Nightscape Review [NYCHFF 2012]
Welp, it looks like the horsemen of the apocalypse are pimping out their rides, because whether you’re just cruising or turning people into destructive tentacle zombie monsters, why not do it in style?!
Enter David W. Edwards’ Lovecraftian horror piece Nightscape, telling to story of a phantom car, hinted at being a Leviathan type supernatural beast, and the three strangers who must band together and defeat the pearly white racer of doom.
Let’s rewind though, as you’re probably just as confused as I was when the film started out.
Meet El Buitre (Jorge Enamorado Madrid), your average supernatural hunting desperado with a souped up ride and customized blaster. With only his mission on his mind, El Buitre stays hot on the path of our mysterious glowing automobile, trying to contain its zombifying wrath from spreading even further. He’s one of those cool, shady, loner gunslinger types from the wild west which Mardid plays with cowboy like flair, never giving any definitive information, yet always having an answer. He’s a character we’ve seen over and over again, a stereotype perpetuated by countless drifters, but Mardid easily provides the most amount of entertainment found in Nightscape. El Buitre might have been based on a recycled idea, but Jorge Enamorado Madrid plays a badass car hunting hombre worth a damn, providing a nice focus for director David W. Edwards.
Then we meet Kat (Emily Galash) and Smoke (Joshua St. James), unlikely lovers who spend their time meandering around the country looking for drag races to compete in, hoping to re-ignite Smoke’s long-lost racing career after a crippling leg injury. After losing everything in a pink slip race, the two wandering kids make their way to an abandoned diner, only to find all the patrons and workers dead as doorknobs – until one gets up and spouts waving tentacles from all orifices. Cue the crossroads where El Buitre shows up, saves the day, and offers the hitchhiking couple a ride as far as he can go. Only now does Nightscape finally shape some kind of story, as the three strangers are forced to band together when the demon car starts causing havoc everywhere around them.
Now to analyze the Lovecraftian horror that David W. Edwards aimed for, creating a fantasy horror piece that doesn’t fit into many categories. It’s really more of a shapeshifter scene by scene, but spattered with some interestingly cosmic sequences and wavy dream induced recollections as well.
What Edwards does with our bone-colored hellraising automobile is rather intriguing, bringing the car to life as a living, fleshy organism, but the car’s intentions or meaning aren’t necessarily always clear. We get El Buitre muttering fables or recalling past run-ins with the car, but besides that, it’s hard to really decipher the car’s true intentions just based on the blurry streaks left behind when zooming past our characters. Yes, it’s a harbinger of death, a demon hell-bent on death and destruction, but it takes more than throwing the definition of Leviathan up on a cue card to establish some sort of sensical story.
Here’s what the average viewer will comprehend – El Buitre is hunting the car, Kat and Smoke get caught in the middle, they stop off at some crazy religious camp where we meet a southern priest, and some people die along the way. The whole horseman of the apocalypse, angel of death theme isn’t really too obvious, as well as the car’s tie ins with other cast members. Edwards’ ending will leave a few watchers scratching their heads for sure, struggling to piece together any cohesive plot.
With that said, Nightscape might have been a mess, but it was a pretty mess at least. The car’s ghostly feel looked perfect, streaking across the screen, sporting a pearlescent glisten which popped vibrantly off-screen. The creatures looked great as well, whenever people’s tentacles made an appearance and the dead started walking. We’re thankfully spared bad CGI work and hack creative design, as careful care and attention to detail gave us at least something to be scared of.
That same attention to detail made even the little things more entertaining, whether it was a character’s appearance or El Buitre’s arsenal. From his gun to explosives, everything was customized to fit Nightscape‘s own imaginary authenticity, which shows a level of respect and care put forth by creative minds who wanted to deliver something different to fans. That’s the best part about independent cinema, more creative liberties are taken where mainstream cinema might shy away – a killer car that turns people into zombies being a perfect example.
Nightscape is an independent thriller with flair and style, but not enough to distract from plot shortcomings and murky storytelling. I’m not saying there isn’t a bigger picture theme at work, I’m just saying it’s not always the easiest to pinpoint. Just focus on the shiny cars flying by and you should be just fine.
Nightscape is an independent thriller with flair and style, but not enough to distract from plot shortcomings and murky storytelling.