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Note:
The UNofficial reviews tend to be a lot more favorable than the official reviews. The official reviews do not give the movie enough credit. The writers for the "official" reviews obviously: 1) lack imagination, 2) forgot about the tremendous amount of censorship that had to be worked around in order to create the film, 3) forgot about the film's tiny budget and pressure induced deadline, and crutially, 4) were trying to compare this movie with ones containing million dollar special effects, space age architecture and things that couldn't possibly have been achieved during the filming of "Nightmare on the 13th Floor". If the writers would have honestly had given the movie a true unbiased look, they might have seen that, for what it is, the movie is truly spectacular.



[2008.07.19]
Back in the days before the internet granted us access to fine review sites such as this one, deciding what horror flick to check out was a bit of a crapshoot. Sure, you knew you were in good hands with Michael, Freddy, Jason, or any of the other titans of horror; however, lesser-known films pretty much only had their box art to entice you. As any horror veteran can attest to, VHS art was much more imaginative than what we get with DVD. Every now and then, youíd come across a flick that really stood out on the shelf for whatever reason. Nightmare on the 13th Floor was one of those films for me. Boasting a cover with a silhouetted figure with an axe and a killer tagline (ďscream bloody murder while you still canĒ), the film intrigued me enough to give it a rental.

Thereís no doubt that the inclusion of ďNightmareĒ and ď13Ē in the title also had a lot to do with it, but the film ended up having enough merit to warrant multiple rentals. However, the film went on to languish in the back of my mind for a long time before I was recently reminded of its existence. Much to my dismay, I learned that the film didnít have a DVD release, so I was forced to track it down through alternate channels because I wanted to see if the film still held up after all these years. Furthermore, I found out that the film was actually a made-for-television movie, so I was beginning to worry if my memory was fooling me. Could it have been as enjoyable as I apparently found it to be all those years ago?

Nightmare on the 13th Floor has an interesting story that borrows a bit from a few different sub-genres. It concerns one Elaine Kalisher, a columnist for a travel journal, who has arrived at the Wessex Hotel to write a review. Everything seems normal enough: the amenities are impressive, the staff is friendly, and, most importantly, there are no mysterious deaths. The latter soon becomes untrue, however, as an elevator malfunction causes her to witness an apparent murder. The staff, of course, is skeptical, and even Elaine herself is unable to point out the floor where the murder occurred. Naturally curious, Elaine continues to pursue the case, especially when more disappearances take place. Her investigation soon leads her to the hotelís hidden 13th floor that houses the secrets of a series of murders that occurred there near the turn of the century. Furthermore, it soon becomes apparent that the hotelís staff is not what it seems, as they belong to a Satanic cult hell-bent on discovering the secrets of immortality by sacrificing the hotelís unsuspecting visitors to a mysterious axe-wielding maniac.

Surprisingly, Nightmare on the 13th Floor managed to hold up in the fifteen years since I last saw the film. Sure, itís a low budget, made-for-television movie, but I appreciate a good murder and cult mystery; heck, it even throws in some slasher tendencies at some points. Itís not going to be mistaken as a classic anytime soon, but it is a well done film for what it is. Amazingly, the film can claim both James Brolin and Louise Fletcher as part of its cast; of course, good actors donít necessarily equate to a good made-for-television flickóInvitation to Hell taught us that much. Fortunately, we donít have an uninspired Wes Craven at the helm for this one, which already starts us off on the right foot. The direction here is nothing outstanding, but Grauman does a competent job that was no doubt compromised by the budget and broadcast limitations. Most of the set pieces are kind of bland, but the 13th floor boasts some nicely gothic set decorations. The film even has a good score, especially during some of the stalking bits that recall some of the more famous slasher films in the genre.

Of course, this being a made-for-television film means you should brace yourself for a lot of dialogue. Because of obvious limitations, the film is compromised in the gore department, and that would be a problem if the film didnít evolve into something more than a slasher film. The mystery aspect really saves the film, and, while itís nothing we havenít seen before, thereís something about an occult mystery that draws me in. The film even features a bit of a twist that, while telegraphed, works well within the context of the story. It also features its fair bits of cheese due to the dated nature of the film, but, all-in-all, Nightmare on the 13th Floor does a good job with of delivering a good film from a strong story. Ultimately, it has the ambition of a big-budget feature that gets compromised a bit by its production origins.

