Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Nightmare Street

Director: Colin Bucksey
Writers: Dan Witt, Rama Laurie Stagner
Producer: William Shippey
Cast: Sherilyn Fenn, Thomas Gibson, Steve Harris, Rena Sofer
Year of release: 1998
Country: USA
Reviewed from: UK TV screening

From an interesting premise, this American TV movie completely fails to develop, and ultimately wastes both its star and director. Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks, The Wraith) is Joanna Burke, a single mother who takes her six-year-old daughter to an event at the local park. Wandering off, the girl is nearly hit by a truck and, in saving her daughter, Burke is herself knocked down.

She comes to in a hospital, being called ‘Sarah Randolph’, with a sister she didn’t know she had. Her wallet has a driving license in her ‘new’ name and photos of a dead son instead of her daughter. She is somehow in a different reality where she is somebody else - shades of Quantum Leap, but with neither explanation nor exploration of the premise. Someone else lives in her house, and people she knew are now in different jobs with different names.

For some reason, her doctor (Dharma and Greg star Thomas Gibson, also in Eyes Wide Shut and Psycho Beach Party) comes to believe her - and they fall in love too, which is both clich├ęd and medically unethical. There are one or two nice touches - an acquaintance who passes her on an escalator recognises her and calls her by her ‘old’ name, then fades away - but these are, like everything else, neither explained nor developed. The closest the movie gets to an interesting plot thread is Burke’s growing realisation that in this reality her son’s death was not an accident but murder - and she was the killer. But like everything else in Nightmare Street, nothing is made of this.

Eventually she goes back to the park, where the crucial event has not yet taken place; it’s not explained whether she has travelled back in time too, or whether the event happens a few days later in this reality. Knocked down again (careless but convenient) she comes to as herself.

Nightmare Street is all street and no nightmare. There is no attempt to explore the alternative, rational-but-paranoid angle - that this is some massive set-up for some reason. Burke simply accepts, once she is over the initial shock, that she is somebody else. The script, based on a book by Margaret Tabor, has no depth whatsoever and the film plays more like a daytime soap opera than an SF/fantasy idea. British director Bucksey (Bergerac, Sliders, Space Island One, Miami Vice) does what he can with the material, but it’s precious little. Ultimately this is a bland, dull, disappointing movie, which is a shame because the central concept has a lot of promise.

Cinematographer Jan Kiesser previously shot Fright Night and The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space. Writers Witt and Stagner were respectively responsible for a Benji the dog film and a biopic of mother-and-daughter country stars the Judds. Special effects, such as they are in a not exactly effects-heavy film, are credited to Tony Lazarowich (Elf, Catwoman, Romeo Must Die, Sanctimony).

MJS rating: D+

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