Twisted Nightmare 1987 Review

Twisted Nightmare 1987

Directed by: Paul Hunt

Starring: Rhonda Gray, Cleve Hall, Robert Padilla

Review by Luisito Joaquín González

So you like clichés eh? Well, I’ll give you clichés alright. I’ll give you so many clichés that you’ll loose count before the ten-minute mark!

Twisted Nightmare is not a movie. It may have a cast and a crew and all the ingredients that you would associate with a feature film, but in fact it’s just a check-list of slasher stereotypes rapped up into ninety-minutes of cheap videotape and cunningly disguised as a motion picture. What, you don’t believe me? Then why don’t you check out this fabulous synopsis:896875765

A group of ‘ahem’ teenagers head off to a summer camp (Friday the 13th) where a few years earlier, the brother of one of their number was burned beyond recognition by an unseen menace. (The Burning). Before the accident, he had been the victim of malicious bullying by the rest of the group, who tormented his inability to attract the opposite sex (Terror Train). This particular camp site is not the best place for a summer vacation as it had been cursed by Native Americans many years ago and it’s rumoured that the curse lives on (Ghost Dance). Before long a disfigured lunatic turns up and begins killing off the cast members one by one. (Just about every slasher movie ever produced).

Now do you catch my drift?

In all seriousness, Twisted Nightmare is an uncomfortably tough film to review. That’s simply because it’s a tricky task to explain exactly what went wrong with the feature. It’s not hard to write a mocking review of a bad movie, but it is harder to try and define the reasons why an offering so full of possibilities just didn’t make the grade. It would be easy to blame the rancid dramatics or the inane scripting, but the cast of Friday the 13th were hardly method actors and that was still an infinitely better effort than this. Slasher flicks are different from almost every other genre, because they can still make a profit or at least grab an audience without most of the ingredients that other categories of cinema take for granted. For example, could you imagine a poorly acted drama being successful? Or perhaps an awfully scripted comedy? Stalk and slash features consistently commit gross cinema crimes and still the production line of titles has only recently showed signs of slowing down. Keeping that in mind, I have tried to find out why a project from such an interesting team of low-budget titans ended up being such a flop.

Rumours abound that this was completed in eighty-two, but shelved for five years due to a total lack of confidence from the entire production team. Now aside from the IMDB, which is hardly the most reliable pillar of info, I haven’t uncovered proof of this anywhere else. For a start, the budget here was obviously fairly low, so keeping that in mind, why does it boast a better quality of picture than the much heavier financed Friday the 13th Part III, which was shot in ’82. It’s just not logical, which must mean that the speculation that the two movies were filmed on the same location at the same time must be either false or there’s a mix up with the dates. Another thing I noticed is that most of the cast had more than one acting credit in 1987, but none in 1982, which I think pretty much ends the argument. In my opinion, Twisted Nightmare was not shelved for five-years at all. And if it truly was, only very very little had been shot back then. If I had to guess, I would say that ’85 or ’86 is a more realistic possibility, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the IMDB have got muddled up with that info

If anything, Twisted Nightmare tries too hard, and due to the director’s insistence of ticking every single box on the slasher trappings clipboard, the movie breaks that age-old ‘less is more’ ground rule. Alfred Hitchcock once said that the key ingredient to the production of suspense is isolation, but that’s where Paul Hunt’s opus comes unstuck. His feature boasts an unusually high body count and there’s also some impressive gore sequences. Unfortunately, with so many characters getting butchered in such a small space of time, things get very boring very quickly and the deaths rapidly loose their impact.

Another negative is the film’s one-tone pacing, which never seems to change throughout the runtime. Characters get killed, characters get naked. Characters make-out and characters argue. But it all happens at such a snail-like momentum that that any attempts at a ‘money-shot’ just pass by without recognition. The plodding direction adds no bite to the suspense scenarios and an infuriating lack of lighting takes the credit away from the decent make-up effects. The script doesn’t help matters and the plot is littered with more holes than a hash smoker’s mattress. Cast members are slaughtered and none of their colleagues question their disappearances and some of the gaps in continuity are so obviously dumb that it’s almost unbelievable that this was the effort of a man with as much cinematic experience as Paul Hunt. One girl’s haircut changes literally from scene to scene.

Now part of these problems may well have something to do with the fact that the story’s writer Charles Philip Moore hated director Paul Hunt with a passion. They did work together again on Demon Wind in 1990, but the animosity was high enough for them to deliver unflattering comments to the press. After the release of the movie and the negative reception and lack of success took its effect, Moore struck the cruellest of blows in defence of his involvement many years later, by stating, “Twisted Nightmare is the sorriest piece of drek ever put on film. When Hunt wasn’t bombed on coke he was coming down with hash. He hired inexperienced wannabes just so he could screw them out of their pay”. Even if Hunt did not get the chance to respond, he did once write that, “I personally hate horror films and did Twisted Nightmare as a favor for Ed DePriest.” So there you go.

If you take an experienced director, a good budget, an excellent location, some great gore effects, a group of ambitious cast members and still end up with a feature as jumbled as this, then something is very, very wrong. The above proves comments prove things weren’t going swimmingly in the production camp.

