NIGHTMARE WEEKEND (1986) Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: H. Sala
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome gives the hi-def treatment to another Troma trainwreck: the Floridian/French/British/Indian NIGHTMARE WEEKEND on Blu-ray/DVD combo.

Scientist Edward Brake (Wellington Meffert) has developed a computer program called Apache that is capable to killing off neurons and replacing them with synthetic ones – by way of mini sub-PHANTASM spheres that launch themselves into the mouths of their targets – in order to reverse aggressive and fearful behaviors. Although he has had success with animals, including a killer dog, he is reluctant to test it out on humans. His colleague Julie Clingstone (Debbie Laster, BAD GIRLS DORMITORY), however, has not only betrayed Brake by leaking data to a wealthy party for half a million and a share in the ownership if she can prove it works on humans. Inviting three nubile guinea pigs – coed Linda (Andrea Thompson, NYPD BLUE), singer Pamela (Kimberley Stahl), and record store cashier Annie (Lori Lewis) – to her mansion for the weekend for a mysterious experiment that mainly involves them lounging around the pool, Julie and her staff observe the girls set about reprogramming them one by one. The involvement of Brake's daughter Jessica (Debra Hunter) with Julie's hunky gofer Ken (Dale Midkiff, PET SEMATARY) blowing the lid off her scheme may be the least of Julie's worries when horny Pamela brings back guys Gary and Tony (Nick James and THE TOXIC AVENGER's Bruce Morton) back for some fun and Julie finds out that Apache is definitely not ready for human testing.

A thorough mess of a film that makes RUNAWAY NIGHTMARE look like an art film, NIGHTMARE WEEKEND's central conceit could have made for a modest exploitation film with a good share of tits and blood; however, this Florida-lensed production with a French crew and mostly dubbed American actors has so many unnecessary digressions and characters which seems to be a fault of the much re-written script since the disc's supplements suggests the pick-up shoot consisted of some close-ups and additional gore. Virginal Jessica's best friend is a robotic muppet called George who uses Apache to protect her as well as help her figure out that she is in love with Ken and how to arrange another meeting with him. Ken's best friend Bob (Preston Maybank, NOVOCAINE) is killed while trying to realign the Apache satellite in the teaser which provides a nice gore effect but the film feels the need to present an entire flashback in which Bob saves Ken's life to explain why Ken is upset that his friend died. Rather than focus on these characters and the "guinea pigs", the film also includes the goings-on at a local bar introducing Gary and Tony long before they do anything of consequence as well as studly pinball king Dave (DUST DEVIL's Robert John Burke) and his biker slut Sue (the late Karen Mayo-Chandler, HARD TO DIE). Although Dave's attempted rape of Jessica brings her and Ken together and provides more victim fodder for the splattery gore of Dean Gates (DRACULA'S WIDOW), it leads to the drawn out courtship between two dull characters. In spite of all this, there is still room in this ninety minute film for overlong and blandly-choreographed sex scenes (Gary even daydreams of his earlier sex scene in a limo before reprogrammed Pam jumps him). When we finally do get to the climax, Gates gets to showcase a number of slobbering mutation prosthetics and gore effects but it all feels rushed compared to the rest of the film. In the end, NIGHTMARE WEEKEND is not "so bad it's good" so much as a strange "everything and the kitchen sink" curiosity from a period when it when exploitation filmmakers were readapting to changing and narrowing options for independent production. British/Indian producer Bachoo Sen backed a young Pete Walker on his early feature HER PRIVATE HELL and Norman J. Warren on LOVING FEELING while director Henri Sala helmed an impressive number of softcore and hardcore features in his native France throughout the seventies and eighties.

Acquired by Troma, NIGHTMARE WEEKEND was released on VHS in 1986 by Lightning Video in its R-rated cut and the same master utilized by Troma for their fifth TOXIC TRIPLE TERROR set with NIGHTFALL and THE DARK SIDE OF MIDNIGHT. For Vinegar Syndrome's Blu-ray/DVD combo, they have been able to access the unrated elements of the film for 2K-mastered 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen transfer milks the elements for all they are worth with colors that pop (including some super saturated gel lighting during the bar scenes), high grain, and detail that makes Gates' gore effects seem more artificial but no less gruesome. Although the end credits sport a Dolby Stereo logo, the film is presented on Blu-ray and DVD in 1.0 mono (according to Vinegar Syndrome, Troma's materials were all monaural and they were unable to ascertain if the film actually had been released anywhere in stereo). The Blu-ray also includes English SDH subtitles (selectable only you’re your remote) which are not on the DVD side. Each of the menu screens is scored with full music cues including the theme song "Nightmare Fantasy".

In "Thank God It's Monday: Surviving NIGHTMARE WEEKEND" (22:53), Gates recalls how he got into make-up effects and got his first job assisting Tom Savini on Ken Wiederhorn's Florida-lensed EYES OF A STRANGER before getting into the mess that is NIGHTMARE WEEKEND. He recalls that there were English and French scripts, and that the disdainful French crew did not always communicate changes to him so he sometimes prepared effects that were no longer required. He also discusses the pickup shots in New York and the dubbing of the American actors with only himself, producer Marc Gottlieb, and Burke having the opportunity to dub themselves. "Killer Weekend" (12:50) is an interview with Gottlieb who had previously dished about the film's production woes on an IMDb user review. He describes how he rewrote the horrible French script only to have it rewritten by the French side of the production, the self-importance of the inexperienced young actors (Thompson was a diva and Midkiff had a meltdown when it seemed likely that he might not be able to work on the second film he had landed simultaneously (presumably STREETWALKIN'), and how the experience pretty much killed his filmmaking aspirations. The "Alternate R-rated Scenes" (7:47) – also seemingly newly-scanned – with the pinball sex scene losing some shots of Sue's breasts while the scene between Annie and Tony makes use of some different takes and angles but does not seem any more or less explicit. Troma's theatrical trailer (2:26) showcases every exploitable moment and dubs in additional grunts, screams, and a few additional lines (like Julie, face averted to the camera, shouting "Kill!" at the computer). (Eric Cotenas)