Runaway Nightmare is a true cinematic oddity, one that should not have been forgotten in time and space. It never got a release outside the US, which added to the overall rarity of it. To my knowledge it was never released down here in Australia, and there's probably a few reasons why. It was too weird for a mainstream audience, it's bizarre for a modern audience; imagine how audiences back in 82' reacted. Mike Cartel wrote directed and stared in this movie, this is his opus his citizen Kane. He is quite a talented director and it is a shame he never went on to direct another feature film.
The film starts off with Ralph (Cartel) and Jason who are sitting in the desert when they spot two men who appear to be carrying a coffin, immediately I though of Fright Night (even though this movie was 3 years earlier). The two men bury it and our two protagonists go to see whats inside; it appears to be a young woman who has been buried alive. They take her home and from there they get ambushed by a group of females with guns. These girls are part of a cult, which is run by the great Hesperia. The two men are then kidnapped and taken hostage by the the women to a retreat in the desert, from there they become accepted into the cult. With various plot twists and turns throughout the film, the pacing of the movie is brilliant. it never slows down as you have absolutely what is coming next; the movie is a genre of its own and has not category to fit into.
Jason appears to get along fine with the women, but ralph has a hard time fitting in, as he is constantly being threatened. From here we discover girls work for a type of mafia and need to steal back a case of platinum; it is interesting as the film now falls into a crime genre.
Cartel's directing is probably the most interesting aspect of the film, his use of colours and shadows really stand out. It feels at time like a German expression silent film, using emotion and body language to present the beauty and evil of the women. The black backdrops as a surreal feeling, as characters stand out like objects. It certainly is creepy and effective, there is a fight scene with Jason in a bar, then it shows a shot of one of the girls sleeping on a table. There is a vintage circle around her, once again paying a stylish homage to silent cinema. There is character development throughout the film as we slowly see he sanity of the characters slip, and it makes you wonder what is reality.
The films ending honestly had myself laughing, and I'm unsure whether hat was intentional or not. It's just unexpected. Overall runaway nightmare is a true gem that stands out in the crowd of lost films. I thank Vinegar syndrome for introducing me to this wonder, if it wasn't for them, I would have never known about it's existence (and I know a lot of obscure titles).
Distributer: Shock (Cinema Cult)