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John’s Horror Corner: Project Nightmare (1987), a super low budget and completely forgettable Sci-Fi film.

March 28, 2021

MY CALL: For a very low budget movie so hard to find and which I never knew existed, this is decent enough in concept, but completely neutered in execution. I’d never recommend it. But there’s nothing aggravatingly bad either. It’s just boring. Don’t trust the incredibly misleading movie poster art!

After awakening to the destruction of their tents and campsite, Jon and Gus have no idea what happened and cannot seem to navigate to the nearby towns that they know should be there. They also believe that they are being stalked by… something. This something manifests as a visible but incorporeal colorful force in the sky and among the trees. More of a “presence” than a thing really.

As they journey on foot in search of civilization, they encounter a kind reclusive homeowner who takes them in for the night and a stranger with a flat tire. These two characters begin as completely normal, but eventually wander into the abstract. Unfortunately, like the incorporeal presence following them, these abstract concepts never find any satisfying development in the movie. Sure, they’ll be explained. But through expository dialogue we will be “told” not “shown.”

Trippy dream sequences feel like a film student’s psychedelic head trip laced with guilt and hidden meaning. We want to believe this will head somewhere meaningful… it doesn’t. Generally sluggishly paced and with no excitement to be found, eventually an underground facility is discovered where some form of mind control or induced delusion is underway in a government experiment station. Too bad this experiment wasn’t as compelling as Cube (1997), Source Code (2011) or The Belko Experiment (2016).

Director Donald M. Jones (Deadly Sunday, Murderlust) had all of the ideas, but none of the money to see them realized on screen. This has an interesting enough Sci-Fi premise for 1987, but the film is just a boring slog. Not a slowburn, mind you—just painfully boring. This would have been better in the hands of David Cronenberg, who essentially tapped into this notion (but much darker and more perverse) with Videodrome (1983).

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