.J. Cooney (Emilio Estevez) and Zock (Billy Jayne) are in Hollywood to make some quick cash. No, they're not prostitutes, they hustle unsuspecting rubes using J.J.'s talent for playing video games and Zock's talent for, well, playing the concerned friend.

Noticing a Chicano (complete with a plaid shirt, tan trousers and a hair net) playing Pleiades, J.J. approaches him and challenges to a game using his best "aw-shucks, I'm not from around here" voice. The stakes are only for a dollar, but they soon rise, as J.J. purposefully digs himself into a hole. When the Chicano posts a score of 17010, his friends let out a cheer. With the stakes at twenty-five dollars, J.J. decides to stop messing around. You know what that means, right? You got it, it's time "Let's Have a War" by Fear to blast on the punk rock heavy soundtrack.

Isn't "Let's Have a War" by Fear also on the Repo Man soundtrack? Yes it is. You do realize that Nightmares and Repo Man both star Emilio Estevez? Oh, you do. Okay, just checking.

While I've got your attention, did anyone else laugh when J.J. tells Zock that he needs to "beat the bishop"? Last time I checked, it's a slang term for masturbation. After barely getting out of Hollywood in one piece, J.J. is back on his home turf in The Valley, or more specifically, the Fox Hills Mall (which is an actual mall in Culver City).

Apparently when J.J. was talking about beating the bishop, he wasn't talking about his erect penis, he was talking about, you guessed it, the Bishop of Battle, a video game he's been trying to beat for some time now. Entering the mall's Game-O-Rama arcade with an overconfident swagger, J.J. is mobbed by his many admirers (fellow gamers who worship his gaming skills). When one of these so-called admirers yells out, "Hey, it's J.J.!" you'll notice that the alluring vision of loveliness (a short-haired goddess in a purple jacket), playing Starhawk turns her head with a rapid brand of neck turning efficiency.

It might not be obvious to the casual observer, but we're about to experience the majestic splendour that is the one and only Moon Unit Zappa.

Positioning himself in front of the Bishop of Battle game, which is located in the centre of the arcade, J.J. puts in his quarter and prepares to play. "Greetings, Earthling. I am the Bishop of Battle, master of all I survey. I have 13 progressively harder levels. Try me if you dare," says the animated floating head that represents the Bishop of Battle. Well, does he dare? Of course he does. There wouldn't be a movie if he didn't. And besides, he already put in his quarter.

Able to reach level 12 with a relative ease, J.J. can't seem to make it to level 13. This, as you would expect, frustrates J.J. to the point of madness.

The game itself is actually quite lame as far as early '80s video games go (the graphics are beyond crude), so I won't bother describing the game action. However, the look on Moon Unit Zappa's face as she watched J.J. play Bishop of Battle was anything but, as you can tell exactly how J.J. was doing, game-wise, just by watching her animated expressions.

After failing yet again to make it to level 13, J.J. has grown visibly angry. And not only that, he appears to have lost his mind. Yeah, the game seems to have consumed him. Yeah, the game has taken over his life, but I was referring to the way he treats Moon Unit Zappa, who's the only one left in the arcade (everyone else has since gone home).

Wait, he doesn't blow off Moon Unit Zappa, does he? He totally does. What an idiot. Did he not hear Moon Unit Zappa when she says: "C'mon, J.J. Let's get a pizza and talk like we used to"? It doesn't look like it. How could he not hear her? She put the emphasis on the "za" when saying "peets-zah." Oh, he heard her all right. It's just he's more interested in getting to level 13 of this stupid game than getting to second base with Moon Unit Zappa.

To be honest, I don't know exactly what getting to "second base" entails (I was raised by British people), but I sure hope it involves groping her unit. Get it, unit, her name is Moon Unit? Never mind. Anyone who makes Moon Unit Zappa sad is not cool in my book. I don't care if he likes punk rock, you don't mess around with Moon Unit Zappa's heart like that. No one ignores Moon Unit Zappa's tubular invite to get peets-zah. At least not on my watch.

I don't mean to be the bearer of bad news, but there are still two chapters left in this anthology. And it looks like you have used up your allotment of paragraphs for this review. I have an allotment of paragraphs?!? Well, not really. But you should really start to think about wrapping things up. Okay, chapter three, "The Benediction," stars Lance Henriksen as a priest who is having a "crisis of faith." After quitting the church, Lance, or, I should say, his stuntman, is repeatedly confronted by a mysterious black truck along a stretch of desert road. Think of it as Duel but nowhere near as awesome. Chapter four, "Night of the Rat," involves a suburban family, played by Veronica Cartwright, Richard Masur, and Bridgette Anderson (don't forget their cat Rosie) who are menaced by a giant rat.

Other than the sight of Veronica Cartwright (Mirror Mirror 2: Raven Dance) in a tight sweater and a couple of decent jump scares, I wasn't that impressed with this chapter. I did like how they filmed Veronica Cartwright in that aforementioned sweater from every angle imaginable.

My favourite, of course, being the view from the back, as it highlighted her domestic prowess; open those kitchen cabinets, you sexy, excellent at not being detected by pod people, minx.


  1. Moon Zappa? FEAR? Emilio Estavez? Oh, I'm all over this to Amazon to try and find, many thanks Yum-Yum!

  2. You're welcome. The fact that you list Moon Zappa first in your list of reasons to be all over this one is very encouraging.

  3. The Bishop of Battle had a profound effect on me. I think it introduced me to punk rock, it instigated my Moon Zappa crush, and also inspired me to later defeat random chicanos in arcade battle (fair and square, mind you). I also have always seen it as a prequel to Repo Man.

    On a unrelated side note, I saw Sparks last night. I thought you'd be proud of me

  4. Moon Zappa crushes don't simply happen, they're "instigated."

    Yeah, you could The Bishop of Battle as: Otto, the early years.

    Sparks! They play T.O. on Saturday.