Nightmare on the 13th Floor - 1990 TV movie (Horror / Mystery / Thriller)

Directed by Walter Grauman
Screenplay by J.D. Fiegelson & Dan DiStefano, and some monkeys
"Starring" Michelle Greene, John Karlen, Louise Fletcher, and James Brolin

"A different kind of horror storey!" - get it? Story/storey? See? Hey, don't blame me, that's the official tagline...

"Plot" (and I use the word very loosely):

A journalist writing an article on a spooky hotel discovers a supposedly non-existent 13th floor where strange things take place. Nobody believes her, the hotel staff seem to have something to hide, and a crazed killer stalks the hallways.

Why You Should Watch/Rent/Buy This:

From the director who brought you "Columbo: Murder in Malibu" and "Shakedown on the Sunset Strip", and the writer of "Dark Night of the Scarecrow" comes one of the funniest films I've ever seen. Let's get this nice and crystal clear right from the start: this is a shit movie. Abysmal. But it's bloody funny. If you want a good laugh, check it out. If I didn't know better, I'd say it was a spoof - in fact, for the first ten minutes of viewing, I thought it was.

It is a film that breaks many records. While watching it with my girlfriend, we kept exclaiming things like "That's the worst (blank) I've ever seen!" It has the worst movie cop I've ever seen - Sergeant Madden, supposedly a street hardened cop, is shockingly inept, tripping over a chair at a crucial moment, dropping his gun, and running away in fear when someone walks into the room with an axe. It has the worst chase scene I've ever seen - a woman is chased, very slowly, by about ten people for ten minutes, upstairs, downstairs, in rooms, out of rooms, up corridors, down corridors, around corners, back upstairs, back downstairs... It has the worst masked killer revelation I've ever seen. A major character vanishes from the screen with no explanation towards the end of the movie, and when he is finally unmasked as the evil murderer, the only shock is that they actually thought we would be surprised. It has the worst villian I've ever seen - said unmasked killer is about as threatening as Terry Wogan/Regis Philbin (choose one according to your location and/or cultural preference).

At one point, a character loses her glasses - she jumps, they fly horizontally off her face and fall through a tiny hole in the wall. She is then completely blind. A camera point of view shot shows the world to be a confusing blur of colours and lights, so bad, in fact, that her glasses should have been about 6 inches thick - no, let's face it, if she was that bad, she'd have needed to strap a pair of Hubble space telescopes to her head.

Several times throughout the movie, shots or sequences are reused. In the final scenes, the same shot was used so many times, I half expected Leslie Nielsen to turn up.

There is so much more to enjoy in this movie, it's wonderfully bad. Rent it, buy it, wait for it to be repeated on telly - then get some beers in, or smoke some weed, watch it, and laugh your arse off. Much fun can be had making MST3K-style comments at the screen. It's the Plan 9 From Outer Space of the 90's.

Most Excellent Movie Trivia:

Louise Fletcher is best known for playing Nurse "I'm evil, me" Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. She has been slumming it in crap like this ever since. One of my friends from college is called Louise Fletcher, and was convinced that I made up the story about her famous namesake until I showed her the video box.

You might recognise John Karlen, who plays Sergeant Madden, as Hawwwvey, from the bloody awful TV show Cagney & Lacey. Then again, you might not.

The director of this movie has directed episodes of Murder, She Wrote, Barnaby Jones, The Streets of San Francisco, The Fugitive (the orignal TV series, not the TV series of the movie of the TV series), and Miniature, an episode of The Twilight Zone. All of them are infinitely better than this film.

The best thing though, is the first review on the IMDB. According to the reviewer, it is the scariest, cleverest horror film ever made, with superb acting and atmosphere. Some choice quotes: "I was amazed to discover that it was a television movie" - you don't see many films, do you? "Worth searching for in the back corner of the video store" - cause that's exactly where it will be. And the best one - "Anyone seriously or casually interested in film should enjoy it or at least find something interesting about it." Which is partly true, to be fair - I am seriously interested in film, and was fascinated by how poorly made it was. Check out the review yourself at http://us.imdb.com/Title?0100262 - scroll down about halfway, it's under the credits. Be sure to click on the Amazon customer reviews link afterwards, where many more gibbering lunatics will tell you that this is a masterpiece of horror.

For all its faults, this still isn't the worst film I've ever seen. That joint honour goes to Silver Dream Racer starring David Essex, the only film I have ever left the cinema halfway through, and Tommy, the atrocious "rock opera" that everyone seems to think is a work of genius. Some movies are so bad, they're good. But some, like these two, are so bad they're just shit. If I ever have to sit through either of them again, I will open my arteries and bleed my way out of it.


Update: Movie Alert! This movie will be shown on the US Sci Fi Channel on Saturday night/Sunday morning, June 23rd 2002. It's on at 1AM, the prime time slot for high quality material. If you're reading this too late, go to the above IMDB link and click on the "On TV, Schedule Links" link to see if it's on near you. Everyone must see this movie before they die.

More Update: It is no longer June any more. You're too late. Too late! But it's regularly on the US and UK Sci Fi Channels, so just keep watching the skies/schedules, or get Digiguide and flag it. I did, it was on the other night and I taped it. It is now mine forever. Nice.

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