The sound booth bathed in red neon light which illuminates the drifting strands of cigarette smoke, host Rod Wilson of Nightmare Radio takes his listeners through the hours of darkness, an evocative commentary on everyday lives become urban legends, setting the mood by describing the heavy storm coming in…
The rain rattling against the windows and the wind coming through the cracks, he tells of a ghost of rage and wrath and want, of a photographer of the dead, of a hair stylist jealous of the success of his clients, of the inhumane punishment endured by a prisoner whom the state wish to make an example of, while his callers range from the abusive to the strange, a child’s voice begging for help…
Scheduled to be the closing film of FrightFest at Glasgow Film Festival, problems with the digital file of Juien Seri’s Anderson Falls meant that it was switched with A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio, the anthology film assembled by Luciano and Nicolás Onetti who also wrote and directed the framing story starring James Wright as Rod Wilson.
Opening with Jason Bognacki’s In the Dark, Dark Woods, it is the shortest piece in the collection, a tragedy of desire and deception as Karl E Landler’s woodsman has his wife replaced by an entity wearing her skin to masquerade as human; stylish and original and told entirely in voiceover, it sets a high standard.
Fortunately, dressed in black mourning garb under the unforgiving sun, Joshua Long’s Post Mortem Mary is up to the challenge; another period piece of distressing physicality, this time set in colonial Australia, Mary is the daughter of a photographer required to undertake the task at hand as her mother comforts the hysterical mother of the deceased girl, also called Mary, who must be posed as though alive despite having been kicked to death by a horse two weeks previously.
Dating to 2012, Adam O’Brien’s A Little Off the Top is the oldest inclusion, and at only ten minutes could still do with a trim, ironic for a tale of a hairdresser, but it is followed by Matthew Richards’s superb dissection of the events surrounding The Disappearance of Willie Bingham, a cautionary tale of state-sanctioned revenge starring Kevin Dee as the unrepentant murderer.
From there, the inclusions becomes standardised, Sergio Morcillo’s Spanish language tale of a haunted dancer fighting through her tears in Gotas, a child lured through the house by a sinister apparition in The Smiling Man from A J Briones, a hunter and his predictably naked prey dragged Into the Mud by Pablo S Pastor and the truly tedious Vicious from Oliver Park as a young woman is haunted by her dead sister.
Had the order of the stories been revised to take the focus off the weaker segments, or perhaps had one or more been excised entirely to provide a leaner running time, A Night of Horror may have been a more successful project, but capped with the Onetti brothers’ own floundering conclusion the gradient is steeply downhill, the promise that “the horror never ends” more of a threat than a promise.