Horror Movie Review: Nightmare City (1980)

Nightmare City (Italian title: Incubo sulla città contaminata) is a zombie/radiation sickness horror movie directed by Umberto Lenzi and starring Hugo Stiglitz.

With the unmistakable Italian look and feel of the 80s, Nightmare City is a test of endurance. In that it’s a harrowing, often overly-violent and boring movie with a seriously contrived ending.

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Dean Miller (Stiglitz) is a news reporter waiting at a small airport for the arrival of a scientist. He is to interview the man about a recent nuclear accident but immediately things are off as an unknown military plane lands.

The local forces surround the plane demanding the occupants come out but when the doors open they are quickly overrun by deformed men wielding weapons and guns. Not your traditional zombies, they shoot and hack at their victims stopping only to drink their blood. They feel no pain and they’re relentless but later we discover they can be killed by being shot in the head (like a zombie).

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Miller tries to warn the public but is stopped by the General of Civil Defence (Mel Ferrer) who will not allow it. He then turns his attention to finding his wife, Anna (Laura Trotter) who is a doctor working at a hospital. Unfortunately for him and everyone else, those who fall victim to the monsters rise and join the ranks. It’s not long before the city is being overrun.

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Nightmare City is fun but it doesn’t try to be. In fact, it takes itself really seriously but being nearly 40 years old, its age is really showing and a lot of times it just comes across silly and cheesy. Take the make-up of the not-zombies, it’s often just some prosthetics stuck to faces and that’s about it. It looks rubbish and not convincing at all but that’s not what makes them scary, no. What makes them scary is what makes most zombies scary. Their unrelenting desire to kill and how quickly a few can become many.

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The movie does a good job of making them feel unstoppable. There is no hope, especially with a government trying to keep the general public in the dark. I’ve simplified the plot for this review but Nightmare City is a bit of a mess and difficult to follow at times. This leads to an incredibly head-scratching finale that makes the whole journey feel wasted.

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It’s enjoyable enough provided you can overlook dodgy acting and dialogue, the rubbish looking not-zombies and the ending.

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Nightmare City
  • The Final Score - 5/10
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