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Nightmares (1983 film)

Nightmares is a 1983 American horror anthology film directed by Joseph Sargent,[2][3] and starring Emilio Estevez, Lance Henriksen, Cristina Raines, Veronica Cartwright, and Richard Masur. The film is made up of four short films based on urban legends; the first concerns a woman who encounters a killer in the back seat of her car; the second concerns a video game-addicted teenager who is consumed by his game;[2] the third focuses on a fallen priest who is stalked by a pickup truck from hell; and the last follows a suburban family battling a giant rat in their home.

Theatrical poster designed by Design Projects, Inc.
Directed byJoseph Sargent
Produced byChristopher Crowe
Written byJeffrey Bloom
Christopher Crowe
StarringEmilio Estevez
Cristina Raines
Lance Henriksen
Richard Masur
Veronica Cartwright
Music byCraig Safan
CinematographyMario DeLeo
Gerald Perry Kinnerman
Edited byMichael Brown
Rod Stephens
Universal Pictures
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • September 9, 1983 (1983-09-09) (U.S.)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$9 million
Box office$6,670,680[1]


Terror in TopangaEdit

During a traffic stop at night, a cop is stabbed to death by someone leaping from the bushes. A killer is terrorizing a local California area and the TV and radio are reporting that the cop is his fifth victim.

After Lisa (Raines) puts her children to bed, she discovers that she is out of cigarettes. Her husband (Joe Lambie) forbids her to go to the store, but she sneaks out anyway and heads down the canyon.

Lisa gets the cigarettes and begins home only to realize that she is almost out of gas. All the gas stations appear to be closed. Finally, she stops at an out of the way station and out comes an attendant (William Sanderson), who just happens to perfectly match the killer's description on the radio. She gets increasingly alarmed as the attendant, who seems to be studying her car and its occupant, suddenly lunges at the car with the gas nozzle. He drags her out of the car, draws a pistol and fires – to protect her from the real murderer (Lee Ving), who was hiding in her back seat.

The Bishop of BattleEdit

Young Jerry "J.J." Cooney (Estevez) is a video game wizard and arcade game hustler with help from his bespectacled friend Zock (Billy Jayne).

After an argument about Jerry's obsession with video games, they split up for the day, and Jerry goes into his local arcade to try again to beat The Bishop of Battle, a maddeningly difficult video game that features thirteen levels; no one he knows has made it to the thirteenth, and many believe it is just a myth. He repeatedly tries and fails to make it to the thirteenth level until the owner forces him to leave at closing time.[2]

Jerry's parents, concerned about his performance in school, ground him until his grades improve. That night, he sneaks out and breaks into the arcade to finally finish the game. However, when he reaches the thirteenth level, the arcade cabinet collapses and the enemies fly out, and he defends himself with the suddenly-functioning gun from the game's controls (Estevez went through a two-week gun training session with the NYPD to realistically perform his gun maneuvers for these scenes). Jerry flees to the parking lot, but the Bishop of Battle appears, drawing closer and closer to a terrified Jerry.

The next morning, his friends and family find a reconstructed Bishop of Battle machine amid the ruins of the arcade. Jerry's image appears on the screen for a few seconds before it turns into another of the game's sprites.[2]

The BenedictionEdit

Lance Henriksen plays a priest serving at a small parish and is facing a crisis of faith brought on by the violent death of a young boy. He explains to his bishop (Robin Gammell) that he has lost his belief in the concepts of good and evil. He leaves the rectory with some holy water that he considers merely tap water, and takes off across the desert in his car.

He encounters a black Chevrolet C-20 Fleetside[citation needed] that appears as if from nowhere. At first it drives threateningly then disappears, but with subsequent appearances it forces him off the road and strikes his car. The truck's driver is an unseen Satan through the truck's tinted windows, but an inverted cross can be seen hanging from the rear-view mirror. Satan's truck finally destroys the ex-priest's car in a collision that does no damage to the truck. With nowhere left to run, the former priest hurls the holy water at the truck, which is vaporized. The episode ends as the police arrive on the scene and an ambulance crew takes the injured priest back to the church.

Night of the RatEdit

In her home, housewife Claire (Cartwright) has been dealing with a recent rat problem as she can hear the rats in the walls and attic, but her husband Steven (Masur) ignores it.

Even though Steven assures Claire that he will take care of the problem with a couple of rat traps in the attic, the disturbances progressively get worse, as objects start falling off shelves and the family cat is eaten. Soon enough, Claire calls an exterminator (Albert Hague) who discovers that the creature has gnawed huge holes behind various cabinets and has also chewed on the power cables. Steven comes home, criticizes his wife, and tells the exterminator to leave.

Claire keeps consulting the exterminator and inevitably she and her family are forced into a showdown with a giant rat.



It has been a long-held belief that the four segments of the film were initially conceived and shot for ABC's thriller anthology series Darkroom,[2] but were deemed too intense for television.[3] However, on the audio commentary on the 2015 Blu-ray release, executive producer Andrew Mirisch clarifies that the film actually began life as a pilot for an unnamed anthology series for NBC before becoming a theatrical feature for Universal Pictures.


Though the poster and trailer boasted that the film would be a 'sleeper' and ' one you won't forget ',[4][5] the film was not well received on release, with a 'rotten' 29% rating on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes.[6] In her review for the New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Nothing spoils a horror story faster than a stupid victim. And Nightmares, an anthology of four supposedly scary episodes, has plenty of those."[7]

Home videoEdit

The film was released on VHS by Universal Pictures in the 1980s. It was later released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 1999 in "Full Frame (1.33:1) Presentation" and has since gone out of print; this DVD issue of the film became extremely rare, with secondhand prices netting over one-hundred dollars.[8]

On July 10, 2015, Scream Factory announced on their Facebook page that Nightmares was part of their roster of upcoming Blu-ray releases.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e Muir, John Kenneth (2013). Horror Films FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Slashers, Vampires, Zombies, Aliens, and More. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. ISBN 9781557839503. pp. 332-333.
  3. ^ a b Carlson, Zack. "Terror Tuesday: Nightmares". Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Retrieved October 8, 2016.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Nightmares at Rotten Tomatoes
  7. ^ Maslin, Janet (September 3, 1983). "Nightmares Opens: Collection of 4 Horror Tales". New York Times.
  8. ^ "Nightmares". Retrieved 2015-08-18.
  9. ^ "SCREAM FACTORY: HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT OF 10 UPCOMING TITLES!". Facebook. 2015-07-10. Retrieved 2015-08-18.

External linksEdit