Studio: Gravitas Ventures
Director: Gene Blalock
Writer: Jhan Harp, Rob Stith
Producer: Jhan Harp
Stars: Amber Benson, Kevin Chamberlin, Mat Devine, Mieko Hillman, Rahul Parikh, Nichole Eberle
When her student disappears under strange circumstances, an anthropology professor becomes obsessed with solving a cryptic mystery connected to an ancient god.
Movies like “The Nightmare Gallery” cause me to question why I continue covering low-budget projects Kickstarted into the home video horror space. It’s not even because the movies are bad. Although I’m increasingly cognizant of time’s value the older I get, I’ve wasted enough of it on forgettable fright flicks that another 90 minutes now and then doesn’t lead me to lose sleep.
What actually irks me are the additional hours spent mentally revisiting lame films in order to write a review. Unflattering words also invite attacks from cast and crew masquerading as anonymous commenters in organized hate campaigns. Or in cases of honest intentioned filmmakers who simply produced something poorly, a critic runs the risk of crushing fragile feelings harmlessly operating in a negligible niche of fringe cinema.
What’s the return on investing in these misspent hours, headaches, and harassment? To inform the small portion of people interested in an under-the-radar indie that it’s just another disposable DTV’er destined for obscurity? Ten times out of ten, viewers can determine this themselves from a trailer or quick background check to learn no known names are involved.
That’s where I’m at with “The Nightmare Gallery,” which qualifies for all of the concerns above. More average than appalling, “The Nightmare Gallery” is another throwaway thriller whose limited lease on audience interest will expire long before this review becomes a ghost town no one visits either.
Let’s go through perfunctory motions so we can move on to more productive things in our lives. Don’t be surprised if reduced brainpower restricts creativity to straightforward declarative sentences. I’m only following the movie’s uninspiring example.
Having progressed (regressed?) to the Mischa Barton “get in, get out, grab an easy buck” stage of her acting career, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” alum Amber Benson stars as anthropology professor Sam Rand. Sam is in a same-sex marriage with her wife Dawn. It’s terrific that “The Nightmare Gallery” proudly touts this as a hook of LGBTQ inclusion, yet it’s another arbitrary detail with no real resonance. Dawn could be a green dwarf and it would make no meaningful difference.
To odd degrees for a platonic pupil relationship, Sam is more interested in her student Sanjay. Sanjay recently acquired an ancient manuscript and Sam is as eager to read it as he is. Weirdly, Sam finds Sanjay mysteriously missing when she arrives at his place. The old tome is gone too, knocking over the first dominoes on Sam’s obsessive trail to uncover what happened.
Three years later, Sam’s search for Sanjay continues. I can’t imagine why, but Sam continues putting up missing person flyers in the same places they’ve already been for 36 months. Despite having no new leads, her doggedness is almost admirable. Sam’s determination also causes rifts in her marriage while earning admonishment from her university supervisor as well.
A break comes when a package arrives containing “cryptic” clues. Cryptic is in quotation marks because of how broadly that word applies to “The Nightmare Gallery.” Cryptic best describes the deliriously indecipherable story, overwrought dialogue, and indeterminate ideas motivating the movie’s existence. Get comfortable with confusedly scratching your scalp literally while Sam frustratingly does it figuratively.
The delivery curiously coincides with second student Chloe taking a sudden interest in assisting Sam’s research. Chloe’s serendipitous arrival comes with questions regarding who she really is, what she really wants, and what she might know about Sanjay’s disappearance. The following would be a spoiler if anyone actually cared. But hilariously, Chloe turns out to be exactly what she says she is: an ancillary supporting character siphoning screen time from Sam’s wife without turning any twist into the plot whatsoever.
An asylum inmate, played by an actor clearly only crazy while the camera is rolling even though his character has been in a padded cell for three years, adds more ranting and raving. Pictographs, nightmares, and more hullaballoo eventually pause the runaround long enough to make up a bizarre mystery involving a museum in a mansion, more visions, and something about a malevolent god trying to do who knows what. I finished the entire film moments ago and I’m still not sure what I watched.
Yelling constitutes impassioned acting as far as the director seems concerned, although angry emotions come across more convincingly than when anyone turns on tears for a blubbering breakdown. Horrible monster makeups, mercifully seen sparingly, seem sculpted from unpainted Silly Putty. I wanted to include a third note to round out this paragraph, but I don’t know what else to say to someone who might somehow still sit on the fence at this point.
Hopefully, my efforts here weren’t in vain and you’ve been spared a needless expenditure of an hour and a half. If it’s too late, take solace that you only lost the additional five minutes it took to read this far. Throw a pitying thought my way for losing half of a day to “The Nightmare Gallery” with only these fleeting words to show for it.
NOTE: There is a post-credits scene.
Review Score: 30