Overrun and On the Run – Nightmare City (1980)

Nightmare City or Incubo sulla città contaminata as originally released in Italy is a zombie film of epic proportions. Directed by Umberto Lenzi, the man does not strictly adhere to the somewhat established behavioural norms of the walking dead and as such, it makes for a highly entertaining, if slightly ludicrous time. The zombies in this picture can do essentially everything that a regular living, breathing person can and it makes them twice as dangerous. Sabotaging elevators, cutting phone lines, using tools and even driving a car is not out of the realm of possibility for these creatures and by having them do so, Lenzi leaves mankind no room for survival.

Centered around a man named Dean Miller, he just happens to be there at the forefront when the first zombie attack happens and soon enough, he is fighting his way to be at his wife’s side so that they might find somewhere that could possibly be safe. As events transpire, the audience learns that the creatures were created by a radiation leak and kill as they need red blood cells, something they can no longer reproduce. For ninety minutes, Lenzi paints one giant bloodbath as there is no stopping the monsters and every single character that gets introduced ends up on the receiving end of zombie teeth. It all leads to a bit of a surprise, yet clichéd ending that eventually takes things full circle.

While it is definitely not the best zombie film to have ever been made, there is enough continuous action and excitement to keep any viewer interested. The fact that these zombies can shoot spear guns and more seems highly ridiculous at times and veers almost too far from what most people expect from them. Thankfully, Lenzi always brings the creatures back to their roots as they feast upon the living with all the blood one would naturally expect. At times the special effects look pretty good and yet there are moments when they look quite bad, but as the pace of the film never slows down, those moments come and go fairly quickly. One of the better things is the fact that other than Miller and his wife, none of the characters really get enough time to be fleshed out, most of them simply set out to be fodder. It is not a bad thing necessarily as it is a zombie apocalypse and though getting to know a couple other people would have been great, by not doing so Lenzi adds a bit of desperation to the picture and thus the horror of it all.

There are a lot of zombie films out there in the world and many of them are good at what they do, but with Nightmare City, Lenzi tries to do something a little different and ultimately succeeds. It may not be as popular as the various Living Dead movies or those made by Fulci, but it is a solid entry to the genre and worth a watch.

3 out of 5

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