Do me a favour and go read the plot for Nightwish on IMDb, yes, you read that right, ghosts, satanists, and aliens. But wait, there’s more! Pentagrams, séances, multiple outdoor shots of barns and barn items, snakes, tarantulas, oh my! Nightwish is an underrated horror movie that skimmed under the radar in the 80s and I’m reluctant to admit that I just watched it for the first time a couple of years ago, but have always been aware of it due to its magnificent cover art.
Right off the bat, I will watch anything with Brian Thompson. He is such a versatile actor with bulging muscles, and a face that everyone recognizes. His character in Nightwish while limited is psychotic yet amusing. Basically, all he does is drive around in his van listening to his stereo and laughs maniacally. I love you Brian Thompson!
Nightwish may have drawn inspiration from A Nightmare on Elm Street as the study of dreams and the paranormal are the main subjects in this story. We have a Professor who looks like a hybrid of Christopher Lee and Albert Fish that teaches a course on dreams where him and his four students conduct experiments in an attempt to outsmart the illusions while asleep. The Professor takes his students to a spooky mansion where they run investigations and more spooky shit happens.
There are a number of beautiful green-lit dream sequences and séances in Nightwish that give off a Re-Animator vibe, which makes sense because the Art Director worked on both films. While doing my research, I even stumbled on a Vidmark Entertainment promotional Nightwish green light bulb, how cool is that? Even the scrubs worn by Jack played by Clayton Rohner (who’s also in another highly underrated horror movie I, Madman) are a close resemblance to Bruce Abbott’s in Re-Animator, it’s just one of the finer things I love to notice in movies.
Donna, played by Elizabeth Kaitan, is from my favourite Friday the 13th, part 7. You might also recognize her from Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 and the second Roller Blade movie (if you want to watch a seriously demented movie watch Donald G. Jackson’s Roller Blade but don’t say I didn’t warn you!).
During their first séance, fluorescent green lights emit from a slithery ghost snake’s ectoplasm that writhes around scoping the students through its vision that we can only assume was done with a kaleidoscope on the camera lens. Once the second séance occurs, shit starts to get real. Then once in the caves, Nightwish takes a pleasantly gruesome turn, the special effects really shine at this part of the movie. Slimy bodies plastered on the walls, a throbbing severed arm, a split head, Wendall’s exposed back, and they get even better when we see a limbless Dean with pulsating boils all over his torso, truly marvellous work!
The ghostly green snake makes another appearance during a sexy scene accompanied by haunting music while we see Kim squirming around on a smoky ground, even though I’m not sure what the purpose of this scene is, oh wait, right, boobs. At least Kim delivers one of my favourite lines in the movie; “yes he’s alive, but I had to split his head open”.
I’m a fan of horror movies that take place in mansions like Cthulhu Mansion, Hellgate, House, The Shining, House on Haunted Hill, The Changeling, and another underrated Canadian horror film, Ghostkeeper. There’s something alluring about a giant creepy house that has numerous rooms where endless spooky things can happen, I think it’s a result of playing a lot of Clue as a child.
Nightwish begs the questions; are we really awake or are we still dreaming? Conduct a séance, dive into a bowl of cornflakes, and watch Nightwish to find out!