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Review Nightwish (1989): Campy but pretty disturbing!

genre: horror, science fiction

A professor and four graduate students journey to a house in the mountains to investigate paranormal activities, but let's just say they got more than they bargained for. 

Nightwish starts out quite strong with an eerie opening scene. Turns out it's a dream that is being monitored and recorded by a group of scientists. They way they conduct this is pretty high tech and they act like it's the most normal thing ever. Yet the professor is disappointed since none of his students are able to project their own deaths. Apart from that being horrifying and potentially traumatic why would anyone want to do that? Well, apparently these students all have a screw loose because they do want to please the professor as much as possible. Besides who doesn't want to be able to control their own dreams. Ok, they do have a good reason. Because if they accomplish what they are set out to do then they will get their college degree. So like good little students they venture out to this house in an area where a lot of UFO sightings have occurred. For some unknown reason they have tasked Brian Thompson as Dean to drive them there. Right from the beginning we get to know that Dean is a maniac and immensely unlikable. I don't know if he was asked to ham it up so that he could serve as a red herring or that he just didn't care. Either way he isn't what you would call a trustworthy type. It doesn't even seem that Alisha Das as Kim likes her lover / boyfriend that much and she is not exactly stupid. So why oh why is she even with him? Unfortunately it's one of the many mysteries in this film you won't get answers to. And trust me you will be grateful since the main one is pretty unnerving on it's own.

Now I could go into details. But that would ruin the viewing experience. While there are many creative and clever twists in the film it can't hide the stereotypical tropes of supposed intelligent characters not acting smart. Some of them act so unreasonable and psychotic you start to wonder why anyone would still remain there. No college degree is worth the agony and torture the students are put through. Then certain events occur and you sort of get an idea why they might have been acting like that. And just when you thought you were on top the film decides to put everything on it's head and give you another twist. This one is quite clever since it could be what the characters have found out towards the end but it could be yet another red herring creating an infinite loop of possibilities. Pretty disturbing if you ask me.

One could argue that some of the cheesiness hurts this film a little. However in hindsight without it the film would not have the same impact at the end. Like it or not it has a role. Some of the special effects might look outdated. The majority of the practical effects still look good and scary. They are immensely effective and certainly sell the nightmare two of the major characters are going to. Both Elizabeth Kaitan and Alisha Das are strong female characters who use their wits to get out of their predicaments. But they aren't afraid to be sexy and feminine. Pay attention SJW's! It is possible to be strong and embracing good looks at the same time. Definitely one I can recommend!

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