A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio (Movie Review)

Riding high on the heels of their impressive What the Waters Left Behind, the Onetti Brothers gather together a group of talented filmmakers to deliver the Horror anthology A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio. Uncork’d Entertainment airs the madness via DVD and On Demand beginning Tuesday, September 1, 2020.

Welcome to Nightmare Radio with your host Rod Wilson (James Wright: Jamall & Gerald series, The 100 Candles Game 2020), where it’s always a fright night! Gather round your radios as our DJ offers up eight eerie tales of evil spirits, skin-wearing, and red balloons. From a little girl charged with photographing the recently deceased to a crazy hair stylist with serious envy issues, there are chills to be experienced and lessons to be learned.

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What makes A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio succeed where other Horror anthologies have failed is its framing device—featuring the wonderful acting of Wright and directed by the talented Onetti Brothers (What the Waters Left Behind 2017, Abrakadabra 2018)—which works these very diverse tales into a cohesive unit. Other collections tend to pick and choose the best of the best, then patch them together and hope that they make sense as a feature-length package. The Onettis differ, in that, they have selected a series of shorts that, while topically leagues apart, all fit into a magnificent flow and match one another visually. In this, they have avoided the trap that tends to create a collection with a few standouts and mostly filler.

Again, there are no winners and losers here. From start to finish, the Onettis and co. present eight stories that will hold your attention and, in their best moments, make your spine tingle. This is certainly the case for some of the creepier offerings, such Joshua Long’s “Post Mortem Mary,” Sergio Morcillo’s “Drops,” A.J. Briones’ “The Smiling Man,” and Oliver Park’s “Vicious.” But the collection starts strong with the succinct yet  effective “In the Dark, Dark Woods,” directed by Jason Bognacki (The Red Door short 2007, Another 2014). At under four minutes in length, this short is a wonderfully crafted tale of invisible evil—starring Nicole Alexandra Shipley (Guardians of the Galaxy 2014, Greenlight 2019) and Marem Hassler (Duo short 2015, Riley Parra series)—and one that deserves to be a feature-length all its own.

No intensity is lost as Wright, err, Rod Wilson talks us into “Post Mortem Mary,” which was written and directed by Joshua Long (Axed short 2010, Deadhouse Dark mini-series). At roughly nine minutes in length, this is a truly unique short that stars Stella Charrington as a little girl who assists her mother in shooting death portraits, seemingly out on the prairie in the 1800s. As she struggles to photograph another young girl, also named Mary (Edie Vann), something horrifying occurs. One of the few stories that feels cheated at its short run-time, “Post Mortem Mary” is yet another example of a short that needs to be a feature.

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The sole entry that appears entirely in Spanish, Morcillo’s haunting “Drops” revolves around ballerina Marta (Marina Romero: Gotas short 2017). Though some of the story is lost in translation for English speakers, due to a lack of subtitles, what we can say is that Romero gives a stellar performance in her role and effectively communicates her character’s terror. At approximately 12 minutes in duration, this is one of the longer shorts and it delivers enough of a haunting mood to make a lasting impression .

Somewhat similarly, Briones’ (Carolina Parakeet short 2014) “The Smiling Man” goes big on spine-tingling tension. It stars an adorable little girl (Abbi Chally) who is being lured by the titular Smiling Man (Strange Dave: The Vatican Tapes 2015, The Clinic 2018), a truly eerie humanoid creature. Coupling elements of Stephen King’s It, the fairytale Snow White, and 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, “The Smiling Man” shows how a film can be wholly effective without a word of dialogue.

Also setting himself apart from the herd, Adam O’Brien (Banshee short 2016, Home 2020) delivers a blend of Horror and sadistic Comedy with his entry, “A Little Off the Top.” Centering around vanity and one truly demented hair stylist (David Nerman: The Lost World 1998, Arrival II 1998), who gives one of the most outstanding performances in the collection, this is what happens when we allow ourselves to covet our neighbor’s wares (or hair!). A tale heavily steeped in the deadly sins, it’s macabre but highly amusing.

Another short with a message, Writer-Director Matthew Richards’ (First Contact short 2012, Rabbit short 2014) cautionary tale “The Disappearance of Willie Bingham” is more of a hyperbolic real-life horror with a clear moral. Starring Kevin Dee (Underbelly series, Charlie short 2015) as the titular Willie Bingham, this is a perfect display of what happens when we practice an eye for an eye.

Writer-Director Pablo S. Pastor’s “Into the Mud” features Ramón G. del Pomar (Una de zombis 2003, Scorpion in Love 2013) and María Forqué (The Leftlovers 2014, Ocho apellidos catalanes 2015) as the hunter and the hunted—but who is really the prey? While it is not particularly eerie, it certainly has something different to offer from its contemporaries, crossing beautifully into Horror-Fantasy territory. Meanwhile, Park’s “Vicious” is also a game of cat and mouse, one that features Rachel Winters (Doctors series, Tales of Albion 2016) alone in a house that doesn’t quite appear to be empty. It’s spooky in a similar fashion to, say, 2007’s Paranormal Activity, in that you will find yourself glancing around every corner and waiting for something to jump out.

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With each of the tales being diverse enough to touch on a very different aspect of the Horror genre, from hauntings to demons to mythological creatures, A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio takes care to provide a little something for everyone. Flawlessly framed by the on-air segment that is shot with dark but sultry colors that feel like an homage to the neon wave trend, the Onetti Brothers take a magnificent collection of shorts and weave them together with some horror and mystery of their own. And it works!

It works amazingly well and Horror fans are likely to enjoy the eclecticism of each individual short, discovering their own personal favorites amid the anthology. No, nothing is ever quite as extreme as What the Waters Left Behind, but this isn’t necessarily the Onetti’s moment to shine. Instead, they place the spotlight onto the other filmmakers and give each of the creator’s their rightful due. An enjoyable experience for moviegoers who love finding talented new directors within the genre, Cryptic Rock gives A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio 4.5 of 5 stars.

Uncork’d Entertainment

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