Starring: Diana Lorys, Colette Giacobine, Paul Muller
Les cauchemars naissent la nuit aka Nightmares Come At Night is one of three Jess Franco films that Kino and Redemption are releasing on Blu-ray in the wake of Franco’s death earlier this year. Only originally distributed in Belgium, the film was believed to be lost for several decades until a print was discovered in the mid ‘00s. Though there was a Shriek Show DVD released a few years ago, Kino and Redemption have lovingly restored the film and included a number of nice special features that make this a must have for fans of Franco or Eurohorror.
Anna (Diana Lorys), an erotic dancer, fears she is losing her mind. Her manipulative lover, Colette (Colette Giacobine), forces her to stay at their mansion home and insists that her psychiatrist friend, Dr. Lucas (Paul Muller), regularly visit Anna. She has reoccurring nightmares about killing a man and begins to doubt Colette’s affection and intentions. Meanwhile, a man and a woman spy on the house from next door, patiently waiting.
Nightmares Come At Night is somewhat difficult to review, because while I loved the film, it is an acquired taste and many others will no doubt find it frustrating, boring, and difficult to follow. There is little in the way of conventional plot structure, but I found the film to be a compelling mystery nonetheless. It is almost hypnotic, drawing you towards the somewhat surprising and violent, yet almost anticlimactic conclusion. The atmospheric and visual splendor make the film well worth checking out, particularly if you are a fan of Franco, Jean Rollin, or more obscure Eurohorror. Though this is his lowest budget film, it still looks beautiful and is really only hampered by a series of lengthy shots from the inside of a car.
Voyeuristic, erotic, slow, and dreamlike, this isn’t one of Franco’s best films, but it is a hidden treasure worth seeing for fans of his less linear, more introspective works. As Tim Lucas mentions in his commentary, it is interesting to think of the film in terms of a progression in Franco’s career. Many themes here are certainly found in other films, such as brain washing and mind control, and Nightmares Come At Night bears much in common with Succubus. Franco also regularly uses characters and side characters who are erotic performers.
While this film is somewhat similar to the plots of Fulci’s Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Sergio Martino’s All the Colors of the Dark, and Franco’s A Virgin Among the Living Dead, and features a woman on the verge of losing her mind, plagued by nightmares and hallucination, it is far less linear than any of those films. At first I was skeptical about the opening credits, which are essentially a collage of scenes from throughout the film, but it makes a lot more sense the second time around. Franco’s use of dream sequences, moments that could potentially be hallucinations or memories, and some hazy sex scenes greatly contribute to the thin plot, which is not totally revealed to us until the end of the film.
Nightmares Come At Night benefits from some great performances, particularly star Diana Lorys, who is really given an opportunity to shine, though she had smaller roles in some of Franco’s other films (namely The Bloody Judge) and gave a good performance in one of my favorite Spanish horror films, Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll. She is naked or partially naked for nearly the entire film and is incredibly vulnerable throughout. Paul Muller (I, Vampiri) is also excellent and gives a complex, sensitive performance. The lovely Soledad Miranda makes a welcome appearance. Though she isn’t in the film long, she spends much of the time lounging around bottomless in a room with “Life Is All Shit,” written messily on the wall. These scenes were shot during the filming of Eugenie de Sade, which is why they almost look like they belong to a completely different film.
Where Franco uses a lot of his normal elements here - voice over narration, mirror images, framing, and reflection - they work together very well for a much more mature, poetic film than some of his flashier horror or erotic efforts. Though there is some violence, much of it is subdued and the use of blood is sparing. Be forewarned that the film is full of almost constant nudity, frequent sex scenes, and a lengthy, if somewhat boring strip tease.
With a 1.66:1 aspect ration and 1080p AVC print, Nightmares Come at Night looks lovely in certain scenes, but suffers from a lot of filming issues and age damage. There are a number of scenes that are almost black, making key parts of the plot confusing, and many that suffer from extreme grain, particularly the dream sequences. I’m sure it will never look better than this and it would be easy to watch the film and feel a sense of nostalgia at some of the faded colors and age issues. We are lucky to have this film on Blu-ray at all and any fault is due to the existing 35mm print.
While there are two audio tracks available, a French LPCM Mono track with English subtitles and an English dub, the latter is simply not worth watching. The French mix is just far superior and gives the film a more natural flow. The audio is clear, particularly the infrequent dialogue, though there is some obvious age damage and occasional hissing and crackling, but not to an annoying or distracting level. Bruno Nicolai’s score, though not quite as thrilling as his work on A Virgin Among the Living Dead, still sounds wonderful and benefits the film with some very diverse themes.
As with all three of the Franco titles Redemption has recently released on Blu-ray, Nightmares Come at Night has a number of excellent special features. First and best among them is the thoughtful and informative commentary from Video Watchdog’s Tim Lucas. While most people may not want to watch Franco’s films two times in a row, I have been unable to resist doing this to listen to the commentary tracks, which are indispensable. Also included is "Eugenie's Nightmare of a Sex Charade," a twenty minute documentary about the making of the film with a number of valuable interviews, including a vintage one with Franco. "Jess! Where Are You Now?" is the tribute feature included on all three of these releases and "About the Master" is an interesting short piece narrated by Bret Wood about transforming Nightmares Come At Night into HD.
While Nightmares Come at Night is not for everyone, it is a special film and is one of Franco’s most obscure, dreamlike efforts. If you enjoy films about madness, mind control, dreams, memory, and hallucination, this comes highly recommended. With their Blu-ray releases of this film, A Virgin Among the Living Dead, and The Awful Dr. Orloff, Kino and Redemption have really done Franco (and his fans) a great service and all three of these are must haves for Franco fans and anyone who enjoys more adventurous horror and erotic cinema.