Like I said earlier, the film is not currently available on DVD. Paramount currently owns the rights to it, but Iím not sure if itís high on their list of priorities at the moment because itís a fairly obscure film. In fact, Iíd all but forgotten about it up until earlier this year. Horror veterans from the VHS days might remember it, and, for this reviewer, itís worth the trip down memory lane. It reminded me of a simpler time when cover art and taglines were king as I searched among the hundreds of VHS tapes at my local rental store. Iím not going to go so far to say that itís an under-appreciated classic, but if Paramount ever does manage to get around to it, itís definitely worth a look. Rent it!

Written by:
Brett G.

[2012.02.15]
Itís easy to understand why making a TV movie scary is immediately a tougher task. You canít rely on gore when you have to stick within suitable viewing material regulations and you need a deft touch for building suspense through imagery and music. Of the many slasher movies that youíll read about on this site, only very few are scary and the majority of the others have built reputations on either gratuitous effects or other areas unavailable to an effort aimed at a TV audience.

Thatís not to say that you cannot make a decent horror flick with restraint and littered throughout the slasher group are a few great examples. Firstly, Dark Night of the Scarecrow from 1981 is a very good thriller with a sympathetic synopsis and some brilliant shocks. The same can be said for Chimera, which isnít even a feature-length title and was actually a miniseries that fitted nicely within the category. It was later released in a condensed film version under the title, Monkey Boy. Also, would you believe that Home for the Holidays was planned initially only for broadcast? But for every Mila Kunis thereís a Kim Kardashian and the likes of Deadly Lessons and Too Scared to Scream were begging for an injection of x-ratedness. Nightmare on the 13th floor was a very late entry to the slasher wagon and coming out on the heels of censorshipís most stringent decade in the Western world meant that the odds were stacked heavily against it.

A bubbly and ambitious columnist travels to the West coast to do a review on the Wessex Hotel. When she arrives, she witnesses a murder after bumping her head in the lift, but later cannot be sure if she imagined it or not. Soon after, people begin disappearing and the young woman believes that it could have something to do with the concealed 13th floor. The Police do not believe her stories, so itís left up to the journalist to convince them to solve the mystery.

Now I have mentioned a few times on this site that aside from being a slasher fanatic, Iím also a mad Gooner and for those who live outside the UK that means I support the soccer team, Arsenal FC. At the time of writing, Barcelona are the most consistently successful team in Europe and theyíve broken records for their scintillating football and ability to retain possession. Arsenal used to win stuff too, but nowadays due to a dictator-like ownership and a coach that has gone insane, we are going through a dry patch and are more renowned for our slick passing. Because of this, we have become known in some sectors as Barcelona-lite. Nightmare on the 13th floor could share that labeling, as what we have here is summed up perfectly as Ďslasher-liteí. Itís one of those that I wasnít sure about adding to this site, but it does have an unseen axe-murderer and a whodunit plot outline, so I guess it just about makes the grade. It boasts a really interesting cast, which includes James Brolin, Louise Fletcher and John Karlen. I watched this with a female companion many moons back when I was at school and I remember us really enjoying it. Obviously, it is much easier to impress youthful eyes and this time around I was interested in finding out if my opinions had changed after so much time or if I was just a good judge of motion pictures during my teenage years.

The film mixes various classic horror styles, which range from obsessive satanic cults to an obvious stalk and slash homage, but it is most definitely closer aligned to a murder mystery than anything else. What it does do very well is keep up a decent pace throughout the first three-quarters, by offering various twists to the puzzle that help keep interest at a good level as you try to figure out the whatís really going on at the hotel. The viewer is aware that people are getting killed and is alert to the fact that thereís something sinister happening behind the scenes with the staff, but the real motive is unraveled neatly and despite the fact that thereís a whole heap of dialogue and investigative stuff, quite a few victims get trapped on the 13th floor with the madman and so it never gets tedious. Thereís one stand out scene that was extremely creative, when a short-sighted girl loses her glasses and we see various POV shots of her blurred vision as she stumbles around and into the hatchet-wielding nut job.

Floor XIII has great gothic set decorations and the director utilises a specific period tune every time that an unfortunate someone stumbles on to the deserted corridor. I liked the idea that there was no escape for the prey when the elevator doors close and it had the potential to be quite claustrophobic. Itís also mean-spirited as some genuinely nice and undeserving characters get murdered gruesomely. In many ways, Walter Grauman as a director who had worked on notorious TV murder mysteries such as Columbo, Murder she Wrote and Scene of the Crime was perfect for this feature and it is obvious that he had watched a few slashers before getting to work on this (check out the Halloween homage. Iíll give you a hint: one of the characterís names.) It was that earlier experience that allowed him to give the exploratory scenes enough Ďva va voomí to keep things rolling and I think it was a challenge that he enjoyed accepting. The score is good enough, itís sharply edited and the dialogue works for what it is; but the real shock bonus is that it transcends itís limitations to even be effectively creepy on occasion.

