Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Nightmare City (1980, Umberto Lenzi)

Several parts of Nightmare City reminded me of other, more well known zombie films. There is a gloriously creepy shot of zombies running through a field that recalls both 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, plus the fact that the film’s climax occurs in an amusement park just like Zombieland. Despite being a low budget Italian-Spanish film I rather liked Umberto Lenzi’s apocalyptic horror film, which he preferred to think of as being a mediation upon the horrors and negative effects of radiation instead of it being a zombie film.

Regardless of his opinion this movie works as a zombie/creature feature movie, and has some really good creepy and suspenseful moments. I don’t recall the foreign country this film is set in however the response to the menace recalls classic government action protocol: alert the military, attempt to quarantine and then deal with the creatures through shooting. I’m always fascinated how in apocalyptic movies the military ends up taking over and gains free reign, suggesting that when society crumbles mankind gives into an authoritarian and brutal response.

Also the creatures here despite being zombies are rather smart and use weapons, plus they move fast-two things that would pop up in later day zombie films as well. So I wonder how many horror filmmakers saw this movie and thought some of its ideas would be good to homage in their films.

Hugo Stiglitz plays the central protagonist and if that name sounds familiar then it should: it was used as a character’s name in Inglourious Basterds. Despite its low reputation I rather enjoyed this movie and found it to be an engaging and freaky anti-war, anti-zombie and anti-radiation horror film that has some well crafted moments. Also I smiled at the ending, which contains a moment that would be at home in a Twilight Zone episode. As I seek out more older cult films I am discovering certain unknown gems that I have not heard of before, and I thank Netflix and the Internet for enabling me to watch these so called “Lost” films. Also I’m something of a gore hound these days and therefore am more prone to enjoying zombie movies, which might be my favorite horror sub-genre at this point.

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