The Argentinean duo-brothers Nicolas and Luciano Onetti are back with another of their retro-Italian Giallos, which began with Deep Sleep (2013) and continued with Francesca (2015), What the Waters Left Behind (2017), and Abrakadabra (2018). This time they step back from their usual writer and director chairs and serve as producers on this horror anthology throwback to the Amicus pictures of old that unfolds as a “greatest hits” package of superior horror shorts from around the world.
Now if this sound a lot like the William Shatner-starring A Christmas Horror Story with our favorite starship captain as the macabre DJ spinning the portmanteau follies, you’ve guess right. But what sets this omnibus package apart: it’s an earnest attempt by the Onetti Brothers to provide an opportunity for unknown, first time filmmakers to present their work to a larger audience.
To package the films, the Onetti’s developed their own wraparound sequence that features—instead of say, a crypt keeper of the Sir Ralph Richardson variety from Freddie Francis and Milton Subotsky’s anthology gold standard, 1972’s Tales from the Crypt—a cryptic radio disc jockey. Unlike most anthologies that strive for long segments across three—but typically five stories—the Onetti’s opt for eight quicker and shorter tales—along with a ninth wraparound—with tales of the macabre.
The anthology flicks of the ‘70s that the Ornetti’s successfully emulate with A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio are rooted in the classic words of Gothic horror authors Sheridan Le Fanu, Gaston LeRoux, and Guy de Mausspaunt—Sheridan Le Fanu’s influential short-story collection In a Glass, Darkly (featuring the vampire classic “Carmella”), in particular.
The wrap around, if you haven’t already guessed, is the subtitle of the film:
Nightmare Radio: Rod Wilson (James Wright in his film debut; looking a lot like Rob Zombie) is the resident prick of a radio host (is there any other kind in suspense or horror films set inside radio stations?) of an overnight radio program, which he hosts in a converted ranch house, and is dedicated to all things metal and horror, as he spins his own tales and allows listeners to tell their own. Then, one evening, he receives enigmatic phone calls from a troubled child desperate for help. At first, Rod thinks it’s all a joke . . . until he discovers the calls are the clues to uncovering a dark secret of his own life that unravels across the stories:
In the Dark, Dark Woods: An invisible witch haunts a patch of woods and becomes a catalyst for another woman’s life . . .
Post-Mortem Mary: When a young girl dies in a rural Australian village, a neighbor and her young daughter help the girl’s parents prepare her body for burial. Through some post-mortem photography, they discover a sinister force in the woods has possessed her body . . .
A Little Off the Top: And for a little touch of Sweeney Todd, we have a psychologically-bent hairstylist with an unhealthy obsession about the “art” of his profession . . . and over one of his female clients. And that leads him to go Saw on her, strapping her head in a medieval torture device. Then he breaks out the Sharpie and starts to mark dashes on her forehead . . .
The Disappearance of Willie Bingham: A newly hired supervisor at a prison institutes a program (that reminds of Eli Roth’s Hostel) where criminals can atone for their crimes though elective surgery amputations based on the sex crimes they committed . . .
Drops: A professional theatre dancer’s struggles with relationship and professional issues takes a deadly turn when a demon begins to intrude in her life . . .
The Smiling Man: A little girl and a trail of creepy balloons. But it’s not a clown of the Stephen King variety responsible: it’s a gangly demon offering her a tasty treat made of something . . .
Into the Mud: The 10th Victim goes horror as a woman wakes up in the woods and finds herself pursued by a mysterious hunter; her salvation may come in the form of an equally mysterious creature . . .
Vicious: After a late-night out, a woman returns home and discover her sister in terror at the hands of deformed demons who’ve invaded the house.
The best three of the lot are In the Dark, Dark Woods, Post-Mortem Mary, and The Disappearance of Willie Bingham. But The Smiling Man . . . yikes. It’s a serious creep fest that I hope the Onetti’s expanded into a feature film.
Now, when you’re juggling multiple films from multiple writers, and even more directors, and trying to patch them together into a single, cohesive film, that spells trouble. It usually means you’ll end up with a disjointed film lacking in consistency across all the disciplines. Such is not the case with this latest Onetti Brothers’ entry. This looks a lot like Rob Zombie movie: well-shot, well-verse in its Giallo roots and filled with rich colors. Granted, it may have a few clumsy creative moments, and few strained performances in the acting department, but overall the Onetti’s Frankenstein’d a film worthy of a horror fan’s watch from horror’s newest crop of filmmakers.
A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio recently premiered to a receptive audience at the Brooklyn Festival of Horror this past October and is currently in the market for U.S distribution. You can keep abreast on when it hits all of the usual online streaming and PPV platforms (definitely on Shutter and Netflix) via their Facebook page. You can check out more trailers from the catalog of the Onetti Brothers’ Black Mandala Productions on You Tube.
Update: This will be available on DVD all VOD platforms on September 1.
Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.
What’s that? You want more anthology flicks? Then check out our “Ten Horror Anthologies” exploration.
Some other portmanteaus we’ve recently reviewed are:
All the Creatures Were Stirring (2018)
The Dark Tapes (2019)
Dead of Night (1977)
The Dungeonmaster (1984)
From a Whisper to a Scream (1987)
Holiday Hell (2019)
Morbid Stories (2019)
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)
Terror Tales (2016)
Trilogy of Terror II (1996)
The Twilight Zone (1983)
The Uncanny (1977)
Vault of Horror (1973)