Written by Mauro Coche & Guillermo Lockhart
On this dark, dark night stews a dark, dark idea – and inside this idea sits a bag of bone and sinew, stringing together a consortium of the macabre, hideous and creative stories shared over the neon caked lights of a radio shack glow. A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio hosts a series of (regardless of quality) inventive horror tales spanning the past decade.
Sat alone in the radio station, with not but the passing time, some coffee and a few spun tales to keep them company, Rod whiles away the night shift. The D-J finds himself tempted by tantalising tales and repulsed by urban legends, but slowly a new caller begins to emerge. A young girl lost and scared, Rod tries to reach out and help, only to realise there is more to the mysterious caller than he imagined.
Nightmarish hell spawns, denizens of terror and creatures of fright – the creature workshop on display is exceptionally innovative, authentically scary in spells and is without question Nightmare Radio’s tour-de-force and deserving of attention. The craftsmanship, make-up and sound design for the monsters and ghouls within each segment of the anthology lift the film, which truly saves many of the shorts from being benign, or worse, dull.
It does so for the likes of A.J.Briones The Smiling Man, a 2015 short film which fumbles the story but delivers with an unsettlingly morose creature design. Many of the shorts fall into a similar fashion – a weak, watery narrative but positively erupting in pustulous creativity and nerve. Adam O’Brien’s A Little off the Top and Pablos S. Pastor’s Into the Mud being peak examples of a mediocre story, but with fitting tributes to horror tropes and aesthetics. The cinematography for the shorts is intense, often following the path laid by horror greats, but colour and lighting often serve as engaging deviations from the formulaic.
Though separate, there are ripples which emerge across the individual short films within Nightmare Radio. The inevitability of death, vanity or the exploitation of the young all work one way or another across the chosen short films. And while writer Mauro Couche ties this loosely into Rod’s narrative – it feels less natural, that the arching narrative was made to fit the shorts, rather than selecting shorts which would match the feature.
Each component of an anthology is indeed significant, but if the stitching encompassing them is loose, then these singular shorts cannot save the overall product. And here is A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio’s crumbling foundation. Conceptually, Mauro Croche’s script is invigorating and a prime setting, and blossoms with a tremendous sense of dread and horror. A radio station, sharing spooky tales when suddenly a caller gets a little too close for comfort.
But try as they might, James Wright is by and large the principal issue with the grander narratives pay-off. The sense of urgency or trepidation isn’t present, and Wright’s lack of innovation or deviation from monotone in the radio segments drowns out any foreboding the writing was accomplishing. Everything hinges on the narrator for an anthology series. And Wright doesn’t bring enough of anything; emotion, comedy or weight to make a mark on the film’s foundations.
More a scintillating experiment in morose imagery and nightmare fuel than cohesive storytelling, A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio has tremendous merit in its bloodcurdling ability to inspire and ignite followers. It has teeth, gnarling and gnashing ready to feed, but Oliver Park’s direction never takes the bite. The shorts themselves are salvageable, many containing a performance or creature of merit, but none can save the primary aspect of the film, its crux narrative more often than not landing with dead air.
A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio will be available on Amazon and Google from 21st December and itunes from 30th December