Monday, February 28, 2005

Nightmare Castle

Reviewed by Patrick

Nightmare Castle

-Those Italians! Good pasta, good Olive Oil and great Gothic Horror Flicks!

Plotline: A demented scientist tortures and then murders his wife and her lover. Unfortunately, that's not the end of them, as his remarriage to his dead wife's mentally unstable cousin brings the duo back from the dead, bent on revenge.

Scariness factor: As with most older horror films (this one is from 1965), there's not so much an emphasis on making the audience jump, as there is on building a creepy atmosphere to immerse the viewer in. In this respect, 'Nightmare Castle' does pretty well for itself. The shots vary between scenes lit by extreme lighting during the night to hazy, soft images, by day, giving you the feeling of moving from dream to nightmare (pun intended) very quickly. There's only a few scenes of actual mutilated monsters, but most of the film takes place in that gray realm where you're left to wonder if it's "real" or just the product of an overactive imagination.

Originality: Lovers back from the dead to exact untold horrors on their murderer is actually not very original ground to be treading on and it seems like a scientist figures into 1 out of every 3 horror movies during the 50's and 60's. That said, though it was not incredibly unique, I didn't feel the lack of originality was a detriment to my enjoyment of the film.

Other High Points: Barbara Steele, the queen of Italian horror movies! I saw her last in the classic Mario Bava film 'Black Sunday'. In both movies, she plays the dual role of an undead witch/seductress and a living innocent/virgin. Surprisingly, for such inherent cheese, she pulls this off rather well. I felt that, even more so in 'Nightmare Castle', she was able to give a performance that really made you feel that these were two separate characters, instead of just the same woman with a different wig. I mean, sure, we're not talking academy award winning material here, but, for horror movies from that time period, she was a stand-out actress, made even better by her extremely unique looks and perfect evil laugh. She also wrote a good article about her memories working in Cult Movies, available here.

Other Complaints: As with many B-movies, it felt like something got dropped in the editing room. For example, we are never quite told what the scientist was studying in his basement laboratory (though it did somehow involve the restoration of the youth of his housekeeper) or why the lover's hearts played such a vital role in the end of the film. In addition, there's a brief glimpse into an affair between the scientist and the housekeeper, which goes absolutely nowhere. It's movies like *this* that really need a "director's cut" released. Also, as with most foreign films, the dubbing leaves something to be desired.

Overall: 'Nightmare Castle' is an example of the type of movie you just don't get anymore. It doesn't want to be more than a simple horror film and it doesn't try to scare you with FX beyond the reach of the current technology (i.e. men in masks for the 50's, badly rendered CGI monsters for today). It, instead, doles out screams and cackles in loving spoonfuls. Just like mamma use to make! Definitely worth a late night viewing.

Grade: B



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