Directed By: John Lamond
Starring: Jenny Neumann, Gary Sweet, Nina Landis
Tag line: "Screams of terror... silenced only by the splintering of glass!"
Trivia: Debra Feuer was originally cast as Helen, but bowed out at the last minute after she was involved in an automobile accident
We open in 1963, when young Cathy (Jeanie Lamond), while in the back seat of a car, mistakenly believes her mother (Maureen Edwards) is being hurt by her lover (who’s affectionately petting her as she drives). As a result, Cathy lets out a scream, frightening her mother so badly that she loses control of the car. In the ensuing accident, Cathy's mother is killed, and her dad (Bryon Williams) blames Cathy for the tragedy.
Sixteen years later, Cathy, now going by the name Helen (Jenny Neumann), tries out for the lead role in a play, which, despite her inexperience, she manages to land. Her co-star, the handsome Terry (Gary Sweet), is a regular in a TV soap opera, and is hoping a successful stage show will give his career the shot in the arm it needs. Before long, Helen and Terry are an item (though, due to the trauma she experienced as a child, Helen refuses to engage in sex). But instead of enjoying her newfound success, Helen experiences a number of terrifying nightmares, all of which have their roots in the accident that took her mother away from her. What’s more, a killer is loose inside the theater, and is knocking off members of the show’s cast and crew. What role, if any, does Helen play in this string of unusual murders, and can the homicidal maniac be stopped before he or she gets a chance to kill again?
After its disturbing opening scenes, during which we witness the accident that killed Cathy / Helen’s mother (as well as a bizarre sequence that suggests the young girl, in later years, was molested by a man of unknown origin), 1980’s Nightmares (also released as Stage Fright) settles down to become a standard slasher film, complete with a deranged psychopath using their weapon of choice (in this case, shards of broken glass) to murder as many people as they can. In addition, director Lamond, who’s no stranger to nudity (he also helmed the ozploitation sex comedy Felicity), keeps us on our toes with a few gratuitous boob shots. This, plus a fairly convincing performance by the gorgeous Jenny Neumann, does its part to make Nightmares a memorable slasher flick.
That said, Nightmares isn’t exactly original; featuring POV scenes, where we’re looking through the killer’s eyes (a la Black Christmas, Halloween, The Burning, and a slew of others), as well as its collection of violent kills (a couple poor souls are stabbed in the throat), Nightmares doesn’t bring anything new to the table, and, despite its best efforts to pose as a mystery, isn't all that mysterious (the killer’s identity is, at all times, a foregone conclusion). Even more troublesome is its convoluted story, which is often hard to follow, but if you’re up for some early ‘80s slasher fun, rest assured that Nightmares delivers the goods.