I love horror movie titles from the eighties. There’s definitely an article to be written about the evolving, sometimes cyclical history of the horror film title, but there is something about titles in the eighties that just defies analysis. The Changeling. The Strangeness. The Shining. The Brood. The Outing. The Keep. The Sender. The Suckling. The Redeemer. The Boogens. You take those titles at face value and they don’t mean a lot, but in the context of horror – written big on the poster or spoken gravely on the trailer, and they conjure horrors unthinkable. Just what the hell is it? These titles had a lingering, unsettling vague to them. Much how terror or tragedy would live on after the climax in eighties horror, so too would their titles. There’s just nothing better. After watching Blue Underground’s new disc of another forgotten film from 1980, I can now add The Nesting to the list. Is it worth the perch, or does this one lay an egg?
Lauren Cochran (Robin Groves, Silver Bullet) is a mystery novelist who’s got a mystery of her own to solve. She’s just coming off the release of her new book, “The Nesting”, but she’s having trouble leaving her own nest herself. She’s been diagnosed with agoraphobia by her psychiatrist, Dr. Webb (Patrick Farrelly, Tales from the Darkside), and in a bid to reclaim her sanity and beat this sudden, inexplicable ailment, Lauren vows to spend some time out in the country. She heads out of Manhattan and off to Dover Falls with her boyfriend, Mark (Christopher Loomis), to check out some real estate…perhaps a summer cabin. While driving, they are stranded and forced to walk around a little. Lauren takes off in the woods, and by what seems to be divine intervention is led to a large, octagonal mansion in the middle of nowhere. The real coincidence, though, is that the house looks exactly like the one drawn on her book cover for “The Nesting” – despite neither she, nor her illustrator, ever seeing the place. It’s destiny, Lauren must have this place!
After some friendly inquiries, Lauren finds the place to be under the ownership of Colonel Lebrun (John Carradine, Shock Waves, The Boogeyman) and his grandson Daniel Griffith (Michael David Lally). When she asks the colonel about taking residence in the mansion to writer her next novel, he’s befit with some distress and collapses. Daniel lets her stay anyway, and before long she’s settled in…but she’s not alone. There’s talk of the place being haunted, and after the dreams Lauren has been having, she believes it. First it’s hands on her naked body, then a forties madame sinisterly beckoning her from the front door. A crack in the window, a fresh burning cigarette…someone has to be around. As each night passes, Lauren’s dreams seem to get more vivid and more bizarre, each one involving the house and some unseen history within its walls. It’s the forties, lascivious women walk scantly clad throughout, and wartime men romance them. She starts as an observer, but eventually she becomes one of them. She’s part of the dream. What’s going on?
The calamity doesn’t stop at the dream though – Lauren witnesses death first hand when her psychiatrist, who came upon her insistence, is accidentally hurled off the roof when trying to rescue her from a scare. Then later, she’s nearly raped by the handyman before he’s drowned in the lake. After the third death involving a friend of the colonel’s, it’s clear this is too much for coincidence. There’s an evil in that house, and Lauren is going to have to face it head on if she wants to beat her phobia and free the secret hidden within the mansion walls. For in it these spirits have been nesting ever since a vague, murderous prologue.
Like 1982’s Madman, The Nesting is directed by a pornographer looking to make his break into mainstream filmmaking, and like Madman’s Joe Giannone, based on the quality of the work here, it’s a shame Armand Weston never really broke. For a low budget, first-time feature in 1980, it’s rather remarkable with how professional The Nesting is from top to bottom. It’s got a great cast, with old veterans like Carradine and Oscar winner Gloria Grahame (The Bad and the Beautiful, Blood and Lace), and surprisingly likeable and supporting turns from the bulk of the cast who never really saw much work since. The standout is of course Groves as the tortured lead, put through the ringer physically and emotionally, clothed and unclothed. It’s a rarity, especially in 1980, to see a movie where the Final Girl is not just some pretty teenager, and Groves takes her extra years and shows how someone with more of a history can make for a much more interesting character. Whether she’s by herself in a room full of pyrotechnics or she’s standing quiet trying to piece her thoughts together, she’s a consistent presence on the screen and someone that really anchors the film. Considering it was her first film role, Weston guided her well.
Even more surprising, though, is Weston’s creativity behind the camera, using a number of optical tricks and stagings to get the most out of his story. Early on, Lauren’s agoraphobia is effectively visualized by double exposing the frame and having her conscious (shown physically as another version of herself), getting up half-transparent and walking out the front door. Later, when the darker elements kick in, Weston orchestrates a number of excellent scares by having hands come from shadows, lakes and beds when it seems there’s no way for a person to be there. You can tell Weston had a very particular visual conception for the film, and as executed by Joao Fernandez (who graduated from porn along with Weston and would later make a greater mark on the genre by collaborating often with Joseph Zito on both The Prowler and Friday the 13th – The Final Chapter).
Top to bottom, The Nesting, is filled with grand performances and impactful cinematography. It’s a good thing, too, because the film is a slow burn, and without that weight to carry it, it could have easily drowned in its 103 minute runtime. Much of the film is psychological, dealing with instances in Lauren’s head, but again, Weston finds a creative way to visualize them into some pretty frightful set pieces.
There’s even a great bit that predates Christine a few years, where Mark’s car starts to play music on its own and slam its hood shut as a kind of fair warning for him to turn back. The show stopper is rightfully saved for the end, making the most of the eerie old house. Weston demonstrates an understanding of the craft throughout The Nesting by visualizing plot and emotion when so often the impetus for most directors is to vocalize it. Looking at the deleted scenes including on this disc and noticing all the on-the-nose bits of dialogue that were cut to preserve the ambiguity of the story and the payoff of the conclusion, it’s clear that Weston knew exactly how to play his audience. And how to entertain them.