On the plus side, as I mentioned earlier there’s some decent gore, including a deer antler impalement and one guy gets his head pushed off, which is hokey, but fun all the same. Nightmare also seems to generate an eighties feel much better than many of its counterparts from the period. There are mullets, bubble perms, bad metal tracks, boobies, elastic belts, bright tops and muscles by the bucket load. Let’s not beat about the bush, this feature is absolute tosh. But I know you dear reader. I know you better than you think. You like cheese. You like bad acting and blood. You like disfigured killers that growl like bears and stare through windows whilst breathing like they’re having asthma attacks. As you know that I know this, then I am going to recommend that you give Twisted Nightmare a shot. It’s bad, but bad in the way that we all love…

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise: √√

Gore: √√

Final Girl:√



Posted on August 14, 2012, in Slasher and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. I actually wrote a review of this movie and posted several videos of it on Youtube. The hair is out of control in this movie. Check out this video where the lead girl’s hair keeps changing:

  2. I think it’s one of the worst films. So slow and boring. I do think you are right about the crappyness value. I wish that I never sold it now

  3. It’s not that bad, I’ve got it on VHS. It’s just a run of the late 80s horror . Fatal Pulse and Movie House Massacre are bad,.
    The only , other thing I’d say is that slashers were far from unique in making money in the 80s. As theatrical releases they were pretty much dead after 83 or so. There’s nearly as many. low budget action, science fiction,horror, martial arts and crime films that made money as rentals. And thinking about slasher films are actually like beacons of high art compared to low budget war films,

  4. it should read ” run of the mill late 80s horror”. Sorry.

  5. I agree, yes the eighties were great for big box low budget VHS. In Europe we had labels like Apex that would churn out trash by the bucket load. Those were the days, eh? I like the late eighties slashers quite a lot. I think 88 was one of the best years of the genre. There was the crap like Demon Warrior, Iced etc but also Maniac Cop, I, Madman, Childs Play – some good stuff too

  6. Also, Fatal Pulse review is in my drafts… yes very bad haha

  7. Hi there… This is Cleve hall, also known as Syfy Channel’s MONSTER MAN. Okay, 1st I want to say thanx for the kind words regarding the gore FX. I did these with very little money and there were catainly a lot of them. As to the timeframe and the hair issue… They had already shot much of this film when they came to me to do some quick reshoots of the killings. The original FX sukked. Also, there were a couple that hadn’t been done yet. So there were a few months between the original shoot and the pick ups. I was supposed to do 5 FX scenes. The 1st night of shooting was the antlers gag. The guy who was playing the killer was tall, but he bitched about the makeup, bitched about having a tooth cas made… bitched, bitched bitched. There was a quick powwow among the producers who wondered if they could fire him on the spot who could play it. I raised my hand. Then came a lengthy discuss over who got the honor to fire him.. I think Paul Hunt won.
    Anyhoo, I did the makeup on myself and, tho 5″ shorter than the other guy, ripped into the scene with such gusto they decided to reshoot ALL the Killer’s scenes with me. So it went from a 5 day shoot to 25 days. Due to the length of time, many of the actors had changed their hair and we tried to do what we could with wigs and such to cover it. Yeah, it Sux, but Hey! I got a 1 sheet with my image on it and a premiere in my hometown, Jacksonville, FL, cuzz thats where the distributors were located and they knew me. Thanx!

    • Wow thanks for writing Cleve! Your effects in that picture were great. Did you do any other slashers? Thanks again and take care

      • Thank you so much! Did what I could with the time and budget… I did FX on the notorious NIGHTMARE in ’80. Also TERROR NIGHT/BLOODY MOVIE, and THE HALFWAY HOUSE (in which I play an insane janitor… I’m Hilarious!) to name a couple. Right now prepping to shoot Harrison Smith’s DEAD.TV in PA. This may be THE most Over-the-Top Goriest film I’ve done yet!

      • Terror Night is one my favourites, what a great movie! I haven@t yet seen The Halfway House, but will track it down asap! Wow you worked on some really notable slasher movies.

  8. Quick follow up… DEAD.TV is done and is being prepped for distribution. LOTS of Crazy Gory Killings in it! Also, for anyone who is a fan of Cleve Hall the Actor….*crickets*….. You might want to check out Brandon Slagle”s BLACK DAHLIA HAUNTING which should be at a RedBox near you August 9th, 2013 (I really… REALLY want to do a Red Carpet Premiere at a RedBox at a 7/11 in Van Nuys or somewhere!) Anyhoo… I play the killer of the Black Dahlia, and let me tell you, it is the most Intense and Brutal character I’ve EVER played! There is NO HUMOR in my eyes in this one. My ex wife had to look away and many viewers find the murder scene hard to watch. And I WON the BEST KILLER AWARD at the 2013 SHOCKFEST FILM FESTIVAL (Go ME!) … which does make up a bit for the Emmy I Didn’t win for YO GABBA GABBA!

  9. Movie recently came out on bluray in limited supply about 1,500 made. It’s an okay movie but the acting and script are trash. The killer is pretty cool but that one death scene with the ultra slow motion was lame. Also, there’s 2 kills in this movie that Friday the 13th part 8 ripped off. The head ripping scene reminded me of when Jason punches the boxers head off and when the killer in this movie put the black guys face to coal it reminded me of another scene from Friday the 13th part 8. So a better movie ripped this off. This movie is flawed but as I said the makeup effects are grade A. This movie isn’t all bad but I don’t know if it was worth the 30 bucks I paid for it. I do like having it in my collection only because it is a rare slasher that almost no one has seen except probably the people that made Friday the 13th part 8 which came out a year after this one.

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