The nature of anthologies, with different segments created by different filmmakers, means you usually get varying results. In the realm of horror anthologies, however, the quality of the collections fluctuate from straight-up bad to simply good. Unfortunately, A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio doesn’t buck that trend.
Compiled by Nicholas and Luciano Onetti, A Night of Horror sees a radio DJ (James Wright) run a horror-themed station where he tells chilling stories to his listeners. What does set this particular anthology apart from others is how each short film has already been released throughout the last decade – some being festival nominees and other huge Youtube hits. The framing device of a horror radio station is great- it feels tongue-in-cheek and paves the way for some fun, spooky segments. That promise is solidified by the first short film, In the Dark, Dark Woods, which opens the entire film. With over-the-top editing reminiscent of experimental MTV content from the ’80s and ’90s, this gothic love story transitions into the campiness of the over-arching narrative that is Nightmare Radio; complete with corny dialogue, wooden acting, and a ridiculous over-reliance on thunderclap sound effects.
From here, however, the tone shifts completely. Each short film presented from this point on lack the visual creativity of the opening and opt to tell stories in earnest. Tales from the Crypt this is not, but most of the segments present some creativity in their narrative and technical aspects. Post Mortem Mary delights with a girl assisting her mother in running a post-mortem photography business, playing on the child’s fears and imagination in delightfully creepy ways. The Disappearance of Willie Bingham has a concept that could easily be explored in a feature, and feels the most Tales from the Crypt like with fun moments that touch on intriguing themes. Vicious has the strongest opening act of all the shorts: expertly toying with horror conventions and expectations in a genuinely engaging story that unfortunately slips into familiar tropes.
Into the Mud is the weakest by far, the filmmakers assuming they’re much cleverer than they are by having a twist that can be seen coming from the opening shots, but thankfully the other shorts have at least some elements that make them worth watching. A Little Off The Top meanders for most of its runtime but has a wonderfully gory payoff, similar to The Smiling Man which has a lot of fun with a simple premise. Gotas, the only non-English language film, has a really interesting idea on its hands that explores a tragic past but trades an effective slow-burn for a bombastic finale.
There is something to be said about the international appeal of the whole collection: with segments being produced in Australia, the USA, Spain, and the UK. It makes for an interesting variety in the stories being told and characters presented on screen, but like other horror anthologies the overall result ends up being a mixed bag.
A Night of Horror’s biggest downfall is the tonal whiplash. Incorporating films already released to get them more mainstream attention (or using already successful shorts to help with marketing, you decide) is a great idea on paper but the projects selected feel at odds with the campy b-movie quality that the Onetti’s seem to be aiming for. After the opening ten minutes, I too was ready for something fun and ridiculous not unlike Tales from the Crypt. Whilst the short films aren’t bad themselves, I just wish A Night Of Horror delivered more on the creative and goofy time it seemed to promise.
Nightmare Radio (Dir. Nicolas Onetti and Luciano Onetti, 2020)
In the Dark, Dark Woods (Dir. Jason Bognacki,2017)
Post Mortem Mary (Dir. Joshua Long, 2017)
A Little Off The Top (Dir. Adam O Brien, 2012)
The Disappearance of Willie Bingham (Dir. Matt Richards, 2015)
Gotas (Dir. Sergio Morcillo, 2017)
The Smiling Man (Dir. A.J Briones, 2015)
Into the Mud (Dir. Pablo S. Pastor, 2016)
Vicious (Dir. Oliver Park, 2017)
A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio is available on Digital Download