Review: NIGHTSCARES (aka BEYOND BEDLAM)

Posted by Peter Hall - July 1st 2008 @ 11:03 pm

Directed by Vadim Jean, 1994
Written by Vadim Jean, based on the novel by John Brosnan

NIGHTSCARES opens with long pans of the exterior of an apartment building inter-cut with long holds on the faces of people sleeping. This sequence is followed immediately by Craig Fairbrass as the worst cop ever (which makes him the best movie cop ever) staring at a suspect in an interrogation room. And when I type staring, I mean glowering in silence like a rapist. Eons go by without a single word said between the two and then WHAM! Fairbrass springs into action like a tranquilized sloth and calmly exits the room. Cut to a long shot in an endless hallway with a non-emotive cop way back of the frame. He walks down the hallway, which is as bland as a hallway can be, straight towards the static camera. Walks the whole damn way. Just as he reaches us, he turns around.

He turns around and walks all the way back down the hallway. Vadim Jean lets us experience every agonizing second of that fucking pointless piece of script. I love it when low(er) budget films and low(er) talent filmmakers pad their run time, as if their movie about dreams that kill people is legit at 89 minutes, but a clown act at 75.  At (what felt like) ten minutes in with not a single worthwhile thing happening, I knew writing this review of NIGHTSCARES was going to be fun.

Elizabeth Hurley looks about as fantastic as she ever has, which of course means she is playing a neuroscientist experimenting on a serial killer with a drug designed to make his brain cure Alzheimers. Or something. I don’t know, actually. Folk mumble a lot in this masterpiece. I can tell you this though, whatever noble goal nubile Hurley had, brooding cop Fairbrass is fuckin’ pissed about it. Dude is having none of it, which either makes him the most stonecold Inspector Detective (no shit, he calls himself that) ever or just one huge dick. Either way, bloke cannot act, which of course makes for some YouTube worthy exchanges;

Reporter he had sex with: “But yesterday was amazing!!”

Fairbrass: “Get out of here.”

Reporter: “Don’t I give the best head?”

Fairbrass: “No, I didn’t think so.”

Colder than an Ice Road Trucker.

So, Hurley has brewed up this drug and begun administering it to notorious killer, Gilmour. Turns out she is also hooked on the stuff, so she shoots it up before going to bed. The side effect, as is so often the case, is a manifestation of the user’s dreams. The focus is on Gimour of course, so the script never bats an eye at the fact that Hurley’s dislike of one guy results in him jumping to his death on fire. Or that she somehow made an old lady hang herself. That last bit, for the record, marks when NIGHTSCARE stopped being irrelevant and became a bizarre exploration of confronting the uncontrollable, yet deeply personal nature of nightmares. It is an unsettling sequence, to be fair. Not because the old broad swings from the creaking ceiling, but because before she does Elizabeth Hurley is having a fantasy about another man in the building. One second we’ve got Hurley in a silken nightie riding some guy, next we’ve got Old Lady riding the same guy. A fleeting second later, Hurley is back pleasuring herself, but wait!  The Old Lady is getting ground into by the guy.  And believe me, that Old Lady was DTF.

Of course I should point out at this point in the movie we as an audience aren’t supposed to know what is going on, though despite our strong suspicions this wacky threesome definitely sends conflicting signals.  Which starts the one point of distinction Vadim Jean runs with again and again; erotic dreams can be eerily inexplicable.

The movie is awash in a stalemate back and forth between the neuroscientist and the cop. The pair are boring shells of people. That is until Hurley stabs Fairbrass with the drug (for some reason) and the two go dream-reality tripping together to kill Gilmour (Who hasn’t even done anything wrong yet).

One moment the movie is a predictable mess, the next moment the duo are at an apartment amid an unpredictable mess. Fairbrass is telling his dead mother’s nightmare ghost with a bullet in her chest to go “Fuck herself” while Hurley is either being raped by a man so burned he looks like a mutant or being scolded by a nun for having two abortions. I’d like to pause for a moment and reflect. First these two are generic avatars for characters and suddenly there are ghost mother’s shot by their own son and Hurley’s scientist is the type of lass who had not one but two abortions. At some point in the climax the rather ugly (or handsome by British pub standards) Fairbrass loses his shirt and it turns out the bloke is ripped like a steelworker who built the Titanic by himself. I mean, Jesus Vadim, give us some time to acclimate to all of this.

Which of course he does, through I’d assume the non contiguous intelligence in editing was not intentional. Crawling hallway walks to crazy apartment nightmares to crawling exposition to, well, you get the picture. It goes on forever, like waking up from a dream that was once good, but then overstayed its welcome and no matter how hard you try to wake up, you keep slipping back into its rut.  One could theorize that is the whole point, to simulate a never ending nightmare for the viewer.  Such a theory may not be wrong.  Doesn’t change the fact that the 89 minutes feel epic.

NIGHTSCARE does get stuck in several ruts, but ruts I must confess to enjoying more than I wagered I would from minute one. Once all the dream stuff starts to snowball together, it becomes a much more entertaining ordeal. It is never as thrilling nor inventive as the other nightmare haunting movie it so desperately wants to be and director/writer Vadim Jean is unqualified at best, but its middle game is adequately intriguing. The whole production is a perfect match for a group viewing as it is bound to elicit laughs (some intentional, many more un) from amateur line deliveries* and soaring mood changes, yet there will be just as many head slapping “What the fuck is going on?” moments to keep you guessing.

Plus, ya know, Elizabeth Hurley in ’94.  Golden.

*I don’t know what “GARTH MARENGHI’S DARKPLACE” modeled some of its genes after, but they’ve got to involve this discarded British experiment.  If someone took the time to splice any or all of Fairbrass’ screentime into an episode of that genius show, no one would be any the wiser.

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rss 2 comments
  1. Andy Walker
    July 2nd, 2008 | 2:18 pm | #1

    I feel it is time to dispense with formalities.

    BEYOND BEDLAM? Is that supposed to be funny? How can you possibly review that and keep a straight face?

    Peter, nobody cares about this movie. Why can’t you just review something people care about?

    Here, I will revise my prior threat: If you don’t post a review for something people care about (either BRAINSCAN or HOUSE, you choose), I will never visit this site again.

    R.J. and Sean – you both must be secretly thanking me for this one.

  2. July 2nd, 2008 | 4:28 pm | #2

    Look, Walker, get off my back! Once I find Brainscan, I’ll review it. In the meantime, you’re stuck with whatever other shit I sift through.

    Fucking celebrities. Think they own the joint.

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