• Nightwish (Unearthed Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Unearthed Films
    Released on: September 17th, 2019.
    Director: Bruce R. Cook
    Cast: Brian Thompson, Jack Starrett, Robert Tessier, Elizabeth Kaitan, Alisha Das
    Year: 1989
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    Nightwish – Movie Review:

    A university professor (Jack Starrett) and some of his students – Donna (Elizabeth Kaitan), Kim (Alisha Das), Jack (Clayton Rohner) and Bill (Artur Cybulski) – are conducting parapsychology experiments involving the ability to create visualized representations of dreams. Their theory is that their experiments will lead to the ability to shape their dreams and nightmares alike but things never quite seem to work out when death is involved.

    To further their work, the professor, with some help from his assistant Stanley (Robert Tessier), decides to bring the group out to an old house in an area of the desert known as The Valley Of Fear. They’re driven out there by muscle-head Dean (Brian Thompson). This place has a strange past – the previous owner was a spiritualist who conducted scores of séances and arcane rituals to contact the spirit of his dead child, and it’s also been built over an old, abandoned mine that poisoned the local water supply some time ago. On top of that, rumors and folk legends allude to the fact that there may be supernatural creatures and/or UFO’s frequenting the area.

    As they settle in and get to work, it very quickly comes to light that the professor has a lot less interest in his dream research than he does in using the cognitive and spiritual abilities of his students to pull whatever entity that lives in the old house into the real world. It also comes out that the professor isn’t quite who they thought he was, and as evidence of paranormal activity comes out the students want out, but the professor and Stanley won’t let them leave and things get… strange.

    Made with a modest budget, Nightwish is, nevertheless, a very good looking film. Given director Bruce R. Cook’s background as a camera operator on films like Avenging Force and Society, maybe that shouldn’t really be a surprise but either way, the visuals in the film are very strong indeed. The effects work is also really solid. This isn’t a particularly gory film but the practical effects work from KNB Effects is top notch. In general, the production values are quite good here. As to the story? Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where it’s all going but to be fair, the script, written by Cook, takes some interesting twists and turns and, even if it is disjointed at times, plays with some unique ideas in unexpected ways.

    The cast are okay. As you’d figure for a B-movie made in the late eighties, nobody here was fishing for an Oscar but they handle the material without any issues. Alisha Das of Firepower is the weakest link but she’s certainly attractive enough. The lovely Elizabeth Kaitan of Friday The 13th Part VII and Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity, is okay here, while the instantly recognizable Brian Thompson of Cobra steals more than a few scenes as the obnoxious Dean. Rohner, of April Fool’s Day, and Cybulski don’t have as much to do as the others but they’re more than decent in their respective roles. Robert Tessier, from Cannonball Run and Hard Times, makes an impression as the professor’s assistant while Starrett, who directed The Losers, Race With The Devil and Cleopatra Jones (as well as a few others) does a good job as the professor in what would turn out to be one of his last film projects (he died the year this picture was made).

    Nightwish – Blu-ray Review:

    Nightwish arrives on Blu-ray from Unearthed Films (the third in their excellent Unearthed Classics line) in a nice AVC encoded 1080p high definition 1.78.1 widescreen transfer taken from a new 4k restoration of the original 35mm negative. While there is mild print damage noticeable throughout, the transfer is otherwise very strong. Colors look excellent and we get nice, strong black levels. There’s a lot of detail here, very good depth and texture, while skin tones look lifelike. There’s plenty of natural looking film grain and no evidence at all of any noise reduction. There aren’t any problems with compression artifacts or edge enhancement to gripe about either. All in all, it looks very good.

    The English language LPCM 2.0 Stereo track sounds very good. There are no subtitles or alternate language options provided here. Audio quality is fine. Dialogue stays clean and audible throughout and the track is clean and free of any problems.

    The main extra on the disc is a commentary track with Paul White, the film’s producer, moderated by Unearthed Films’ Stephen Biro. White talks about getting financing from Japan to get the feature made, working with the different cast members on the project, the film’s distribution history, what elements were available for the restoration that’s been done, how he came onboard to produce this in the first place, working with director Bruce Cook and quite a bit more.

    Additionally, the disc includes a still gallery, a trailer for the feature, bonus trailers for a few other Unearthed Films properties (The Dark Side Of The Moon, Song Of Solomon and The Unnamable), menus and chapter selection. Included inside the case alongside the disc is a color insert booklet that contains an essay on the film by Art Ettinger, credits for the feature and production notes that detail the cast and the director. Unearthed also packages this release with a very cool slipcover. Both the booklet and the slipcover are limited to the first pressing.

    Nightwish - The Final Word:

    Nightwish has its flaws but the good outweighs the bad. It’s a strange film but it never has a problem holding our attention. It also benefits from some great visuals, really strong effects work and a few neat casting choices. Unearthed Film’s has done a very nice job bringing this one to Blu-ray with a very solid presentation and an interesting commentary track as its main supplement.

    Click on the images below for full sized Nightwish Blu-ray screen caps!