Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Even though ‘Nightmare City: 2035’ was ultimately a disappointing film, the one thing that I did like about it was that it was truly Science Fiction. It wasn’t terribly original Sci-Fi, lifting bits and pieces from other films and cobbling it together as it’s own, but it was Science Fiction and not a Sasquatch movie or a Giant Spider movie or a mutated alligator movie that a certain TV channel has been passing off as Sci-Fi lately. I’m a little surprised the Sci-Fi Channel hasn’t picked up this flick and branded it as one of their own ‘Sci-Fi Originals’ since it pretty much passes all of required checkpoints for a Sci-Fi original, missing only the giant spiders and Richard Greico, Costas Mandylor or Lorenzo Lamas.

The year is 2035 – duh – and our land is enjoying a glorious renaissance after the Internet crash of 2020 or something. This Internet crash was a really bad thing because we are to assume in this version of reality that the Internet did everything from manage your stocks, to set up your blind dates to providing your porn so if it were to go down there be chaos in the streets. Oh damn, I guess that’s kind of like today huh? To quell the anarchy that came after the great crash, 'The Board’ was commissioned to implant these chips into the brains of every living citizen to manage them in the most freedom hating way. Officer Alex McDowell (Maxwell Caulfield) is one the most loyal, tough but fair, top notch cops on the force and we see the chip in action as it measures the chemical levels of a potential rape victim and her perp as the chip enables the cops to pinpoint their locations giving Officer McDowell and his partner the bead on the criminal and bring him to justice before he can commit the crime.

Of course not everybody is happy with the lack of freedom and there is a resistance group led by one Kyla Bradley (Alexis Thorpe). She and her crew have

figured out that ‘The Board’ and the boards strongman Deputy Valentine (Todd Jensen) have been using the chip to send images to their brains of a prosperous city to the populace, while in reality the city is a rundown slum. Kyla and her partner ambush McDowell one evening in a subway to disable his chip and hopefully allow him to see the truth. They only partially succeed as it takes time for his chip to degenerate, but when he does see the truth he joins up with the resistance, or actually just Kyla because she’s so smokin’ and because she has a computerized super eye to battle Valentine, bring down this Board and show the people the ‘Truth’. I’m thinking they can’t handle the truth though.

You may notice bits of ‘The Matrix’, ‘THX 1138’ 'Minority Report' and ‘1984’, as well as a few other much better films in the narrative for ‘Nightmare City’ because as I said earlier, original or fresh it is not. Since the budget was reasonably low for this film shot in Bulgaria, corners were obviously cut, with the special effects budget suffering the most as some the green screen work and CGI left much to be desired. Also the blending of live action scenes and the computerized scene were so starkly different it often looked as though these were two totally different movies put together. The dialog in some spots was almost laughably bad, some the action felt forced at best, and it was a challenge for the filmmakers to hide the budget limitations in crowd shots and the like.

‘Nightmare City: 2035’ is not a very good movie and I recognize that it’s not a good movie but it is not devoid of any charm. Even the most rudimentary Sci-Fi picture, if just the slightest bit effort is given, should be able to hold my attention, and Director Terence H. Winkless, who also co-wrote, was at the very least enthusiastically energetic in telling his somewhat derivative tale. Though the CGI action scenes were fairly lame, the hand to hand combat scenes were very well realized. Maxwell Caulfield, who I believe at one time was poised to a pretty big actor in the early eighties, is now mainly regulated to B-movie fare such as this one, still does a fine job as the tough cop who is loyal to only the side of right, and Alexis Thorpe has a real nice belly button and obviously works out a lot. Sure she seems more like Mr. Caulfield’s daughter than his love interest but again, she’s smoking. Todd Jansen also made a very compelling villain with that constant grin and his flippant way of delivering his dialog while sporting a floor length Nazi coat.

The thing I REALLY liked about this movie, while recognizing its many flaws, is the way it seamlessly paralleled the fears of their reality with the similar fears we experience right here, right now, in our own reality. Late in the movie, Valentine gives a speech, like blabbing bad guys tend to do in movies, which was so edgy and so relevant that it’s almost scary, and to tell you the truth I was impressed. I would even go so far as to say writer / director Winkless was trying to make a ‘statement’ of some sort. Though it wasn’t the most subtle attempt, but anytime somebody tries to elevate what on the surface appears to be a simple tale to something more, I take notice.

I can’t outright recommend ‘Nightmare City: 2035’ because its flaws heavily outweigh what it manages to do right, but if you’re a fan of REAL Sci-Fi, even if you end up hating the movie, you might want to check out ‘Nightmare City’ because in some senses it does have a cup that is half full.

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