During the final days leading up to Halloween of 2021, my wife and I came up with the idea of giving away horror movie DVDs as Halloween “treats” to some of the parents accompanying that year’s lot of costumed candy snatchers. Some of these DVDs were ones that I had purchased and never got around to watching. Some were from previous giveaways that were never claimed by the winners. Some were from giveaways that never happened. To pad out the numbers, a few were purchased at the nearby Dollar Tree store. The idea turned out to be a surprising success.
We attempted to repeat that idea again this year (2022). However, with the website’s operations having been sporadic for the last 2 or 3 years, and as I had kinda stopped actively reaching out to film distribution labels for freebies, I had no DVDs to give away. This meant that all of this year’s DVDs were purchased from that same little Dollar Tree store. Sadly, this Halloween’s attempt was not as successful, although the questionable quality of the vast majority of the films up for grabs was surprisingly not the reason for the failure.
Reviewer’s Note: Giveaways were something I had pretty much stopped doing well before 2020 came along and, amongst other things, jacked up shipping rates. Maybe this is one of those things I shouldn’t be admitting, but as the website and accompanying Facebook page became more popular, giveaways became a complicated mess.)
For whatever reason, I felt obligated to watch (usually via streaming sites) some of the films that I would be giving away. There were a few vintage classics, such as The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, The Screaming Skull, and Dementia 13, that I had seen countless times… and will surely watch countless more. As one might expect, there were also numerous, low-budgeted films, most of which came from the same few distributors. (There were also vast quantities of Shudder exclusive films available at Dollar Tree this Halloween season, but I inexplicably didn’t purchase a single one.) Don’t expect reviews for most of those films. Honestly, I didn’t even finish watching a few. In fact, I may have even apologized to the folks that received those titles as “treats”. Those films were much more “tricks”.
One title from that box of DVDs that I had purchased is 2019’s A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio, a film that, while presented as a self-contained anthology, is actually a compilation of short films from various international filmmakers. These shorts are collected together with a wraparound story by filmmaking brothers, Luciano and Nicolás Onetti. At least a few of the shorts presented had been previously featured at film fests or made available to watch online, so there is definitely possibility that you may have seen them elsewhere.
A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio centers around radio DJ Rod Wilson (James Wright –Dark Web: Decent Into Hell, The 100 Candles Game) who hosts a late-night show where he entertains his listeners with eerie urban legends, spooky folk tales, and other scary stories. Occasionally, these listeners do call in to offer up their own tales, but the focus is squarely on those Rod is about to introduce. These include, in order:
-“In The Dark, Dark Woods…” (directed by Jason Bognacki): A creature bred of pure darkness wears the skin of a woman in order to find love, only to have that love turn against it. While nothing groundbreaking, the tale does help the film establish a certain tone early on. (More on that later.) Beware, the word “dark” does get used an obnoxious number of times in this segment.
-“Post Mortem Mary” (directed by Joshua Long): Mary is tasked with taking the final photograph of a rather uncooperative recently deceased girl. This entry aptly builds upon the early themes of supernatural horror and is probably one of the strongest tales in the collection. The two young lead actresses both provide solid performances and capably carry the piece.
-“A Little of the Top” (directed by Adam O’Brien): A tale of a demented hairstylist. Sadly, this segment is quite thin in plot and, despite ending with a generally predictable moment of light gore, provides very little in the terms of shock or suspense.
-“The Disappearance of Willie Bingham” (directed by Matt Richards): As part of his prison sentence, child murderer Bingham is put through a series of disfiguring operations, the duration and severity of which is determined by the family of his victim. There’s much more to this tale, most of which is really quite depressing, but I found it to be the most compelling and memorable piece in the collection… even if it does complete derails the themes and tone established up until now.
-“Drops” (directed by Sergio Morcillo): A dancer is forced to defend herself one final time against a monster that has been assaulting her in the years following her parents’ death. The tale escalates quickly before morphing into a different type of horror story, one that’s much more grounded in reality, but not quite as effective as the obnoxiously timed swell in the short’s score would want you to believe.
-“The Smiling Man” (directed by A.J. Briones): A little girl is lured through her house by a sinister presence. While not the film’s lowest point, there’s little here besides a few “scare house” level shocks, as well as images and ideas that echo those of some better-known horror films. That said, it tonally feels quite at home with A Night of Horror‘s early segments.
-“Into The Mud” (directed by Pablo S. Pastor): A woman awakens injured and naked in the woods, the prey of an older male hunter. She attempts to escape, leading to your standard “slow stalking through the woods” sequence. It’s quickly evident that all may not be what it seems, but fair warning… watching the film’s trailer completely ruins any surprise the story may have held otherwise. It’s decent, but nothing that made a big impression.
-“Vicious” (directed by Oliver Park): A seemingly paranoid young woman returns home for the evening only to have a frightening experience… albeit one that neglects to provide much lead-up or explanation, at times feeling like the film adaptation of a single paragraph from a horror novel. While I don’t want to seem cruel, it’s easily the collection’s weakest entry, relying more on telegraphed jump scares and breaks in the silence to frighten the viewer.
Rod’s experiences at the radio station serve as A Night of Horror: NIghtmare Radio‘s wraparound feature. While the conclusion of his story does provide a serviceable resolution to the anthology as a whole, the ending may have worked better or at least made more of an emotional impact if, much like “Vicious”, there were anything of substance leading us up to it. Instead, the viewer is presented with a series of somewhat random events spun into an explanation that feel absurdly “matter-of-fact” and a little unfulfilling.
Overall, A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio is more than a little uneven, frequently seeming haphazard at times. Not all of the short films featured are particularly interesting or even “good”. However, there are a few “gems” to be found within for those willing to give the film a shot. Granted, some of these shorts may have been better served in other anthologies, and A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio may have benefitted from more of a cohesive theme or tone, but for the buck and change that the DVD costs at Dollar Tree, you might be pleasantly surprised. Then again, if you’re a real cheap bastard, you can always watch the film on Tubi or one of the other streaming sites… like I did.
WARNING: TRAILER CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
I do miss Horror and Sons on facebook. You guys really made me want to keep writing. I’ve since self published 2 books on amazon, not horror but close to reality poetry. I guess some of it is horror, I mean I lived through it and went on to write about it. But they start out on a light carefree note as the first book was more of a collection of stuff I wrote when I was younger and still full of hope and love. Anyway off the beaten path here, miss you guys on facebook. I still enjoy reading your stuff.
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Aww!, Thank you! I’m starting to post a little more, but FB made it very hard to connect with readers as much as I had a just a couple years prior. I also needed a break from all the negativity I was seeing posted. I am very thrilled and proud to see you take a chance on yourself with your own writings, and of course wish you nothing but happiness and success.