One of the dictionary definitions of the word “movie”—blatantly the most valuable word of all in film criticism, for it is via this definition that we as critics do our work—is, “A sequence of photographs projected onto a screen with sufficient rapidity as to create the illusion of motion and continuity.” Therefore, theoretically, anything that you watch on a TV or screen, whether it’s part of a show, or something that you watch on tape or DVD or Blu-Ray, is, at least in part, a movie.
I’m seeking justification because this review makes me feel like I’m cheating.
Is Nightmare a movie? Well, it’s on a screen. It moves, with certain (albeit questionable) movement and continuity. I say questionable simply through the merit of its lack of a true plot. Maybe that’s what makes it a gem. And maybe its status as a gem makes me insane. And my status as a madman makes you all equally insane. There’s a cliff in the future for all of us.
Nightmare was actually a board game that was made in a particular style—mainly one that is entirely reliant or at least largely reliant on a VHS tape that was included with the game. Nightmare, or Atmosfear, as it sometimes called, is of course the movie on that VHS tape. I’ve had the severe displeasure of watching some other board game movies, like Clue and a couple of others; those are more plot-driven, but they really suffer for it. Is Nightmare more comforting? I really don’t know, nor do I care.
We meet a guy in a black robe called the Gatekeeper, or, as his ridiculous accent states, “the Gatekeepair”. His hobbies include standing around, staring, yelling, and banishing players of his game to the black hole, a space on the board that prevents you from playing—he enjoys calling it “the blaghoel”. And he’ll say it a lot, too, just to get his point across.
So, since there really isn’t a linear storyline, this may be my most challenging review yet. But, there is a linear sequence of events, each more hilarious then the last, so this may be my best review ever. Essentially, the Gatekeeper introduces himself and tells the players he will appear onscreen from time to time to give out rewards and punishments. And he does this for a while. Fortunately, something changes. He eventually denotes someone as the “Chosen One”, and tells them he will summon them when the time is right. Minutes later, he summons them and tells them to leave their seat and get close to the screen—the camera keeps zooming in on him as he whispers for them to get closer and closer. But finally, he shouts loudly and says, “Do not ever get that close to me again, little maggot!” It’s quite hilarious, but there’s more before the night is out.
He also looks for the oldest and youngest players. When he finds the oldest, he refers to them as “the old one”, and says things to your imaginary answers to his questions, which plays out as follows: “How old are you? … That old? … The others must pity you! Ha, ha, ha!” Then, he threatens to kill the old one in real life. He also yells at the youngest a lot. Both are ridiculously disturbing, complete with lines like, “Wait! I want to play with the young one again!”
Halfway through, his voice starts to have a second dubbed layer to it which shifts in pitch, which I guess is supposed to make him more spooky. He also gets wrinkly and his eyes turn yellow, which is actually not that bad looking. Still, he never really gets…scary. He just gets abusive. Did I mention this is the only full-motion video (FMV) board game to get a PG rating? It was for player abuse. He also snorts a lot, exactly like a pig.
Ultimately, though, if the video ends, so does the game and all the players lose. Pretty much, in-game, you have to get a certain number of keys to draw a Fear Card, and if you draw the card that you wrote your worst nightmare on, you have conquered your nightmare and win. But again, if the tape runs out, the Gatekeeper wins and it’s game over. Still, though, near the end, as the formerly-low ambience in the background grows louder, and the moon in the corner grows more full, we do get an awesome line: “The ghost train is coming—listen to its scream”. Neat.
I watched this without the game board, and most of the video is just the timer ticking upwards to the hour mark. There is some music, and like I said, the moon grows more and more full. So, it’s not so much of a movie as it is just an hourglass—but remember this: hourglasses don’t have hilariously bad actors in black robes to make pig noises at you and scream “little maggot” every five seconds.
Who needs plot? It moves, doesn’t it? Ain’t that enough? You can watch the whole thing in about twenty minutes if you skip the timer—and trust me, I don’t need to tell you that you don’t want to stare at a clock for forty minutes. The Gatekeeper will become like an old friend. Take some time out of your schedule and trip out.
– Adam “Mudman” Bezecny