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A NIGHT OF HORROR: NIGHTMARE RADIO (2020)
Directed by Jason Bognacki (“Into the Dark, Dark Woods”), Luciano Onetti & Nicolás Onetti (“Nightmare Radio” wraparound), Joshua Long (“Post Mortem Pary”), Adam O’Brien (“A Little Off the Top”), Matthew Richards (“The Disappearance of Willie Bingham”), Sergio Morcillo (“Drops”), Pablo Pastor (“Into the Mud”), Oliver Park (“Vicious”)
Written by Jason Bognacki & Aline Bognacki (“Into the Dark, Dark Woods”), Guillermo Lockhart & Mauro Croche (“Nightmare Radio”), Joshua Long (“Post Mortem Pary”), Julien Maisonneyuve & Peter Skovsbo (“A Little Off the Top”), Matthew Richards (“The Disappearance of Willie Bingham”), Juanlu Moreno Some (“Drops”), A.J. Briones & Tefft Smith II (“The Smiling Man”), Pablo Pastor & Almuneda Sarria (“Into the Mud”), Oliver Park (“Vicious”)
Starring Patricia Arizmendi, Adrián Barriopedro, Claudia Beattie, Louisa Bland, David Breen, Gabriel Carrubba, Abbi Chally, Mellisa Chally, Stella Charrington, Rachel Clayton, Darcy Cornwallis, Ian Costello, Michelle Costello, Ismael de las Heras, Kevin Dee, Ramón G. del Pomar, Karl E. Landler, Ingrid Falaise, Julia Farrell, Tim Ferris, María Forqué, Gregory J. Fryer, Albert Goikhman, Brendan Joseph Guerin, Marem Hassler, Madeleine Hogan, Alex Holden, Isabelle King, Clara Kovacic, Camilo Levigne, Adrián López, Chris Mammone, Kathryn Marquet, David Nerman, Kera O’Bryon, Marina Romero, Hugues Saint Louis, Nicole Alexandra Shipley, Raymond Thomas, Pippa Van Wijck, Leah Vandenberg, Edie Vann, Rocío Vela, Sez Wilks, Rachel Winters, James Wright, Antonio Zancada
Find out more about this film here!
A NIGHT OF HORROR: NIGHTMARE RADIO is another compilation of shorts that most likely were gathering dust on Youtube. It’s been an ongoing trend to package short films together and tie it together with a threadbare narrative/wraparound segment. In this case, A NIGHT OF HORROR: NIGHTMARE RADIO the wraparound is set in a late night talk radio station where a bearded hipster DJ tries to one-up each caller with terrifying experiences with one of his own. I’m going to go through each of these segments and dissecting them one at a time for the rest of the review.
The film starts out with a short fable, “Into the Dark, Dark Woods” about an evil woman who seduces a man and has an invisible child. The ideas are there in this one, but it feels like all setup and no real story with characters or conflict. While it feels more like a proof of concept than a true narrative, the short manages to deliver some solid effects, specifically the use of CG for the invisible person. I also thought this first part was shot well and with lots of interesting stylistic choices, but there’s barely a story to tell here.
“Post Mortem Mary” takes place in Australia in the past as a young pre-teen photographer learning to take over her ailing mother’s business of photographing the deadtakes a photo of a recently deceased girl right around the photographer’s age. I really liked this one as it had a spooky tone, some well paced moments of tension and suspense, and a morbid subject matter. I with this anthology had more installments like this effective little number.
We’re back to shallow, one-note, and predictable horror with the third installment, “A Little Off the Top” which seems to exist only to get to the punchline ending. This one is set in a hair salon as a hair stylist talks non-stop to a woman in his chair. This one is a clunker as the conversation isn’t very interesting and the whole things feels rather bland from beginning to end. Thankfully, this was a short one, but the way the radio DJ talks about how this is such a startling story makes it all the more of a time-waster.
Story Four is called “The Disappearance of Willie Bingham” and features a man in a prison program where he donates parts of his body, limb by limb, and then gives motivational scared-straight style speeches to unruly teens. This one worked mainly because of the morbid subject matter of taking a person apart piece by piece. While it isn’t torture porny in the least, as it shows very little, the suggested horror really fills in the gaps nicely and makes for a haunting entry.
The fifth segment is as metaphorical as it gets. “Drops” begins with a dancer who is tormented by a shadowy figure in her home. Meanwhile, she is receiving calls from what seems to be someone she cares about, though there is an abusive vibe to the conversations. This Spanish speaking short works decently, though wraps up pretty quickly and feels the need to explain itself with a moral to the story narration that really isn’t necessary. This one is filled with all kinds of nice suspense and plays well with lights and darks.
Next is “The Smiling Man,” a surreal little number focusing on a little girl who notices a balloon in the hallway of her home. Then there’s another balloon with treats tying it down. This trail of balloons leads the little girl to the kitchen where she meets a ghoulish figure who acts like a clown in order to keep the girl from screaming and running away. I liked the imagery in this one. The ghoul is probably the most iconic monster we see in this collection of horrors, but again, this is simply a buildup to a shock ending rather than a story, which seems to be the main flaw of much of the shorties in this collection.
The seventh tale follows a hunter tracking a naked, filthy woman through a forest. After giving chase, the hunter becomes the prey when it turns out the woman is not human. If you didn’t get the twist, don’t worry. The hipster DJ explains it to you right after it ends. I liked the monster effects here and there’s some nice shrieking sounds, but this again is light on the story. It also is the only one of the segments with nudity, which makes it feel out of synch with the rest of the offerings.
Eight stories in and we’ve already got repetition as a gal makes her way through a dimly lit house and is tormented by a shadowy figure. Had we not seen this scenario play out three segments earlier, I might have been impressed with the play with light and dark, the buildup of tension, and the shockeroo ending. But we just saw this type of “story” in this collection. The addition of a jump scare at the end isn’t really earned, though the use of first person POV does a wonderful job of adding some sharp suspense. I just wish someone was paying attention and doubled down on stories about shadow people haunting a sole woman in a house.
Finally, we are back to our hipster DJ who has been receiving odd phone calls throughout the entire film. We get to find out who is calling him and why. The calls are kind of effective utilizing sound in and spotty phone service to make it all tense. Still, our hipster DJ isn’t the most charismatic of leads, so it made it hard to feel for him, especially after the full story comes to light.
It’s difficult to make a short film. You have a very limited amount of time to introduce a character, a conflict, and a resolution. The truncated amount of screen time available makes it hard to address all of these points. That’s why so many short films feel less like truncated stories, but only visual one-liner jokes with a scare for the punchline. Some of the tales presented in A NIGHT OF HORROR: NIGHTMARE RADIO actually succeed in telling an actual story and those were my faves of the bunch. The rest were just lead-ups to a shockeroo ending and those are the ones that are the most forgettable and least effective. This collection seemed to spread out the weak with the strong evenly, but though there are moments that shine and terrify, A NIGHT OF HORROR: NIGHTMARE RADIO isn’t the strongest collection of shorts out there right now.