Nightmares & Dreamscapes Collection (DVD)
Filter a Twilight Zone
vibe through Stephen King's brain and you get Nightmares & Dreamscapes
, an uneven but generally entertaining collection of eight tales that originally (2006) aired on TNT. There is no unifying theme here; although King's short stories provided the source material, there are six directors and seven screenwriters represented, so the episodes offer a variety of looks and styles, with content ranging from monsters to mind games, from pure fantasy to pulp fiction, from genuinely scary to merely unsettling. Still, a certain ineffably "King-ian" sensibility, combining elements of horror, terror, suspense, and whimsy, is always in evidence, as are the popular writer's own preoccupations (with authors who may or not be stand-ins for King himself, rock 'n' roll, and guys who won't ask for directions while their wives complain, inevitably leading them into very nasty situations).
Among the highlights: In "Battleground," a merciless hit man (William Hurt) offs a toy manufacturer and then finds himself attacked in his own apartment by a battalion of indefatigable toy soldiers; directed by Brian Henson, the episode has no dialogue and some terrific effects work. In "Umney's Last Case," William H. Macy is amusing as a crime writer who cruelly toys with his literary alter ego, an arch, fedora-wearing gumshoe (also Macy); it's an acting tour de force and a story that takes some deft and intriguing turns. "The Road Virus Heads North," with Tom Berenger as a horror novelist who finds himself pursued by
well, by a painting (guess you had to be there), is perhaps the scariest of the lot; it's also the best shot, with a cool jazz soundtrack and a nifty ending. Less successful is "Crouch End," set in a sinister part of London where "thin spots" in the earth lead to creepy new dimensions (nice premise, but it's overwritten and fails to sustain its Twilight Zone weirdness), while "You Know They Got a Hell of Band" is only fitfully effective in its depiction of Rock & Roll Heaven, Oregon, a town where Elvis is mayor and the rest of the living dead range from Hendrix and Joplin to Duane Allman and Buddy Holly. The three-disc set's decent if unexceptional special features include "inside looks" at the making of several episodes, actor interviews, and more. --Sam Graham