Friday, July 25, 2008


A generous slab of action-infused sci-fi hokum, NIGHTMARE AT NOON is a 1988 outing from director Nico Mastorakis, who's probably best known for tepid thrillers like BLIND DATE and THE ZERO BOYS (but he'll always have a special place in my heart for the 1975 sleazefest ISLAND OF PERVERSION). NIGHTMARE is a mess, one that even its roster of B-flick veterans can't overcome.

The late Brion James plays an albino scientist who turns the residents into a bucolic desert town into raving, zombie-like maniacs by poisoning their water supply with an experimental chemical. Vacationing Wings Hauser and his wife, along with aimless hitchhiker Bo Hopkins, get caught in the middle of James's devious scheme, and must figure out how to stop him before the infection spreads.

Mastorakis has plenty of experience dealing with this type of lowbrow, pulpy material, but with NIGHTMARE he never really uses a firm directorial grip. The action drags too much to be enjoyable, and when the plot does move forward it's as prone to confuse as it is to entertain. The picture morphs into a C-grade action-thriller for its third act, but even then it can't muster the strength to be watchable. There's some minor stunt work involving car chases that no doubt sapped the budget but aren't flashy enough to perk up the film, and the helicopter dogfight at the climax might've been fun in a better movie.

Hauser, playing a litigation-happy lawyer, doesn't exactly make the most appealing protagonist, nor does Hopkins as the typical Mysterious Drifter, and let's not even mention George Kennedy's oblivious sheriff (oops, just did). But the biggest disappointment in the cast is James, who's never allowed to go off the rails; his mute, expressionless baddie is no doubt meant to be mysterious, but instead he comes off as a flat and flavorless villain, having less screen presence than the zombie servants he commands (and that ain't good, my friends).

This movie's a NIGHTMARE any time of day.

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