31 Days of Gore: Nightmare City (1980)

It’s October. Time to talk horror. This year I’m reviewing a different horror movie each day of the month. 

this trailer is seriously NSFW… seriously

While watching an interview with director Umberto Lenzi, it occurred to me he’s fucking insane. The interview is part of the special features included on my copy of Nightmare City. Here’s what Lenzi had to say about the production:

  • The script was horrible.
  • Hugo Stiglitz was a stiff actor.
  • Franco Nero or John Saxon should have been cast in the lead instead.
  • The producer wanted zombies in the tradition of Romero and Fulci.
  • The film is based on reality.
Yeah, you read that last point right. All of this, Lenzi suggests, is reality. He talks about media cover-ups and exploding chemical plants before going on to compare his movie favorably to Tom Hanks’ Philadelphia. Either Lenzi’s English translator is having a little fun on our behalf or, like I said, he’s fucking crazy.
Tarantino discusses Lenzi: “They’re not zombies, they’re infected people!”
And more power to him. It takes a crazy person to make a movie like Nightmare City, in which the zombies “infected people” don’t just stumble around, waiting for dinner to enter their line of sight, but actively hunt their prey with Tommy guns and hatchets. Whereas most horror films spend an eternity getting to the good stuff, Lenzi gives us a surprisingly tense scene involving an unauthorized plane landing at the very beginning of the movie. That plane, by the way, violently births a hundred blood-drinking psychopaths.
What’s great about it is there’s no bullshit—at least if you’re a fan of mindless exploitation films—and there’s remarkably little filler. It’s just ninety minutes of crazy people doing crazy shit and Hugo Stiglitz kicking ass in a tweed suit. And I do mean to stress kicking, as kicking seems to be his move of choice. Why, exactly, is this television reporter such a bad ass? Beats me. But after watching Fear the Walking Dead and rolling my eyes at the characters’ reluctance to, you know, do anything interesting, this hero’s sense of agency is a welcome change of pace.
No, Lenzi’s right: these really aren’t zombies. They’re zombies, vampires, and Crazies all wrapped up into one—and, paradoxically, they’re none of the above. The characters sound like children when pushing the film’s anti-war themes and nothing makes much sense. But if you expected a movie like this to make sense, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.
Watch it with a group of friends who love this kind of shit. The drunker, the better. It’s a hell of a lot of fun with the right mindset.

Come back at midnight Central Time for the next movie.

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