15 July 2016 | tomgillespie2002
Recommended for any fan of British horror
Freddie Francis' Nightmare is one of those lesser-known movies from Hammer Films which usually finds itself lumped together in box sets dominated by their more popular Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy series. It's obscurity is slightly unfair, as this black-and-white psychological horror-come-slasher unravels itself cleverly and with a healthy dose of style. Written by Hammer regular Jimmy Sangster, Nightmare conjures up a fair share of creepiness despite its age, and often feels somewhat Hitchcockian in its execution.
Janet (Jennie Linden) is a young girl attending boarding school. At night, she is plagued by nightmares of when she witnessed the stabbing of her father at the hands of her deranged mother. As her mental state worsens, she is sent back home to her guardian Henry Baxter (David Knight) and assigned a nurse Grace Maddox (Moira Redmond). Soon after arriving, Janet starts to have visions of a woman she has never seen before with a huge scar on her cheek. Essentially a movie broken into two parts, the second act cannot be summarised without giving away a spoiler.
The visuals are rather bland - Hammer tended to churn out movies quickly and cheaply to serve as a starter for the main event in cinemas - but the black-and-white photography gives the film a Gothic, and almost noirish, sense of style. While Knight is enjoyably smug, the rest of the cast fail to make any real impression, with the pre- Women in Love (1969) Linden extremely lucky to find herself cast after a number of preferable choices, including Julie Christie who chose to make Billy Liar instead, were unavailable. But the film's flaws are to be expected - it is a quickie B-movie after all - and it makes the most of its limitations. The plot's mystery is engrossing and the pacing is odd yet intriguing, and I would recommend Nightmare to any fan of British horror.