While not overly gory or lewd, The Nesting still proves adult with effectively staged death sequences and some well shot bits of nudity. Weston takes a moment in horror that’s usually throw away – the nude scene, and turns it into a stunning moment of both personal reflection for Lauren, and seconds later, one of the film’s best scares. Proving he knew what he was doing when he made all those erotic films in the seventies, he also directs a surprisingly tasteful, yet erotic, love scene. In terms of grue, we get a nice eye impaling to start, but he again saves the money for the finale, which is shot entirely in slow motion over a number of shots and minutes. It’s like a series of Norman Rockwell tableaus of Americana decimated by blood and carnage. Yet another thing you don’t expect from a little horror movie from 1980.
I wasn’t expecting a whole lot when I popped The Nesting in my player, but I found myself pleasantly surprised scene after scene. This is a well-made movie – hell, even the script, also penned by Weston and Dawn of the Mummy writer Daria Price, deserves a tip of the hat. The ending really pays off, and again, like with the performances and the cinematography, it’s a lot smarter and more creative than what was typically being put out at the time. Give it a look…The Nesting is where horror fans of all types should favorably come to roost.
Encoded in typically high bitrate AVC, The Nesting looks lush on this dual-layer Blu-ray. Colors are splendid, really popping from the screen, be it Lauren’s red dress or the greens in the countryside that surrounds the mansion. J. Fernandez gave the film a good look already, and the 35mm negative appears as pristine as it ever was. It’s a beautiful looking movie and a beautiful looking transfer, without print damage or even any noticeable specs. Sharpness is preserved, being able to see every one of John Carradine’s wrinkles. Grain is left intact, too, with a few of the optical sequences appearing grainier and less rich than others. There is no noticeable sharpening done, just overall a clean, vibrant, film-like transfer.
When an independent 1980 horror flick is beating out Argento’s Inferno and Deep Red when it comes to fidelity and envelopment, you know you’ve got a good mix on your hands. The Nesting sounds pretty good in DTS-HD 7.1. The sound space really opens up during the nightmarish sequences, and a few of the jump scares near the start really register across all eight speakers for a good sense of envelopment. Dialogue and music has surprising fullness and while not particularly directional, projects much better than its age. The soundtrack is also very clean, without audible hissing, scratching or any other noticeable imperfections. The film clearly had good post-sound, because a lot of the effects sound very crisp, especially screams. That the film was preserved well and transferred with care by Blue Underground makes this an all around excellent vintage remaster.
When The Nesting was initially announced, there was talk of doing a lengthier director’s cut with some newly discovered footage. While that never did materialize, the footage is presented here in its entirety in full 1080p over a handful of scenes. Most are extended and a few are deleted, including a good little bit in the attic. It’s probably a good idea Blue Underground didn’t try to assemble some extended cut from this footage, because most of it is talky and a bit too obvious in its setup – the finale really would have been ruined had some of the early bits of exposition in the psychiatrists office been reinstated. Not all the footage has its sound, too, which would have made it tough to include. The car chase is quite a bit longer here without sound, but there are a few really good stunts, including a drive between two houses. Overall, a nice inclusion of extras, but by no means essential, and something that rightfully should remain extras and not part of the main feature.
Also included are a number of promotional pieces, including two trailers (one English, one Spanish), three TV spots and a pretty extensive poster and still gallery. The gallery was assembled with care by longtime Blue Underground alum Greg Chick, and not only features the entire press kit and pretty much every poster, ad, box cover and still imaginable, but also features some intriguing production documents. Included are scans of the letters sent from the MPAA about the rating process, a few other letters about company names and a potential lawsuit, a newspaper clipping about how the mansion owner was trying to sue the filmmakers for trashing the house (“they urinated on the floor like animals!”) and a few more. Even though nobody from the film speaks on the disc extras, you get a pretty good sense of the history of the film just through the still gallery. Great job there. Also interesting – the memorable cover art used for the poster and this Blu-ray was actually painted by Armand Weston himself. A true jack of (off?) all trades!
All these great vague two word eighties titles imply that there’s something odd, inexplicable and affecting lingering about, and in the case of The Nesting, Blue Underground has a solid unseen gem on their hands here. With a mature story, accomplished performances, creative camerawork and some scary set pieces, it’s a shocker that definitely deserves a look. Blue Underground’s transfer gets top marks all around, and the deleted scenes and the surprisingly robust still gallery help round off a fine release. It had been awhile since Blue Underground put out a horror property that hadn’t long been in their possession, but hopefully they’re nesting more gems like this one. I could deal with being an agoraphobe pretty easily with titles like this in my collection. Recommended!
*Because of the quality of the HD format, the clarity, resolution and color depth are inherently a major leap over DVD. Since any Blu-ray will naturally have better characteristics than DVDs, the rating is therefore only in comparison with other Blu-ray titles, rather than home video in general. So while a Blu-ray film may only get a C, it will likely be much better than a DVD with an A.
I got this a few days ago, and agree it's a good one. Too bad they couldn't get a commentary with John Carradine's ghost :)
Nice review bro - so glad BU made this release happen, and in Blu taboot :)
I won't be able to get this until September but I can wait a few more extra months. I might even add it to my October line-up. Either way, looking forward to the re-visit. Haven't seen The Nesting since it was released by Warner on video. Nice review!
Holy crap. I bought this on VHS a few or more years back and it was nothing short of abominable. So dark and murky I might as well have just listened to it. Seeing screenshots in this review (and others) is like seeing something I've never even seen before, and I certainly don't remember boobies! All hail Blue Underground!
If I ever get a blu ray player this will be my first purchase. I have the Warner Bros vhs and it wasn't too bad picture quality wise
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