The Film (3.5/5)
I will be forthcoming with the fact that I had not heard about Runaway Nightmare the directorial debut, and sole director's credit for filmmaker, and actor Mike Cartel prior to the announcement of Vinegar Syndrome releasing the title. However, the film quickly "wormed" it's way into my cinematic loving heart with it's bizarre sensibility, and desire to create a fun film over a coherent one.
The film stars Cartel and Al Valletta as a couple of brothers, Mike and Jason, who run a worm ranch around Death Valley. As the film begins they see a box being buried in the desert, being curious they dig the box up, and find a living woman named Fate. The woman was being watched by a few of her friends, who happened to be co-members with her in a cult. They kidnap Mike and Jason, and after torturing them for a while decide to extend them membership into the cult. This doesn't involve simple chanting, worship, and sexual rites. Apparently, this cult has issues with the mob, and the reason Fate found herself buried in a shallow grave below the desert is that they were trying to steal platinum from the mob to fund their operations. They decide after some time to seek revenge for Fate's burial, and get the platinum, so they launch an attack on the mob's warehouse. This is not as easy as they hoped, and it turns out between a time bomb, and the platinum being plutonium things will not be the same for Mike, Jason, and the cultist after this assault.
That plot synopsis doesn't even begin to cover the wildness of this film. In fact read that, forget it, buy the damn DVD or Blu-ray, and just watch it and absorb it. The plot to Runaway Nightmare feels like a secondary device used to string the whole thing along. This is not a complaint, the film just feels like a load of fun with scenes of near violence, and near sex. Runaway Nightmare essentially feels like a live action Looney Tune with horrid, but hysterical acting, and all narrative sensibilities thrown out the window in favor of a semi-surreal, semi-horror trip into Cartel's cinematic world. Like many of Vinegar Syndromes other releases, it feels like Runaway Nightmare has been rescued from the annals of the cinematic underground to warp the minds of a new generation of viewers.
Vinegar Syndrome have once again taken an obscure cinematic oddity, and languished it with the finest presentation it is ever likely to see on home video. The limited to 1000 pieces Blu-ray edition has been scanned in 4k and released in the films OAR in a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer. The transfer looks as good as can be expected for a film of this vintage. The fine detail present in the transfer is excellent, color reproduction is quite good, black levels are solid, and flesh tones accurate. There is a healthy level of grain present, although it does fluctuate from scene to scene and is much more present in the films darker moments.
The audio is presented in English DTS-HD MA mono. The track is passable, with dialogue sounding good, but occasionally difficult to discern some dialogue. The music and FX are mixed well, and I did not detect any issues with the track as a whole.
Vinegar Syndrome have put together a few nice extras for their release of Runaway Nightmare including a commentary tracker with Mike and Mari Cartel, film historian Howard S. Berger, and Vinegar Syndrome's Joe Rubin. We also get alternate video scenes, which are basically nudie shots, shot on VHS with other actresses inserted into the film to add some exploitation to the film.
RUNAWAY NIGHTMARE IS AN ABSOLUTE HYSTERICAL BLAST. Like quite a bit of Vinegar Syndrome's output this a film that is too fun to stay hidden. The A/V restoration is fantastic, and the extras push this one over the top. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.