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December 17, 2016

Movie Review: Nightmare Sisters (1988, Vinegar Syndrome)

Directed by David DeCoteau

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Melody (Linnea Quigley in buck teeth), Mickey (Michelle Bauer in a fat suit) and Marci (Brinke Stevens all nerded out) are dorky sorority sisters who have the frat house to themselves for a weekend. Their solution? Invite some equally nerdy fraternity brothers for a house party!

Unfortunately, Marci has made a recent thrift score find with a cursed crystal ball that took the life of its previous owner, an accursed spiritual medium (Dukey Flyswatter of the notorious shock rock band Haunted Garage). The girls whip out said crystal ball for an impromptu séance and our transformed into glamorous, insatiable succubi – female demons who like nothing more than seducing males and then castrating them with their fangs! Things get complicated with the arrival of an exorcist (Jim Culver) to drive out the demons. Low-grade comedy hijinks ensue.

Nightmare Sisters, filmed in four days – and looking like it, is the apotheosis of the straight-to-VHS scream Queen Era. There was a time when Quigley, Bauer and Stevens in a project always guaranteed a return on an investment. The result was some quick fun but not very good movies. To Nightmare Sisters’ credit, Quigley, Bauer and Stevens all play against type in the first half of the film as unattractive wallflowers, but all three show they’re out of their league while playing comedy. Quigley continues to act, Bauer appears in the occasional film and Stevens would acquit herself in some serious roles in various low-budget  indie productions, but it’s apparent that these gals found their niche early on and didn’t go any farther. It’s ironic that director DeCoteau in this film depicts his male actors running around in their underwear, foreshadowing his future as a “tighty-whitey Auteur in such gay-themed dreck as 666: Kreepy Kerry (2014).

The Vinegar Syndrome restores Nightmare Sisters from its original 35 mm film stock – all shot on short ends, and looks as good as its threadbare production allows. When the three gals take a dip in a bathtub for a lesbian bubble bath, other than straying on the obvious, one’s eyes will pick up on all the mold and dirt in the bathroom!

There are the expected in-jokes to be found. Quigley references her previous success in Return of the Living Dead (1985) when her character expresses her disdain for horror films, saying “One zombie movie and that was it for me!” Bauer likewise references her star turn in Fred Olen Ray’s The Tomb (1985) where she notes that she once saw this mummy movie with “a vampire lady.” The cleverest bit is Quigley belting out her hit single from her previous all-girl rock band The Skirts, “Santa Monica Boulevard Boy” the song Josie Cotton’s “Johnny, Are You Queer?” should have been.

The chief extra on the DVD/Blu-Ray is an interview with screenwriter and associate producer Kenneth J. Hall, who explains that the film was finished hot on the heels of Sorority Girls in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988) when director David DeCoteau found that he had a few days left over of insurance to shoot an additional feature. The three video vixens jumped at the chance to work together again and so Nightmare Sisters was flopped together. Other details that Hall shares is that the production didn’t exceed four 12-hour days, and the succubus demon that pops up at the end is a redressed old age horror makeup previously used in Bobbie Bresse’s Evil Spawn. (1987).

Also on the disc is a commentary track with director DeCoteau and actress Quigley. Viewers have the option to view the film with DeCoteau’s introduction, and there is a blooper reel. There is even English subtitles for the hard of hearing! Even better is an edited-for-TV version, films with additional footage featuring the three actresses shot one to two years later. A frequent staple on “Up All Night,” this version, shorn of any nudity proved to be an even better insomnia chaser.

If you have a soft spot for Bauer, Stevens and Quigley, Nightmare Sisters will be right up your alley. The fact that it comes with all the bells and whistles into the Blu-Ray age seems to prove that there is always enough room for comedies that aren’t that funny and horror films not that scary.

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