Title: Nightmare City (1980)
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Cast: Hugo Stiglitz, Francisco Rabal
Nightmare City is one of those movies that I always passed by at the video store simply because it had a crappy cover. I guess I should’ve known not to judge a movie by its cover because this movie was fun as hell! I mean, it isn’t perfect, its got all those glitches that you can come to expect from practically every low budget Italian horror film, but the film remains fun and fast paced in spite of all its flaws.
The story starts in an airport, when an unidentified military plane lands on an airport. No one knows who’s piloting it, no one knows where it came from, but it lands. When the doors open, murderous infected people burst out and start stabbing and killing everyone in sight! Soon, the contagion begins to spread all through out the city, until the whole city is practically infested with the infected. In the mean time, Dean Miller, a journalist is trying to contact his wife so he can save her from the deadly killers! Meanwhile, the military is trying its best to control the ever spreading contagion! Will they succeed? Or will the infected take over the city?
Nightmare City comes to us from Umberto Lenzi, the director of two of the most recognized Italian cannibal movies from the 70’s Cannibal Ferox and Eaten Alive. I have not seen these two Cannibal movies yet, but from what I hear, they are pretty savage and gruesome, so maybe that explains why Nightmare City is filled with non stop acts of gruesome murder. The thing that got me about this movie is that it grabs you from the very beginning. The whole thing with the military plane landing mysteriously at the airport was a great way of opening the film, though I doubt a plane could just land like that on any airport today. Somebody would probably shoot it down or something, but, we gotta remember, this was the early 80s, before Sept. 11 came along. But the idea was awesome, then, hundreds of zombies poor out of the plane and start murdering people left and right.
The infected in this movie are a weird mix of zombies, vampires and vicious murderers. Why? Well, they look like zombies, with their skin having these ugly wart like growths that make them look like they got their faces burned in a George Foreman grill. The funny thing about the infected on this film is that they all carry knives around with which to stab everybody they come in contact with. I thought that was the weirdest thing about these creatures…but I was wrong! They also feed on their prey like vampires! Sucking the blood as it spurts out of their victims body! The infected on this film act like zombies, but in reality, they are closer to vampires. Murderous viscous vampires, without an ounce of humanity left in them. All they think about is killing! Another strange thing about these infected is that a lot of them wear turtle necks for some reason. And a lot of them wear suits. They aren’t dressed in rags like Fulci’s zombies. These zombies look like they just got out of a dinner party or something!
Of course, there are couple of things that will make you burst out laughing while watching this movie. For example, there’s this sequence that takes place inside of a television station which was obviously inspired by George Romero’s chaotic television station sequences in Dawn of the Dead (1979). But Nightmare City’s TV. station sequences aren’t chaotic at all. At least not at first. First we are treated to a bunch of dancers doing aerobics in some sort of dance show that’s hilarious because the girls obviously can’t dance for shit. The dances are not even choreographed well! All they do well is shake their ass in front of the camera and spread their legs wide for every young dude in the audience to see. It’s obvious that this sexy dance sequence was only thrown in there to make more money; because you know, T&A in a horror movie will get those young dudes in the theater seats! And trust me, there’s lots of nudity on this movie! But of course, this naturally goes with the territory, this is a low budget horror movie after all. Another thing that had me busting a gut is a scene in which Dean Miller hurls a TV set at an infected zombie, and for some reason, the TV. set explodes in flames and burns the infected to a crisp! T.V. sets are like grenades on this movie! As you can see, I was having fun with this flick.
There’s a moment in the film when the lights go out in the city and everything is suddenly dark, to me that’s when the movie lives up to its title. It literally becomes a nightmare city because not only is it dark, but almost everyone in the film is a freaking zombie! There’s this cool sequence where a helicopter flies over the city and we go over a field that’s filled with zombies and people running away from them. They even end up going into an amusement park, which led me to believe that maybe this year’s Zombieland, though awesome, wasn’t really all that original.
Umberto Lenzi was imitating in some ways the films of Lucio Fulci. Actually, the producers wanted him to make a film that resembled a Fulci film, so maybe that’s why sometimes while watching this movie; you’ll feel like you’re watching something that old Lucio might have cooked up. But at times, you’ll also get this George Romero vibe going for it, with the whole television station sequence, or the social commentary that the film tries to squeeze in there at the last minute. I’m talking about a scene in which a character starts talking about how humanity is getting what they deserved, that humanity is self destructive. That the way we are living is only going to end up destroying us all. So at least it tries to throw in some social commentary in there as well.
I’ll never understand why I had not watched this movie before. It’s so zany, that its fun. It’s fast paced, and goes at a relentless pace! There are killings every five seconds, T&A galore, and we got Hugo Stiglitz hurling exploding TV sets! It was a fun ride, and a very underrated Italian film. I recommend this movie if you want to watch a dumb, fast paced, unintentionally funny zombie film.
Rating: 3 out of 5