FILMS FROM THE VOID is a journey through junk bins, late night revivals, under seen recesses and reject piles as we try to find forgotten gems and lesser known classics. Join us as we lose our minds sorting through the strange, the sleazy, the sincere and the slop from the past and try to make sense of it all.
It’s not very often that I come across a film that’s so bizarre or puzzling that it’s indescribable. There’s only a few films I can think of that make me feel that way. Eraserhead, Naked Lunch, and Fateful Findings come to mind but none of these left me scratching my head as much as Nightmare Weekend.
The first time I tried to sit and watch it I had to give up. I thought I was maybe too tired, maybe I wasn’t into it enough to really pay enough attention to it. Scenes would jump from extreme to extreme without any warning or hesitation. Awkward love scenes jump straight into mouths foaming, heads exploding, faces melting and jump back to teenage girls daydreaming about love in seconds. I must have missed something. My mind couldn’t handle it. Maybe I was drifting in and out of sleep for longer periods than I thought. I shelved it until last night when I decided to watch it while I was alert and awake, so I could fully immerse myself in it’s weird world. This time through, it was even more confusing. Not because of the story, not because of the characters or anything in the film itself, but because this time through I realized I didn’t actually miss anything. I didn’t fall asleep mid movie and wake up 20 minutes later, or accidentally change the channel halfway through. This was real. A totally real movie, not a fever dream that I had. I was fascinated.
As I watched, I started to count people I saw on screen. I thought of all of them showing up that morning with the crew and everyone, ready to create what was in front of me and I couldn’t believe it. There was no way anyone involved in this knew what they were a part of. I can’t describe this to someone after watching it twice and thinking about it for a week. How could the filmmakers describe it to the people who were in it?
More threads started unraveling as I watched. I started noticing a few voices were dubbed, the music seemed really loud, and all of the sound effects seemed unnatural. It was clear the actors were speaking English, but it wasn’t until halfway through that I realized it wasn’t just a few of the actors, but every single actor in the film was dubbed. Did the film’s audio get destroyed mistakenly? I later learned that the dubbing wasn’t even done by the original actors, but a completely different set of people way after filming had finished since none of the original actors wanted to come back to record their lines.
After it was all over, I tried to piece it all together. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t figure out what I just watched. It still doesn’t feel like a real movie to me. I watched a few interviews with cast and crew members and it doesn’t seem like anyone involved knew what they were making either. The director of the film has only really had experience with softcore porn movies, but after seeing Friday the 13th, he was convinced that horror films would take over the world, so he tried to throw in some gore into his next film. Half of the crew spoke French, and apparently didn’t seem to care much if the English speaking crew members understood them or not. This is a pretty big deal on it’s own, but what makes it even worse is that the scripts the French crew had were completely different than the scripts the American crew had. Actors would show up on set after hours in makeup only to find out that the scene was entirely different now, and they had to undo everything. The makeup and gore effects are pretty great in this, and even though none of the deaths make any sense at all, they’re pretty creative and well done. The thing that hurts this movie the most is that there’s no flow at all. There’s no easy transitions from scene to scene, nothing feels natural, and there’s no real sense of where people are in relation to each other, or how much time has passed. It’s extremely sloppy and really obvious that the writers took two scripts and mashed them together. At the start, the fast scene swapping and constant weirdness without explanation help give the movie it’s insane feel, but it hits a bit of a lull when we reach a middle that’s full of generic sex scenes.
Even after thinking about this for a few days, I’m not sure i could really describe what happened. I’ll try to unpack it a little bit, because when there’s not a 70s style porn scene unfolding, there’s a lot going on. At the core of the movie we’ve got a scientist working on a machine that controls minds by shooting magic silver balls at your head extremely fast. It’s supposed to be a useful and helpful invention, but everyone who receives a ball to the head dies immediately. It sort of just seems like bad design to me, but I’m no scientist. The big problem he’s having with the machine is letting it fall into the wrong hands, which in this case is either his coworker who’s determined to make money from this somehow, or…an evil hand puppet. I’m not really sure how the hand puppet got through any stages of the film’s production without being taken out immediately. The evil hand puppet George controls the silver ball machine, which transforms objects like food and other inanimate things into giant pinballs to destroy people’s faces. I’d like to be able to explain that a bit more, but that’s all we ever learn. If it wasn’t so absurd it’d be infuriating. We never see anything besides the puppet itself, so I’m not sure if it’s a possessed puppet that came out of a toybox, or if it’s possessing a hand, or what. I’ve driven myself insane trying to figure out the logistics behind this. When the characters aren’t spending time at the secret science lab, which is in a teenage girl’s bedroom in a mansion, they’re out at the town’s arcade bar. A bar where we learn multiple times, they don’t serve any “hard stuff” but they have no problem with knife fights or having sex on top of arcade games. If you’re wondering how any of this fits into place or lines up together, it really doesn’t at all, but there’s enough head explosions and body melting to make you forget that.
Is Nightmare Weekend a good movie? Not really, no. Is it fun to watch? Definitely.