I mentioned earlier the decent cast, but theyíre not really given enough to work with and there isnít a great deal of chemistry or energy in their performances. The attractive Michele Greene was charming and alluring in the lead without being particularly convincing and Louise Fletcher was wasted in a nonsense role. The real credit goes to Brolin and Karlen who brought weak characters alive with sharp delivery of their dialogue, which made a real difference. I have noticed that other critics have said that this was slow-moving and boring, but I completely disagree. I found myself to be rapped up in the mystery for the most part. But then towards the finale it all seems to fall to pieces due to the fact that it gets extremely cheesy and in effect unforgivably stupid. Now I could clearly remember who the killer was, which makes it a tad unfair for me to comment on the success of hiding his identity. However I will say that the person I watched it with didnít work it out before the big Ďrevelation sceneí. The motive is fairly good, when you keep in mind that there are many bizarre sects in the world like the Skoptsy () from Russia who used to castrate themselves to prevent from sinning. If you consider that, then anything is possible. But when your conclusion can only exist dependent on a sheer lack of logic from everyone involved, it somewhat destroys all the good stuff that had gone before it. Too many of the players are far too dumb in their actions to be believable and the suspense is ruined because the villains are equally as woeful. A whole heap of time is wasted watching them give chase down never ending corridors without putting one foot in front of the other in rapid succession. Otherwise known as ĎrunningíÖ

The net result is a feature that should never have been made for TV audiences. Thereís enough here for a really engrossing and intriguing slasher spectacular and with a bit of a bigger budget it could have been a hit. Personally, I would take the story, the idea of the lead character, the satanic sheen and the creepy music and remove all the silliness, add a bit of gore, some better performances and a director who could deliver suspense when needed and I believe itíd be a classic. Still as it stands, you wonít hate me for telling you to watch it, but you wonít particularly thank me either.

Written by:
Luisito JoaquŪn GonzŠlez

NOTTFO Note:
The next review takes the cake. So much so, I had to write this preface. This review isn't near as favorable as the other two Unofficial reviews, but this site exists to document everything. And that means the good as well as the bad. First off, everything ...2? The first everything wasn't enough? There's so much everything that an everything2 had to be created (which, technically, would then make the first everything a misnomer as it is not everything.)? Is it a prepositional phrase that lacks it's ending? Where's it going and why? Now, I'm not picking on the site because I'm sure the reviewer only writes for the site. As for the review, it's hilarious. Granted, it makes me upset hearing anyone badmouth the movie, but this review's as "funny" as he says the movie is. He's another one of the biased critics that couldn't see the film for it's true potential. The review alluded to on the IMDB has been removed, it appears, which is sad if the fan of the film believed it was such a masterpiece. I believe it's a masterpiece and it would bother me if I knew that someone was blatently mocking me all over the Internet. But I wouldn't have removed my review. The film IS a masterpiece, and each and every fan should be able to form their own opinions on it. But they shouldn't downgrade others in their attempts to make the film look bad. Nor should they biasly review films without knowing their background or filming limitations. This site exists for those fans that care enough about the movie during their first viewings, and after acquiring their first impressions, that they want to learn more. Not prematurely jump to writing unbiased and humourous results. Note that the writer is referring the film's United Kingdom counterpart. Also note that the writer did record himself a copy so that he could watch it again and again. So he must not have disliked the film as much as his review makes the reader believe...

[2002.06.17]
Nightmare on the 13th Floor - 1990 TV movie (Horror / Mystery / Thriller)

Directed by Walter Grauman
Screenplay by J.D. Fiegelson & Dan DiStefano, and some monkeys
"Starring" Michelle Greene, John Karlen, Louise Fletcher, and James Brolin

"A different kind of horror storey!" - get it? Story/storey? See? Hey, don't blame me, that's the official tagline...

"Plot" (and I use the word very loosely):

A journalist writing an article on a spooky hotel discovers a supposedly non-existent 13th floor where strange things take place. Nobody believes her, the hotel staff seem to have something to hide, and a crazed killer stalks the hallways.

