Dez K. Devar
Ryan 'Deuce' Gregory
David C. Hayes
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Nightmare Alley (2010)
17th Dec 10
More tattooed women and fat shirtless guys than you might expect appear over the course of seven tales of terror framed by a ghoulish host who laughs at his own non-existent jokes.
Though it loses goodwill points for using the now-tired Grindhouse gag of appropriating the look of a spotty, scratched-up 70’s exploitation flick, Nightmare Alley is a surprisingly entertaining amateur horror anthology that delivers more guilty-pleasure amusement than quite a lot of genre movies made by, you know, actual filmmakers. It often looks and acts like an above-average home movie but rock-bottom expectations established by the prologue (involving a Creepshow style horror comic and a homeless dude stabbing an overacting youth before pissing all over him) are exceeded more times than you’d think.
Billed as “Scarlet Fry’s Nightmare Alley” in a bid to big-up its co-writer/director, the movie is also hosted by Mr Fry, in a particularly odd guise that makes him look oddly like a blonde Crispin Glover on Crystal Meth while possessed by the Crypt Keeper from Tales From The Crypt. This guy has all the screen presence of, say, the flaccid cock of TV’s Keith Chegwin, but there’s something compellingly strange and unsettling about him - just as the seven-story anthology format keeps you watching even after two embarrassing tales in a row.
Our opener is “A Fistful Of Innards”, a slight tale set in El Cheapo Old Westo (automobiles and golden arches just out of shot), where a trio of outlaws on the run double cross each other after a meteorite lands and thus doom themselves to a brain-munched demise courtesy of vengeful zombies. This one stages its climactic massacre off-screen (!), which is a bit like a porn movie replacing its central cum-shot with video footage of Professor Stephen Hawking describing said ejaculate. Still, it might be the only chance you have this year to hear the line “Well suck me sideways, what in tarnation was that?” delivered with something approaching sincerity.
“Rebellion” is a lot more fun thanks largely to its inspired “monster”, a goofy plastic “Devil Rat” the protagonist buys from a Mexican trinket store despite the Dire Warning attached to it. It isn’t long before the toy is giving him orders, encouraging him to kidnap women and crack their skulls open so the Devil Rat can eat their souls in order to improve its size. Special kudos here go to the hot tattooed chick for the least convincing screen fall of all time, an amusing dismemberment finale and the Devil Rat itself, who at one point calls our unlikable hero a “penis wrinkle” - as accurate description of this loser as you will find.
“Death Chat” happens to contain the best ever rude version of Rick (Gh)Astley’s unforgettable contribution to the Death of Music during the 80’s, “Never Gonna Give You Up”. Had Stock, Aitken and Waterman included the line “I’m gonna hold you down and sod-o-mise you!”, we would still be respecting their genius even now. This story has an unfaithful bozo (he knows kung-fu ’cos he saw Enter The Dragon 300 times) getting caught cheating with a fat bird (Worst. Actress. Ever.). His comeuppance arrives when his next Internet Slag turns out to be an axe wielding ghoul with a nice line in crappy one-liners : “Want penetration?”.
“Meat” will haunt you into old age thanks to the prominent presence of an ugly fat bloke wearing only Daisy Dukes and fond of stroking and rubbing his flabby man-tits at every available opportunity. There’s a cannibalistic twist at the end that’s not nearly as grim and gross as the sight of this obese loser successfully coming on to sunbathing married women who are clearly not deterred by the fact that his arse hair is visible from space.
“Closet Case” might be the funniest element of the whole of Nightmare Alley , even though it’s so short it barely qualifies as a “story”. Still, this one-joke mini-movie about a homophobic tough dude who stabs a Ridiculous Gay Stereotype to death, gets a big laugh with its punch line, revealing the motive for murder to be the acquisition of a copy of “Manhole” magazine. This reviewer’s own personal quest in the early 90’s for the legendary, short-lived publication “Molly Sugden’s Minge” helped make this episode especially poignant.
The last two are, in relative terms, on the weaker side of the force. “The Great Danone” is about a useless artist stereotype who at last finds an artistic use for his hideous, fat, nagging wife. This turns out to be another variation on the great Corman picture A Bucket Of Blood , albeit with the addition of the line “Well, madam, you are a cunt!”. Finally “Slash of the Blade” features a latter-day Jack The Ripper absurdly gutting women in broad daylight just as the town is hosting a Ripper exhibition. Once again, a single line of dialogue saves the day, this one from one of the victimised femmes : “He’s wearing a cloak and a top hat just like…Ebenezer Scrooge!”.
With game non-actors often playing two or more roles, there’s something appealing about this movie’s messy, cut-and-paste form, and there are far, far worse methods of getting your recommended daily intake of cheap gore, cheaper laughs and titillation.