Sunday, July 31, 2016

Night Terrors

Night Terrors (1993) is most likely Tobe Hooper's worst movie. Considering he has the likes of The Mangler and Spontaneous Combustion on his resume, this is a frightening idea to consider.

It's not for a lack of trying. Night Terrors is way more ambitious than it has any hope of pulling off successfully, trying to incorporate elements of fantasy horror, erotic thriller, period piece, religious zealotry, sado-masochistic cults, gnostic druids, historical biography, and messing with the viewers' heads about dreams and reality, and not really succeeding at any of them. The plot makes no sense, the characters are mostly uninteresting, and just the overall craft in the movie is just cheap and third-rate.

Young Genie (Zoe Trilling) travels to Cairo to visit her archeologist father (William Finley). When he's called away to a dig site, she meets a local prostitute Sabina (Alona Kimhi), who introduces her to Paul Chevalier (Robert Englund), a direct descendent of the Marquis de Sade. People around Genie start getting murdered, including her father's housekeeper and her visiting best friend Beth, and before long, Genie learns Chevalier has twisted designs on her.

That plot summary doesn't sound too bad: an exotic location, Englund as the flamboyant villain, an innocent girl targeted by a cult. Well, I had to tear that description off the movie kicking and screaming. There's so much material and so little sense. Englund also plays de Sade in a series of scenes from a cell where he is tortured and/or ranting and raving to no one in particular. What these de Sade scenes have to do with anything else in the movie is anyone's guess. Nothing much is really done with the S&M aspect either; you'd think it play into some corruption of the innocent plot line regarding Genie, but you'd think wrong.

There's also a gnostic cult the housekeeper is a member of, but again, I don't know what their significance is or how they tie into the rest of the movie. The archeological dig is a completely pointless sidebar, and the seemingly only purpose of Genie's romance with the handsome Mahmoud (Juliano Mer) is to include a couple of soft-core sex scenes. The movie has no real focus.

At times, the movie looks like it was shot on video. Moments of would-be horror are pretty laughable. Early on, Sabina takes Genie to a wild party and drugs her drink, and so Genie begins hallucinating. A vision of her father ranting religious scriptures appears before her, and a belly dancer fellates a snake's head. Other moments are just baffling. While reading de Sade's book, Genie imagines Mahmoud riding a horse on a beach completely naked.

Robert Englund is the only interesting part about Night Terrors. As de Sade, he wears a fop wig and white makeup, looking completely ridiculous, but he camps it up. As Chevalier, he has some fun - referring to de Sade as the "old rascal" - but even he seems to not fully be committed. The rest of the performances involve a lot of blank looks, bad accents, and ethnic stereotyping.

Early on, de Sade torments a fellow prisoner into gouging out his own eyes. Anyone who sees Night Terrors will understand the sentiment.

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