A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio is the latest horror anthology film to add to the pile alongside such classics as Asylum, V/H/S, Creepshow and Scare Package. Eight short horror films, with the framing device that of a horror-themed call in radio show, fronted by DJ Rod (James Wright). What starts off as a seemingly normal night slowly devolves into something more sinister when he starts receiving calls from a frightened child alongside his usual callers.
While looking into the details of Nightmare Radio I discovered something: none of these films are new. None of them were made specifically for this anthology. Some are available to watch on YouTube, one got a release as part of a horror TV programme, and the others were shown at various festivals. Their initial releases range from as far back as 2012 (A Little off the Top), with the majority of them being first released in 2017. Just something to bear in mind if you’re going into this expecting entirely new content.
The film opens with In the Dark Dark Woods, directed by Jason Bognacki, which is a take on the poem of the same name. A tale of ghosts, abortive redemption and revenge, it’s not the most memorable story on its own but it does a very effective job of setting the tone, even if the transition between it and the radio segment is somewhat aurally jarring.
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Luciano Onetti and Nicolás Onetti are responsible for the radio station segments and they work well as a way to introduce the audience to the assorted tales of mayhem, carnage and murder. Chain-smoking DJ Rod is engagingly sarcastic, drawing us into his strange little world of late night horror tales.
We kick things off properly with Post Mortem Mary, directed by Joshua Long, where Mary and her mother run a business going around taking photos of the deceased to give grieving families something to remember them by. When her mother has to deal with the inconsolable parents, Mary is forced to take the photos by herself and she finds that her deceased subject is surprisingly camera shy. While the ultimate outcome is perhaps somewhat predictable, this is still a fun little horror short.
From there it’s away from remote farmhouses and into an upscale beauty salon for A Little Off the Top, directed by Adam O’Brien, where a hairdresser is rather annoyed that one of his clients is acting rather recklessly. Convinced that she is wasting her natural gifts and his talents he decides that steps must be taken to remedy things. Another one where, honestly, the outcome is fairly predictable but it still does a decent job.
The Disappearance of Willie Bingham, directed by Matt Richards, is the first real standout offering. Willie is a convicted murderer and rapist and is the first to undergo a radical new form of punishment with the injured family the ones allowed to dictate how far things go. To say more than that would be to spoil the story. Check this one out, it’s a lot of fun. For us. Not so much for Willie. Poor Willie. Poor, poor Willie.
And then we come to Gotas (aka Drops), directed by Sergio Morcillo. This one simply doesn’t fit, and the story didn’t really work for me at all. While all the other stories are in English, this one is in Spanish with subtitles. The tale of a dancer who… undergoes puberty? Has weird stomach pains that make her see monsters? I’m honestly not sure what really went on in this one and its striking visuals are undermined by an incoherent story and unsatisfying ending.
Luckily the next film is much more interesting. The Smiling Man, directed by A.J.Briones, tells the story of a little girl apparently alone in her house at night… so who keeps leaving these brightly coloured balloons around for her to find? And why is there a strange man in the kitchen? What’s that he’s smearing over his face? WHY IS THERE A RED PUDDLE ON THE FLOOR? Oh. Oh no. The little girl in this is a delight to watch, with that oh-so-serious look that small children pull off so well.
The penultimate story, Into the Mud, directed by Pablo S. Pastor, presents us with a simple situation. A woman naked, injured, a man stalking and hunting her. Why? We don’t know exactly, but it’s obvious his intentions towards her aren’t good. Except maybe there’s more here than it seemed at first glance. Maybe there’s a reason the man is hunting her, maybe there’s a reason she’s hurt. The story here is slightly let down by some not entirely convincing costume effects at the end but it’s still an entertaining little yarn.
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And at last we come to our final story. Vicious, directed by Oliver Park, and this is hands down one of the creepiest, scariest things I’ve seen in a long time. This had genuine shocks of pure DREAD running through me as I watched it, tapping into both those primal, child-like fears of things hiding in the dark in our bedrooms as well as the more modern fears of what might happen when we live on our own. A genuinely creepy, disturbing, high-tension watch. I loved every moment even as it made me desperately want to turn it off or look away.
The problem with this anthology being a collection of previously made content is that it lacks a real feeling of coherence, with both the opening film and Gotas feeling like they don’t quite fit in with the others. All in all it’s a decent enough little collection of shorts, but is it something we recommend you rush out to watch? Will it be as iconic as Creepshow or as respected as V/H/S? Probably not. It’s still worth checking out on your streaming service of choice if you have a hankering for a horror smorgasbord, but don’t fret if you don’t get around to seeing it either.
A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio will be available on Amazon and Google from 21st December and iTunes from 30th December.