Review: Armand Petri’s Reel Nightmare

I love movies about witches or the occult. I can’t help but to feel like it’s a dying subgenre of horror, save for one or two movies ever year like Blair Witch or The Witch that do a good job highlighting the source material. In recent weeks and months I’ve shared a lot of press releases in regards to the new movie Reel Nightmare, but in the back of my mind I was slightly hesitant to think, “wow, this is going to be amazing!” Films like this, especially found footage features, are either hit or miss and it’s all kind of been done before. I think in this generation, you’re going to define your film-making career not by making “the greatest movie ever,” but by making a movie that holds up well against other iconic and popular titles. So, with that in mind, keep reading for my review of Reel Nightmare – now on all Blu-ray and VOD worldwide.

Reel Nightmare is written, produced and directed by Armand Petri and it serves as his feature film directorial debut. Leading and supporting cast members include Madeleine Heil, Garrett Morosky (Ballet of Blood), Andres Mejia Vallejo, Armand Petri, Eric Saleh, Hailey Chown, Mari-Liis Userdnov, Keith Edie (“Days of Our Lives”), Christine Uhebe, Eliza Bone and Kate McCafferty. In Reel Nightmare, an independent camera crew head out to an old house in the middle of the woods to begin pre-production on their next paranormal project. Unfortunately, one of the women on the scene awaken the vengeful spirits of three maimed witches after reading a passage from their Necronomicon. Now the film-makers have to figure out the mystery and stop The Goodwin witches before they become b-roll in a centuries’ old murder plot.

I’d like to address the aspect of found footage first before you guys go, “oh no,” and pass on Reel Nightmare. While it is a found footage feature, it’s done so in a creative way. A lot of the scenes are still a typical narrative in style and you would think you were watching a normal movie on a tripod. The scenes that are shown from the camera man’s POV aren’t shaky, aren’t horribly framed and they still have a lot of effort put into them as far as establishing a good looking shot. What I’m trying to say here is that Reel Nightmare is a found footage flick, but it’s not going to make you nauseous from all the jerking around and the style in which it was shot in is not an excuse for laziness. This was a high level production. Except for the audio. I’m not sure what happened there. No matter where they go, the always sound like they’re in a fishbowl. I understand it’s an old house and the acoustics must be difficult to work around but… yeah, I’m not sure what happened there.

Reel Nightmare goes for its scares through old-school techniques like strange noises, objects moving on their own, stereotypes like slashed tires and no cell phone service, and the occasional jump scare. I don’t think Petri’s goal was ever to make Reel Nightmare a shock and awe, in your face kind of supernatural movie. I’m actually glad that he concentrated more on building the suspense and flushing out the story of The Goodwin Murders and the infamous witches, which ended up giving the villains a little more credibility. Even though as a viewer you already know how this one was going to go, the film crew really had no idea what they were in store! While I’m happy that Petri made more of a artistic horror film, I do wish he went there at some point and gave me something truly chilling. That big, I want to talk about it moment is non-existent and I really wanted to see what the witches were capable of!

The last thing I want to mention is the beautiful house and how Petri and his crew used it to their advantage. There was one shot in particular, I’m pretty sure it was Eric Saleh in a room with a red, kind of misty atmosphere, that was absolutely breath-taking and probably the best shot in the entire movie. That is the scene I’ll always remember as “still material.” Way to utilize your location to the fullest. Also, the crew were all so eclectic and different and they made up a cool potion of talent that had honest chemistry on camera. The dialogue wasn’t always the best, even bordering on cheesy, but all the actors pulled in phenomenal performances. I cannot critique them at all because they were fantastic with the material they were given. When it comes to rating Reel Nightmare, it’s difficult because there was a lot of give and take, a lot of trading, a lot of various standards in different departments, but I’ll be fair because I enjoyed it!

Final Score: 5.5 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)

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