Released by: Blue Underground Released on: 6/28/2011 Director: Armand Weston Cast: Robin Groves, Christopher Loomis, Michael David Lally, John Carradine, Gloria Grahame Year: 1981 Purchase From Amazon
Although it did enjoy a brief theatrical run in 1981 and a onetime VHS release from Warner Brothers thereafter, since that tape was released acclaimed adult filmmaker Armand Weston’s one attempt at ‘mainstream’ filmmaking, The Nesting, has been pretty tough to see. Those of us who were around during the VHS rental boom years will likely remember the garish cover art, painted by the director himself, but the film hasn’t been all that easy to come by in the last ten to fifteen years. After a couple of rumored releases having been in the works didn’t pan out, Blue Underground finally managed to secure the rights and have issued the film on DVD and Blu-ray, it’s first home video release anywhere in the world since that Warner Brothers tape hit shelves two decades ago.
The story follows a mystery writer named Lauren Cochran (Robin Groves) who lives in New York City but decides to get out of town for a while after suffering a rather unexpected panic attack outside her Manhattan apartment. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Webb (Patrick Farrelly) tells her she’s got agoraphobia and she figures relocating to the country will probably help with that. She and her sort-of boyfriend, Mark Felton (Christopher Loomis) get her set up in a bizarre Victorian era octagonal house in the middle of nowhere, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the one on the cover of her novel, The Nesting. Mark then he splits back to the city so she can enjoy the peace and quiet of her new digs.
The man she rents it from, Daniel Griffith (Michael David Lally), doesn’t know much about the house’s history or his own past for that matter, but his grandfather, Colonel Lebrun (John Carradine), eventually tells him the truth about his past all while Lauren is trying to figure out if the house she’s renting is haunted or if she’s starting to crack. After all, the nightmares she’s been having about old timey prostitutes, their madam (Gloria Grahame) and mass murder can’t possibly be normal… especially when a few of the people near to Lauren wind up dead!
With an interesting cast and atmosphere by the bucket load, The Nesting may not be the fastest paced horror film you’ll ever see but it is plenty stylish and considerably better made than its less than stellar reputation would have you believe. Those familiar with Weston’s adult films know that he had a penchant for atmosphere and tension, films like Expose Me Lovely and The Defiance Of Good are proof positive of that, and he puts that talent to very good use in this film. Yes, there are substantial logic gaps and there are frequent moments of cringe inducing awful dialogue (almost all of which can be attributed to Christopher Loomis’s wisecracking Mark character – after five minutes with him you’ll completely understand why Lauren won’t commit!) but most fans of early eighties horror are going to be able to look past those problems and enjoy the film for the underrated gem that it is.
Performance wise we’re in reasonably good shape here. Robin Groves, probably best known for Silver Bullet and a supporting role in Sliver, is pretty good as the leading lady and handles the more intensely psychological aspects of her character quite well. As mentioned, Loomis’ character is obnoxious and the less said about him the better, but Carradine is fun in his short performance and Hollywood legend Gloria Grahame is also very good in this one, her final film appearance. Bill Rowley and David Tabor as a pair of lecherous backwoods creeps named Frank Beasley and Abner Welles are both fun here as well.
A few gory kill scenes will keep slasher fans happy, and the film’s infamous sickle murder is definitely a stand out moment in the film, but this is more of a slow burn than a slash’em up, reliant far more on the inherent spooks offered by a rundown old house in the middle of nowhere and a sense of increasing insanity than knife wielding psychopath jumping out of a closet. If it borrows from The Changeling here and there and turns out to be a bit on the predictable side by the time it wraps, it’s still a film that’s both interesting from a historical perspective and entertaining from a horror fan’s point of view.
Blue Underground’s AVC encoded 1.85.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer is pretty impressive, presenting the film on home video in its proper widescreen aspect ratio for the first time ever. The grain structure looks more or less intact and there’s only very minor print damage visible. Color reproduction looks very good and black levels are nice and strong without crushing in the darker scenes. Depth and texture aren’t up to the standards of modern Hollywood fare but are certainly more than acceptable for a low budget film of this age. Those who have been waiting awhile for this one should be pretty pleased with BU’s efforts here as generally the film looks very good.
Audio options are offered up in English language DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono with optional subtitles in English, French and Spanish. While the 7.1 mix opens things up rather well and plays with some directional effects in a fun way but the Mono track definitely sounds more legit and seems to have better balance. Regardless of which track you opt for, and it’s nice to see a lossless option included even if it’s not for the original audio, there aren’t any problems here. Dialogue is clean and clear and the score sounds quite good.
Extras aren’t as abundant as they have been on some Blue Underground releases in the past but there are twelve minutes worth of deleted scenes here, some of which would have actually helped improve on the story as they further flesh out the weird relationship between Lauren and Mark. Aside from that, look for an American trailer, a Spanish trailer, a trio of TV spots and an awesome still gallery that contains not only the usual promo shots and poster art you expect but also a look at Weston’s original painting for the one sheet, some MPAA certification documentation, a newspaper clipping about the house getting trashed by the filmmakers and a lot more. Menus and chapter stops are also provided. All of the extras are in high definition.
The Final Word:
While it’s very deliberately paced and definitely falls into the slow-burn category, Armand Weston’s The Nesting actually holds up very well as an interesting and well made ghost story with some fun eighties slasher undertones. Blue Underground’s Blu-ray release is a good one, and if it’s a bit light on extras it offers up the film in what we can probably safely assume is the best quality possible.
Click on the images below for full size Blu-ray screen caps!