Nightmare City (1980)

AKA City of the Walking Dead
AKA INCUBO Sulla Citta Contaminata


Television reporter Dean Miller is sent to the airport to interview a scientist about a recent nuclear disaster. But when he and his cameraman get there the airport is in the middle of an emergency situation. An unmarked, and seemingly unmanned military aircraft is making an emergency landing on the strip. Once on the ground, the plane is swarmed by military personnel. After a few minutes the doors of the plane slowly open and the army men are slaughtered by a horde of zombie-like creatures wielding a plethora of weaponry. The military tries to keep the epidemic under control, but with more and more people being infected by the creatures, Miller realizes it’s less important to spread the story and more important to survive.

But first, an aerobic workout interlude

Oh, my, where to begin? Let’s start with the effects. They’re…not great. I’m fairly certain that Nightmare City was made on a very meager budget, and judging from the makeup work I’m going to assume I’m right. The irradiated humans, which here are a stand-in for your typical zombie, either look like they’ve got chunks of mud thrown on their face or they were in a horrible burnt cookie dough explosion, because whatever that is on their face it ain’t blood. And those be the lucky ones, because at least they look like they had effort put into them, crappy though it may be. The other ‘zombies’ don’t look like they were budgeted for makeup at all and just have a smudge of dough thrown on their cheek or a little dirt or red smeared on their face. But that’s only assuming the production hadn’t run out of ketchup packets at that point.

NightmareCity3No, really, what the hell is this? Surely you can do better?
NightmareCity4Oh come now…

Though that is not the extent of the films effects. It does have a few instances of decent, bloody gore that were nice to look at. But those instances are few and far between and we’re usually stuck with some version of Cakeface or the one mannequin they threw out of the plane.



Behold it’s look of scorn. It decided it was better to kill itself rather than be in the movie any longer.

While the plot itself is simple enough, it’s muddled with a series of subplots that really weigh it down. Worse still is it bounces around these various stories like a jackrabbit in heat. Well, a plodding jackrabbit in heat. No one really cares about the General’s daughter and her doofy husband, or the Major’s artistic girlfriend, or those weird jazzercisers the film cuts to twice to interrupt the plo-

Damnit, movie!

Okay, they may care a bit more about the girlfriend since she’s an early point of T&A, and she’s cute and made of equal parts of sweet and saucy. But all my sympathy for her jumped out the window when she was told not to leave the house and it took her less than 45 seconds before she ignored that warning and left the house leaving the door wide open behind her.

What part of stay in the f*&#*%^ house did you not understand?!

Which leads me to the characters. If you couldn’t tell, most of the people in this movie are dumber than a sack of rotten potatoes. I wanted to say ‘zombie potatoes,’ but that would be an insult to the zombies, because they, at least, are competent in their murder spree. But I guess that wouldn’t be too hard to do when your victims are mindless idiots who lack common sense and any peripheral vision. At one point, one of the jazercisers is killed only feet from the stage, in full view of everyone, and no one seems to have noticed. Until the one guy does notice and his only reaction is to crouch down and stare blankly at her dead body until he himself gets stabbed in the neck. Slowly. Through the whole thing, he has no reaction…whatsoever. And still, nobody notices until a ‘zombie’ storms onto the set.

Hey, Alfonso, you wanna maybe, I don’t know, show an emotion here?


NightmareCity12No? Alright, then….

Let’s talk about the ‘zombies’ for a sec. As previously mentioned, they’re not ‘zombies’ but irradiated humans. So they’re less foot dragging, brain eating slugs and more marathon running, machine gun wielding blood suckers. Think 28 Days as opposed to Night of the Living Dead. So any rules you may typically think should be associated with them should be ignored. These guys have no rules. In a way, that makes them more frightening, because you have no idea what they’re going to do. They’ll kill you with blunt objects, kill you with sharp objects, beat you, strangle you, shoot you and they’ll chase your ass down to do it. Well, a lot of them run. Some shuffle after you instead. There’s really no consistency. The only thing that is consistent is their love of blood, which they somehow instinctively know they need to keep living. I’m not sure why it’s blood here instead of brains, but I guess it’s easier to get to blood than it is to get into the cranial cavity.

NightmareCity13Of course, I think a lot of them are using it as an excuse to suck on lady neck.

So, is Nightmare City any good? Well, it certainly has its moments, but I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it ‘good.’ Most of the effects are half hearted, and while it’s violent as hell, the violence itself is really more cartoonish than anything else. The characters are all forgettable and spout lines of inane dialogue, but to be fair I’m not sure if that’s the fault of the translation or the original script. The plot itself sort of plods along from one scene to another and tries little to make an impact until the ‘zombies’ show back up to cause more chaos. And on top of all that, it has a crappy, cop-out ending. So, not so much ‘good,’ but maybe more in the realm of ‘so bad it’s good?’ There are certainly worse ways to spend 90 minutes. I certainly think it’s a nice, supplementary ‘zombie’ film that does a lot of things differently and if you’re like me you might get a few chuckles out of some of the more ridiculous moments. But if you’re looking for a more serious ‘zombie’ flick or looking to sink your foot into Italian horror, then this is likely not the place to start.

Nightmare City is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.


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