Dr. Mendel (Jack Starrett) is a professor at a California university.  He researches the paranormal and dreams.  The professor has four students that are participating in an experiment in dream control using a sensory deprivation tank.  The students are Donna (Elizabeth Kaitan), Kim (Alisha Das), Bill (Artur Cybulski) and Jack (Clayton Rohner).  Mendel is preparing his students for a paranormal experiment he is planning on conducting.  According to Mendel the paranormal spirits like to make people have hallucinations.  Mendel is trying to teach his students to control their dreams and hallucinations so that the spirits can’t trick them.     

To conduct his experiment Mendel has secured an abandoned house situated on an old mine.  The only person in the area is Wendall (Tom Dugan), a retarded local who takes care of the property.  Dr. Mendel, Jack and a sadistic helper named Stanley (Robert Tessier) arrive at the house to set things up.  Kim, Bill and Donna are driven up to the property by Kim’s boyfriend, Dean (Brian Thompson).  Dean drops his passengers off telling them that he has something he has to do but will return to pick them up before nightfall. 

Once everyone arrives at the house, Dr. Mendel has a séance.  The séance manifests a green ectoplasm.  Everyone freaks out.  Mendel starts to go off the rails and decides to have another séance.  This time he handcuffs everyone so they can’t run away.  After that, things start to get really freaky.  Between sadistic Stanley and the now apparently insane and evil Dr. Mendel, the students end up caught up in a nightmare they can’t escape.  Lines get blurred as the students begin to doubt whether what is happening is real or a hallucination. 

“Nightwish” was released in 1989 and was written and directed by Bruce R. Cook.  It is an American science fiction horror movie.  The movie was shot in 1988 but not released until 1990.

It is a strange little film.  It’s a sort of mashup between “A Nightmare on Elm Street” 1984 and “Altered States” 1980.  One of the highlights is the special effects.  The master behind the scenes is Robert A. Burns.  Burns also did the artwork for “Re-Animator” 1985, “From Beyond” 1986, “The Hills Have Eyes” 1977 and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” 1974.  You can actually see some of Re-animator’s influence in the film. 

It’s not an overly great movie, but it is good, especially for it being a lower budget offering.  It has some strange images that throw it into the realm of bizarre.  Director/writer Cook adds a lot of various genre tropes to keep things moving and add lots of dream like images to keep it interesting.  Besides the paranormal aspects there are haunted house and alien life form influences.   There’s a fair amount of gore and a few boobs.

Some of the film was shot at the Zorthian Ranch in Altadena California.  The ranch was created by Jirayr Zorthian after World War II.  The compound became an artist’s haven as well as a summer camp for children for years.  Jirayr died in 2004 at the age of 92.  Relatives maintain the ranch.

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