Why You Should Watch/Rent/Buy This:

From the director who brought you "Columbo: Murder in Malibu" and "Shakedown on the Sunset Strip", and the writer of "Dark Night of the Scarecrow" comes one of the funniest films I've ever seen. Let's get this nice and crystal clear right from the start: this is a shit movie. Abysmal. But it's bloody funny. If you want a good laugh, check it out. If I didn't know better, I'd say it was a spoof - in fact, for the first ten minutes of viewing, I thought it was.

It is a film that breaks many records. While watching it with my girlfriend, we kept exclaiming things like "That's the worst (blank) I've ever seen!" It has the worst movie cop I've ever seen - Sergeant Madden, supposedly a street hardened cop, is shockingly inept, tripping over a chair at a crucial moment, dropping his gun, and running away in fear when someone walks into the room with an axe. It has the worst chase scene I've ever seen - a woman is chased, very slowly, by about ten people for ten minutes, upstairs, downstairs, in rooms, out of rooms, up corridors, down corridors, around corners, back upstairs, back downstairs... It has the worst masked killer revelation I've ever seen. A major character vanishes from the screen with no explanation towards the end of the movie, and when he is finally unmasked as the evil murderer, the only shock is that they actually thought we would be surprised. It has the worst villian I've ever seen - said unmasked killer is about as threatening as Terry Wogan/Regis Philbin (choose one according to your location and/or cultural preference).

At one point, a character loses her glasses - she jumps, they fly horizontally off her face and fall through a tiny hole in the wall. She is then completely blind. A camera point of view shot shows the world to be a confusing blur of colours and lights, so bad, in fact, that her glasses should have been about 6 inches thick - no, let's face it, if she was that bad, she'd have needed to strap a pair of Hubble space telescopes to her head.

Several times throughout the movie, shots or sequences are reused. In the final scenes, the same shot was used so many times, I half expected Leslie Nielsen to turn up.

There is so much more to enjoy in this movie, it's wonderfully bad. Rent it, buy it, wait for it to be repeated on telly - then get some beers in, or smoke some weed, watch it, and laugh your arse off. Much fun can be had making MST3K-style comments at the screen. It's the Plan 9 From Outer Space of the 90's.

Most Excellent Movie Trivia:

Louise Fletcher is best known for playing Nurse "I'm evil, me" Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. She has been slumming it in crap like this ever since. One of my friends from college is called Louise Fletcher, and was convinced that I made up the story about her famous namesake until I showed her the video box.

You might recognise John Karlen, who plays Sergeant Madden, as Hawwwvey, from the bloody awful TV show Cagney & Lacey. Then again, you might not.

The director of this movie has directed episodes of Murder, She Wrote, Barnaby Jones, The Streets of San Francisco, The Fugitive (the orignal TV series, not the TV series of the movie of the TV series), and Miniature, an episode of The Twilight Zone. All of them are infinitely better than this film.

The best thing though, is the first review on the IMDB. According to the reviewer, it is the scariest, cleverest horror film ever made, with superb acting and atmosphere. Some choice quotes: "I was amazed to discover that it was a television movie" - you don't see many films, do you? "Worth searching for in the back corner of the video store" - cause that's exactly where it will be. And the best one - "Anyone seriously or casually interested in film should enjoy it or at least find something interesting about it." Which is partly true, to be fair - I am seriously interested in film, and was fascinated by how poorly made it was. Check out the review yourself at http://us.imdb.com/Title?0100262 - scroll down about halfway, it's under the credits. Be sure to click on the Amazon customer reviews link afterwards, where many more gibbering lunatics will tell you that this is a masterpiece of horror.

For all its faults, this still isn't the worst film I've ever seen. That joint honour goes to Silver Dream Racer starring David Essex, the only film I have ever left the cinema halfway through, and Tommy, the atrocious "rock opera" that everyone seems to think is a work of genius. Some movies are so bad, they're good. But some, like these two, are so bad they're just shit. If I ever have to sit through either of them again, I will open my arteries and bleed my way out of it.

Update: Movie Alert! This movie will be shown on the US Sci Fi Channel on Saturday night/Sunday morning, June 23rd 2002. It's on at 1AM, the prime time slot for high quality material. If you're reading this too late, go to the above IMDB link and click on the "On TV, Schedule Links" link to see if it's on near you. Everyone must see this movie before they die.

More Update: It is no longer June any more. You're too late. Too late! But it's regularly on the US and UK Sci Fi Channels, so just keep watching the skies/schedules, or get Digiguide and flag it. I did, it was on the other night and I taped it. It is now mine forever. Nice.

Written by:
RalphyK