Director Jess Franco was the quintessence of an auteur. He insisted on making movies on his own terms, often with very low budgets, and hence low production values and quick schedules. His films are obsessed with sex, beautiful women, mind control and death. In short, he's an acquired taste. And, if one has not already acquired that taste, Nightmares Come at Night, long thought to be lost, is probably not the place to start.
Anna (Diana Lorys) is a mentally unstable ex-stripper, living in a mansion with her girlfriend, the manipulative Cynthia (Colette Giacobine). Anna suffers from recurring nightmares involving her killing people, she believes she might be losing her grip on reality. Her friend Dr. Lucas (Paul Muller) tries to treat her, but worries that she may become violent. Meanwhile, two curious strangers (Andres Monales and Soledad Miranda) keep watch over Anna and Cynthia from a house next door.
Not much more can be revealed without giving away vital points of the plot, such as it is. In fact, the plot seems merely to be a bare skeleton on which to layer scenes of Anna dancing at the strip club, or showering, or partying with a young couple. It's a way to show Anna naked as much as possible, in other words. That's not to say that Nightmares Come at Night is just an excuse to show bared female flesh. Jess Franco is very much experimenting here: with flashback, with experiential and impressionistic filmmaking, with the idea of memory in film. But he's also Franco, the voyeuristic lover of women, and he really can't help but do this. One of the critics interviewed in the extras put it best when he said that Franco was a "filmer", that is, someone who loved to film, but wasn't so much interested in crafting a coherent narrative.
The film isn't without merit. Redemption / Kino Lorber have done a really good job in reclaiming this film and cleaning it up. However, for those who aren't already devoted Franco fans, it will probably not be a positive experience. This is an important film, in that it shows Franco as he is developing as a filmmaker. But not something that is going to be embraced by the general public. For most people, rent it.
"Making of" Documentary
Homage to Jess
About the Master
Commentary by Tim Lucas, Critic and Co-Editor of Video Watchdog Magazine