Nightmare at Noon (1988)

Wing Hauser, Bo Hopkins and George Kennedy star in a horror thriller from Nico Mastorakis. Hollywood DVD UK R0 DVD.

The Film

Ken Griffiths (Wings Hauser) and his wife Cheri are vacationing in the American South-West when they pick up a hitchhiker who introduces himself as Reilly (Bo Hopkins). They arrive into a small town for breakfast as things start to go wrong. A mysterious scientist is seen putting a probe into the water supply of the isolated town and anyone who drinks the water is sent insane, attacking and killing people around them. After fighting off a local, they meet Sheriff Hanks (George Kennedy) and together with his daughter they fight to quell those already infected by the insanity, but escape is impossible as traps disable any vehicles trying to pass through. As night falls, sinister operatives arrive into the town to kill the survivors and the group is forced for fight for their lives...

A major figure in Greek entertainment during the 60s and 70s, producer, director and co-writer Nico Mastorakis established himself in radio and television, before moving into films, writing and directing the video nasty Island of Death (1977) and providing the story for Hollywood romance The Greek Tycoon (1978) before setting up his own production company Omega Entertainment to shoot a series of low budget action and comedy films through the 1980s in the US and Greece. Co-written by Mastorakis and Amercian writer Kirk Ellis, who also scripted Mastorakis' action thriller Hired to Kill (1990), Nightmare at Noon is like the later production, a solid if rather soulless production that seems to have all the right ingredients for a good film, but never quite gets them to gel.

The American setting and storyline quickly bring to mind George A. Romero's The Crazies (1973) although the approach seems to be somewhere between the ambigiously affected citizens of that film and an all out zombie films - the infected here are completely possessed by rage but still able to function - using weapons and driving vehicles. After a well written opening that introduces the main characters and the behaviour of the infected, the middle third of the film with them attacking the infected and later the operatives are certainly the highlights of the film and perhaps with an eye on sequences for the trailer, Mastorakis includes a number of dramatic explosive action scenes that would be unusual in a more horror focused work. The bottom seems to fall out of the film however in the final third, with a rather tiresome chase sequence and predictable ending.

As director, Mastorakis is a solid hand and film moves along in a professional manner, with even the night time sequences easy to follow. The special effects are well done, particularly in the explosive action scenes and a solid soundtrack (credited to a young Hans Zimmer (Gladiator (2000)) provides good backing.

A trio of strong character actors take the main three roles - George Kennedy is perfectly cast as the sheriff, while Wings Hauser brings a fitting level of arrogance to the city lawyer character, without it becoming grating. Bo Hopkins is similarly effective as the jaded ex-police officer and has some good chemistry with Kimberly Ross as the sheriff's daughter.

Nightmare at Noon is a surprisingly little known film that, had it been shot on half the budget or half as well might be known as a cult classic. As it is, Mastorakis has made a solid but ultimately rather forgettable thriller that comes across as something of a greatly simplified remake of Romero's The Crazies. Worth watching, but not particularly recommendable.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Bo Hopkins - an experienced actor who has appeared in a number of major films including Wild Bunch (1969)
George Kennedy - veteran character actor who appeared in the Airport series and Dirty Dozen (1967).
Wings Hauser - American actor who had a variety of roles in the 1980s/90s including A Soldier's Story (1984)
Directed by anyone interesting? Nico Mastorakis - a Greek director who helmed the video nasty Island of Death (1977) before moving into more mainstream productions, for his Omega Entertainment company, including Ninja Academy (1988)
Any gore or violence ? A few violent deaths, some blood.
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Fans of the more mainstream 1980s American horrors and thrillers may enjoy this.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
An okay print - a little faded and grainy, but good detail.
Audio English stereo
Subtitles None.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Trailer reel.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - PAL
Availability On a single disc, as a double bill with Mastorakis's Hired to Kill (1990).
Other regions? Available from Republic on R1 DVD in the US.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Print language is English.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 14th June 2013.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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