On the road in New Mexico, a young couple find themselves terrorized by psychos with a penchant for killing. The question is, will the girls fight back, or will they be another roadside ghost story?
A dusty road with two helpless victims in the middle of nowhere is an effective setting for a horror film. And while the oddly titled This Side of Nightmare
uses this, and yes, sometimes feels sort of clichéd, it somehow rises above to create a moody, visual piece that is pretty unsettling. We follow a young couple, played by Haylee Nelson
and Amy Baklini
, who find themselves on a long, desolate road in New Mexico. You’ll notice that one of the clichés has already been tweaked, as it is not that common to find a realistically played out lesbian relationship in a horror movie. But I liked both of the girls, and this seriously upped the ante for me. After the two girls hit a rabbit, they pull over to check on the situation. As they assess the damage, another car pulls up next to them, and you know that is never a good sign in a horror story that takes place on a lonely desert road.
What is especially creepy about this scenario, is that the two psychos that end up playing a deadly game with the two girls are also what appear to be lesbians, even though they use slurs against the young girls while terrorizing them. It was a very inspired casting choice by writer, director Peter Grendle. I’m not sure if he was trying to make a statement, as the idea of gay rights has been a popular discussion recently, but I think he made a wise move to make it as little an issue in the film as he did. And what is interesting about the scary chicks stalking the nice ones, is that they reminded me of just a couple of white trash women. Although due to running time, the bad girls weren’t really expanded on as much as they could’ve been. Yet this whole scenario, no matter how cliché, can work if the characters are real enough. And the thing is, running just over eleven minutes, This Side of Nightmare possesses a very believable and disturbing mood that makes up for the lack of budget and keeps you interested in the victims.
Speaking of budget, I have to say that the editing and the way this was shot made a big difference here. When you can’t do crazy stunts or spend a lot of money to make stunts look amazing, you can do what they did here. It is cleverly cut so that it makes it easy to believe in the action occurring on screen. So yes, it has that gritty feel that many recent genre efforts have, but the low budget and the creative post production really help bring it to life. Also the use of harsh desert colors which soon turn to black and white, make for a surprisingly effective chiller that is realistic enough, it may dissuade you from taking that road trip to Vegas or wherever the hell you wanted to go. Yep, it can be a big and scary world out there.
While it could have been a clichéd tale of young people being terrorized in the middle of nowhere, this short by Peter Grendle is surprisingly potent. Clever editing and some interesting shots with a nice use of color, and black and white, make up for the low budget. In the end, This Side of Nightmare is a chillingly believable horror short that works better than you’d expect. The biggest complain really, is that it ran just a little two short which shortchanged the villains a bit.