Director: Paul Hunt
Code Red Releasing

Code Red conjures up a very dark (literally) TWISTED NIGHTMARE with this little-seen eighties supernatural slasher.

A group of high school friends receive mysterious invitations for a reunion up at their old summer camp in the middle of nowhere. Laura (Rhonda Gray, DEADLY BREED) flaunts her new boyfriend Shawn (Brad Bartrum, EMBRACE THE DARKNESS) in front of bitchy newlywed Nancy (Crisstyn Dante) and mate Jeff (Jim Gosling), guitar-strumming Gus (Phillip Bardowell) and kitten-loving Sylvia (Donna Correa) sneak into the barn and never return, mean and drunk Dean (Kenneth Roper Jr.) and long-suffering Cheri (Heather Sullivan) try to leave but find the car breaks down the road and they are forced to walk back. While avid hunter Tak (Darryl Tong) takes Shawn hunting and his girlfriend Jennifer (Natalie Main, HELLHOLE) with Laura, black couple Nicole (Juliet Martin) and Gerome (Marc Copage) hit the sauna, and dumb blondes Ken (Scott King, TERMINAL EXPOSURE) and Julie (Devon Jenkin, SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE III) decide to explore the barn too. Throughout the day and into the night, the couples are hunted down one-by-one by something very mean and very strong. Shawn learns that what the group has in common besides going to school together is that they were all present at the camp when Laura's slow brother (effects artist Cleve Hall, TROLL) mysteriously burned to death. Caretaker Cain (Robert Padilla, THE GREAT GUNDOWN) also warns that the camp is the sight of a massacre of Native Americans including a medicine man that was burned at the stake, which lead to a curse that has claimed the lives of the property's various owners. Is the killer supernatural? Is the increasingly odd Laura possessed or taking revenge for her brother's death? Then again, her brother's body was never found…

Shot in 1985 but not released in 1987 – and presumably the subject of reshoots additional scenes are credited to DEMON WIND's Charles Philip Moore – TWISTED NIGHTMARE looks for a while as if the title should have been DON'T GO IN THE BARN rather than the working title ANCIENT EVIL. With a large cast of obvious victim fodder, this is the kind of film in which you usually only learn the names of each of the cardboard characters just before they are killed off; and the film provides ample opportunities for interesting death scenes. Unfortunately, the underlit photography of director Paul Hunt (THE CLONES) – with additional work from Gary Graver (MORTUARY) and eight credited camera operators – leaves the most creative ones indistinct, from a twitching body that accidentally shoots its own severed head, a SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT-esque antler impalement, and one where the killer uses their own body as a conductor to electrocute a victim felt safe enough to gloat with a chain-link fence in between them. Despite the relatively high body count, the ninety-minute film moves at a plodding pace, and some of the acting is murderously bad (apart from Bartrum who was the only actor to go onto a prolific career with seventy-odd credits in the softcore cable and DTV genre between 1998 and 2009).

Given scant theatrical release, TWISTED NIGHTMARE found much of its meager cult following through Trans World Entertainment's VHS release and a later LP-mode Star Classics tape. The film languished in the format until Code Red's 2017 Blu-ray. Utilizing the only surviving 35mm elements, TWISTED NIGHTMARE's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 bears occasional vertical scratches (in addition to the fine scratches that appear around the opticals), but the film looks as dark and grainy as it is because it's just an underlit film.

Extras start off with an audio commentary by actor/effects artist Hall, his daughter, Code Red's Bill Olsen, and filmmaker/historian Damon Packard. Hall reveals that he was actually called in to do some pickup shots when Hunt was dissatisfied with the work of the original make-up artist, and that he also ended up replacing the actor playing the monster as well since the guy did not want to do a tooth cast (Hall also did a theme song with his band but it was abandoned when the title was changed). The discussion can lapse into poking fun at the onscreen action (not entirely unjustified given some of the inanity) or Hall's other credits but Packard falls back on the Bartrum interview included elsewhere on the disc to stimulate discussion. They also shed light on Hunt's career, his bad decision-making, and Olsen's own friendship with the late filmmaker. Most interesting are Hall's recollections about the cast, many of whom did not go on to much else. Although Hall is none too proud of the film, he does remark upon its positive reception at a recent screening (although Olsen may be stretching things to suggest that it has a "cult following" on tape). The participants are viewing the film off a dark VHS but Olsen reveals that the HD master he created is just as dark (the negative having been disposed of by Canadian Pathé along with whatever elements CFI had stateside), and that individual shots had to be adjusted because Graver seems not to have taken widescreen framing into account (the title card as originally framed was cutoff at the bottom even at 1.78:1).

The disc also includes an onscreen interview Hall (19:18) who provides a capsule coverage of his input on the commentary but spends much of the running time discussing the differences between independent then and now ("it's just not fun anymore"). The aforementioned Bartrum interview (10:28) has the actor unambiguously conveying his low opinion of the film but discussing the protracted shoot (delayed by weather and probably money) with some fondness (displaying a whole file of printed memorabilia from the film including scathing reviews). He recalls the replacement of the original actor, some of the scenes that had to be reshot, multiple cinematographers and art department personnel, and does not recall getting paid for his work (also mentioning that some actors just left because they got tired of it). He also recalls that Hunt gave up the reigns to Moore and gaffer Martin L. Aguilar (MAUSOLEUM) for reshoots. He also recalls working with Graver in a subsequent Fred Olen Ray film. Extras close out with a New Beverly Screening Intro (7:04) with an appearance by Hall as well as trailers for SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK, HELL HIGH, SCHOOLGIRLS IN CHAINS, MUTANT and ONE DARK NIGHT. (Eric Cotenas)