In the horror movie genre, the early ’80s is best known for the overabundance of slasher films. It seemed like everyone and their brother was trying to direct the next Michael, Jason, or Freddy, and most were failures. The Nesting, then, becomes an anomaly of the time: a haunted house film that is nearly a psychological thriller. The Nesting must’ve stood out against all the Halloween clones back when it was released in 1981 simply because it was doing something different. Though it is unclear how well the movie did financially, The Nesting (also known as Phobia or Massacre Mansion) only had a short-lived theatrical run before it made its way to home video. Now, thanks to the horror fanatics at Blue Underground, it finds new life on Blu-ray.
The Nesting tells the story of Lauren Cochran (Robin Groves), a mystery novelist who has recently acquired agoraphobia. Unable to handle living in the big city anymore, her therapist suggests that she try taking a trip to the country. Her best friend Mark (Christopher Loomis) drives her out to the quiet countryside where Lauren stumbles upon an old Victorian mansion that she feels an immediate connection with. She decides to rent out the mansion in hopes of curing both her agoraphobia and her writer’s block. Once Lauren gets settled in, she begins to hear strange noises, and even starts seeing a red-haired woman walking around the house. It isn’t until the people around her start dying violent, mysterious deaths that she begins to panic, and is forced to uncover the secret, bloody history of her new home.
The Nesting disappoints as both a psychological thriller and a haunted house horror film even though it has potential to excel as both. The problem with its story lies right in the heart of it: the viewer has a hard time believing Lauren’s agoraphobia because it is inconsistent. Is she afraid of crowded public places, open spaces, or something else? If it is the first, why can’t she just leave the haunted mansion? If it’s the second, why leave the city in the first place? The film wants this phobia to be the focal point of the tension in the story, but director Armand Weston’s approach to this phobia is so unclear, that no tension is ever achieved.
Instead of going psychological with the horror, Weston could have gone the opposite route: scares that make you jump. Given the naturally creepy mansion that was used for filming, this would not only make sense, but also make for a wonderfully scary horror film. Weston doesn’t hit this mark either, and the only jumpy scare comes in the opening 20 minutes in the form of birds. It appears that the filmmaker didn’t quite know what type of movie he was trying to make, and The Nesting is left floundering somewhere in the middle of psychological horror, and a haunted house feature.
Robin Groves does the best she can with a mediocre script. It’s incredible that she stays in character, let alone believable, when acting alongside Christopher Loomis. Loomis seems to think he is (badly) acting Hamlet at the Globe Theatre instead of acting for camera in a horror film. Every line Loomis spits out is canned, fake, and pointless. He is absolutely the weak link in terms of acting. Fortunately the smaller characters – specifically Bill Rowley and David Tabor – are much better. Rowley and Tabor play two of the town’s outcasts, and each of them bring specific mannerisms to their characters that set them apart from the rest of the crew, which help make their small roles two of the most memorable in the film. Academy Award winner Gloria Grahame – in her final film role – and big screen legend John Carradine (The Grapes of Wrath, Stagecoach) also play supporting roles in The Nesting. Though neither is at the top of his or her game, it is still fun to see screen icons in a small horror film from the early-‘80s.
The Nesting is Armand Weston’s only film outside of the adult genre, and it shows. Though there are some excellent images throughout the film, including terrific special effects makeup work and some interesting deaths, the movie never molds together quite right. The intention of the filmmaker is unclear, and as an audience member, it’s difficult to sort out what exactly you’re watching, and why you’re supposed to care. The Nesting lacks tension, which is a key ingredient in any horror film, and thus, falls flat.
It’s no secret that I find Blue Underground to be one of the top companies releasing classic horror films on Blu-ray. Every release I’ve seen from the company has been gorgeous, and The Nesting is no exception. This newly transferred restoration has been taken from the original camera negative, and it looks as good as one could hope for. The 1080p HD resolution is delivered in a widescreen presentation, with a 1.85:1 contrast ratio. The Nesting can’t possibly look better than it does on this Blu-ray Disc.
The audio has gone above and beyond the call of duty, with a 7.1 DTS-HD option, a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX option, and the original English Mono soundtrack. The 7.1 DTS-HD option has moments that shine through as excellent (like hearing voices or sounds in a separate room from the main character). There are also English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitle options.
Blue Underground is known for stuffing their BDs with extras, but The Nesting has rather slim pickings in comparison. There is a poster and still gallery that contains over 200 pictures from the shoot, which is the closest we get to any behind-the-scenes footage, as disappointing as that is. There are also three TV spots (1:30) which are nothing more than commercials that aired when the film was releasing, and the Spanish trailer (1:55) and the English trailer (1:55), which are exactly the same aside from the language the narrator uses during the promo. The meat of the special features come in the form of deleted and extended scenes (12:02). There are six extended scenes, one alternate scene, and one deleted scene in all. Some of the changes in the extended and alternate scenes are so small and insignificant that it’s hard to differentiate between them and what was shown in the final cut of the film. The deleted scene helps fill in a gap that had me curious, but does little to add anything to the movie as a whole.
It would have been great to see some sort of commentary track on this BD release. Commentary tracks have the power to turn bland films into movies I love (as was the case with the Dorm the Dripped Blood Blu-ray release) because the viewer gets to learn more about the ins and outs of the filmmaking process. Not only does this release not offer a commentary track, there is almost nothing when it comes to any behind-the-scenes information. Still pictures aren’t enough.
Blue Underground has nailed another HD audio and visual transfer, but the lack of any great special features, mixed with a mediocre horror film, make this BD tough to recommend. If you are one of the cult followers that have loved The Nesting since 1981, then this BD should be at the top of your “Must Buy” list simply because the HD restoration looks so nice. If you don’t fall into this select group, though, you’ll feel a bit underwhelmed with this Blue Underground release, and should look elsewhere for your next cult horror fix.
Blue Underground presents The Nesting. Directed by: Armand Weston. Starring: Robin Groves, Christopher Loomis, Michael David Lally, Gloria Grahame, and John Carradine. Written by: Daria Price and Armand Weston. Running time: 103 minutes. Rating: R. Released on Blu-ray: June 28, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.