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Ben Nagy reviews ‘Nightmare Man’: Here’s What Happens When Fertility Masks Go Bad

Writer-director Rolfe Kanefsky mashes together conceits from classic Tales From the Crypt episodes, slasher movies and possession flicks, and the result is Nightmare Man, the film that answers the question: What could it hurt if you mail away for a creepy mask that is intended to help couples in getting pregnant, but it ends up unleashing a rape demon even though the rape demon might actually end up all being in the wife’s mind?

A couple takes an unorthodox approach to starting a family and people lose their lives as a result

Writer-director Rolfe Kanefsky mashes together conceits from classic Tales From the Crypt episodes, slasher movies and possession flicks, and the result is Nightmare Man, the film that answers the question: What could it hurt if you mail away for a creepy mask that is intended to help couples in getting pregnant, but it ends up unleashing a rape demon even though the rape demon might actually end up all being in the wife’s mind?

The wife in question is Ellen (Blythe Metz) and at the outset, she and her husband, Bill (Luciano Szafir), seem to be doing OK, and they’ve unsuccessfully been trying to start a family. In their quest for enhanced fertility, they mail away for a mask that (I guess) one of em is supposed to put on while they’re aardvarking to boost the potential for a kid to be brought forth from the union. Or maybe they’re supposed to hang on the wall and it’s supposed to watch — the script’s not too clear on this. The mask looks a bit like the Zuni doll from Trilogy of Terror and its aphrodisiac properties even after copious consumption of Bill or Ellen’s beverages of choice would be, um, dubious, at best if you had to look at it while doing the deed.

So Ellen does the grand unboxing of this mask and then goes to take a shower and the power goes out. Suitably inconvenienced by said outage, she then demonstrates her lack of electrical engineering knowledge while staggering blindly through the house asking if Bill was checking the fuses and then if he was checking the breakers. Usually it’s one or the other, but maybe someone got creative when the house was being built or they have really bizarre building codes.

Ben Nagy reviews 'Nightmare Man': Here's What Happens When Fertility Masks Go Bad 13
The Nightmare Man rears his ugly head as he invades a couple’s home. (Screen captures from DVD by reviewer Ben Nagy)

Anyway, Ellen eventually finds a figure in the house wearing the mask and takes the mask off, thinking it’s Bill. But it ends up being another mask under the mask and the figure ends up having his way with her before she wakes up from this nightmare/flashback that encompasses the flick’s opening minutes.

She awakens from her flashmare, and it seems time has passed for her and Bill and things have gone south, to put it mildly. Ellen’s popping pills now, and Bill’s taking her to a mental institution so she can be treated for the trauma after the events, which Bill thinks are all in her mind. After they bicker for a while, their car runs out of gas in a secluded area and oh, by the way, he brought the mask and it’s in the trunk because he wanted to show it to the docs at the institution as it was the source of all her trauma (or so he thinks).

That doesn’t sit well with Ellen, so she Frisbees the sucker into a ravine. As punishment, the altruistic Bill has to hoof it 10 miles to get a gas can (no phone service), leaving Ellen alone in the car as dusk comes. But while he’s gone, she starts seeing the figure who attacked her in the house and is attacked again, leaving her to fight for her life in the woods and eventually to seek refuge with a group of four post-college-aged kids partying in a house in the area.

Ben Nagy reviews 'Nightmare Man': Here's What Happens When Fertility Masks Go Bad 14
Ellen (Blythe Metz), armed with a pointy stick, is ready to ward off her attacker in the woods.

Is Ellen imagining it all? Can she fight off her attacker armed with just a pointy stick? What kind of people hang out in a secluded house and play erotic “Truth or Dare?” Does Bill redeem himself and win a Husband of the Year award?

Ben Nagy reviews 'Nightmare Man': Here's What Happens When Fertility Masks Go Bad 15
  • Best Argument for Big Pharma: Ellen’s magic pills that seem to make her problems with the Nightmare Man go away.
Ben Nagy reviews 'Nightmare Man': Here's What Happens When Fertility Masks Go Bad 16
Our gang of kids go outside the house to investigate a noise, from left: Ed (Jack Sway), Mia (Tiffany Shepis), Jack (James Ferris) and Trinity (Hanna Putnam).
  • Best Prepped for the Occasion: Mia (Tiffany Shepis) has a crossbow and a gun because “There’s bears out here. It pays to be cautious.” However, she isn’t the best at keeping track of her stuff when it all comes down to it. She also exhibits incredible flexibility during the prelude of what is probably the marquee kill of the flick.
  • Best Sound Effect: Trinity (Hanna Putnam) shows her range during a game of erotic “Truth or Dare,” making for an uncomfortable experience for her fiance, Jack (James Ferris).
  • Best Visual Effect: Smoke always finds a place to exit, as Mia’s squeeze Ed (Jack Sway) finds out.
  • Best Bailiff-Turned-Officer of the Law: Richard Moll, best known as Bull the Bailiff in Night Court and not as well-known-but-still-known as the star of the 1985 Joe Bob-reviewed flick The Dungeonmaster for which he got a Hubbie nomination, shows up in a cameo at the end telling a fellow officer: “What are you waiting for, a medal? Then lead the way…” as they investigate the aftermath of the movie’s events.
  • Best Directorial Homages: The Evil Dead-style shaky cam in the woods and the Creepshow-style lighting at the end when stuff starts getting gnarly for everyone who’s left in the house.

A fun way to spend about an hour and a half, and all the three B checkboxes are filled. Three stars from this reviewer and it woulda gotten an extra bonus half-star had they somehow found the band 213 to reprise the song that played over the closing credits of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Nightmare Man was part of the After Dark Horrorfest Eight Movies to Die For series and was released on DVD a while back — used copies are available on Amazon. It’s also streaming on YouTube, iTunes, Google Play and Vudu.

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