Today is one of those days where you want to recover a vintage classic cult horror gem. Because there are many valuable genre films prior to 1978, and because it never hurts to expose yourself to other cinematographic languages and other styles that may have unexpected influences on the present.
In today’s case, the jewel to recover is ‘Devilish Nightmare’, a modest film by Dan Curtis with a very low budget that was not very successful at the time, neither commercially nor critically. But it was having draft in concrete circles, and even ended up having his influence in movies Like ‘The Shining’ by Stanley Kubrick.
Time has given it more love until it has become the estimable cult work that it is today. A fabulous supernatural piece from the haunted house side that we can recover through Prime Video (it can also be found through Filmin).
Something evil beyond the stairs
Before Curtis was approached for this project, the one originally titled ‘Burnt Offerings’ (better title, no doubt) was a script by Robert Marasco that was in the orbit of Bob Fosse, at that time interested in directing something that was not a musical. A dark horror story sounded appetizingbut it did not materialize, so Marasco took advantage of it to make a novel of the same name.
When the novel was considered for adaptation, it was negotiated with Dan Curtis, who at the time had been notable for his television experience, including the family horror series ‘Dark Shadows’. Despite his reluctance, he shaped this nightmare with a family at the center, but unsuitable given his macabre and even morbid nature.
The film follows a married couple and their 12-year-old son, who move into a giant house for the summer. Things start to get weird almost immediately. It seems that every time someone gets hurt on the lot, the battered house seems to repair itself. They will soon see that they are about authentic supernatural phenomena and that their lives are in danger.
‘Fiendish Nightmare’: This House Is a Ruin
Curtis shoots the film with a fabulous exquisiteness typical of the time, resorting to various resources learned in his television stage but also creating very cinematic atmospheres. With a solid cast that includes the likes of Karen Black, Bette Davis and Oliver Reed, she creates several nightmarish sequences with very realistic roots, without foregoing a touch of grand guignol that is highly entertaining.
Scenes like the one in the pool show great technical expertise that overcomes budget constraints, creating a perfect nightmarish sequence that endures over time. His well-measured sophistication and well-executed scenes like that have helped solidify his cult status among fans of genre filmand it’s worth rescuing now before someone comes up with a ten-episode remake series of it.