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Joseph Sargent – ​​“Into the Nightmare/Nightmares” (1983)

After having signed his most important cinematographic successes (The Brain of Steel, The Bootleggers and The Underground Pirates) during the first half of the 1970s and benefited from great successes, Joseph Sargent faced a delicate comeback. MacArthur, the rebel general (1977) divided in addition to being a semi-failure at the box office, Gold at the end of the trailhis return to SF, is a complete flop and Coast to Coast, his attempt at a romantic comedy, earned Robert Blake a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Actor. The filmmaker, who had temporarily abandoned television from 1975, reinvested the small skylight at the beginning of the 80s where he progressed at the sustained rate of two productions on average per year. At the same time, the horror sketch film, which will have had highlights at regular intervals (from Three Faces of Fear by Mario Bava to Amicus productions a decade later) is back in favor thanks to the box of creepshow by George A. Romero in 1982. The phenomenon also develops in anthological series like Dark Shadows, Night Gallery or dark room and it is a priori (the conditional is in order, it is also said that they were intended to introduce a new show) to appear within this last set that the first three chapters ofIn the middle of a nightmare written by Christopher Crowe. Problem, deemed too violent and too intense for TV, the project will be redesigned for the room. A fourth segment written this time by Jeffrey Bloom (who is, like Crowe, a writer mainly for the small screen and having worked on dark room) is rotated to achieve a duration of more than ninety minutes. Four years before an ultimate feature film of sinister memory which will end the career of the director on the big screen, Jaws 4: Revenge, Nightmares is a very nice surprise. Its television origins linked to the own career of its director, make it the ideal junction between the two sides of his filmography, like a swan song hidden behind a minor appearance. Four short stories and as many characters find themselves in the image of the title, in the middle of a nightmare: a housewife who smokes compulsively goes out while a mad killer is on the run; a young man passionate about video games finds himself on the border between virtual and reality; a priest in crisis of faith seeks answers to his questions and a woman hears rats in the walls of her house…

In the middle of a nightmare – Copyright Elephant Films 2022

The animated credits, supported by a heady theme where clouds, storms, red eyes of a feline and burning craters mingle, soberly lets the title appear Nightmares in white, except for a spot of blood as a dot on the i. Four chapters follow. Terror in Topanga, The Bishop of battle, The Benediction and Night of the Rat, which follow one another without binding, but each explore in their own way, a facet of horror with a pleasure of cinema and a real efficiency, attesting to the intact know-how of its director. If the fourth, a little more classic in its unfolding (it is however cleanly and seriously staged), suffers from special effects much less successful than its predecessors (not to say at a discount, the animated rat evokes that of The Nutty Family by Peter Segal with Eddie Murphy), it sticks to the first segment on the level of the theme, where a drama comes to reunite a family in crisis (it was about a couple in conflict in Terror in Topanga). The coherence of the whole is thus achieved by a globally similar subject (the reconciling test in three episodes) or associations of shared ideas (the dimension of hallucinatory trip which characterizes in two different styles, The Bishop of Battle and The Benediction). Switching from one story to another, with discoveries of new protagonists, settings and issues, contributes to the playful nature of the feature film. For example, we go from a nocturnal slasher in the suburbs to Terror in Topangain broad daylight in a big city, loud music in the ears of the hero on The Bishop of Battle. With a duration ranging from twenty to thirty minutes per short film, In the middle of a nightmare leaves no room for boredom and ultimately constitutes a fairly homogeneous whole, for entertainment that has been a little too unfairly forgotten. He certainly paid for the outings over the same period of creepshow and of The Twilight Zone, the moviecarried by filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg, George Miller, John Landis and Joe Dante, for all that it deserves to be discovered.

In the middle of a nightmare – Copyright Elephant Films 2022

Terror in Topangain addition to the always appreciable presence of Cristina Raines returning to horror six years later The Sentinel of the Accursed, arises as an ideal introduction. After a bloody introduction to the tunes of pure stylized slasher, the film is part of a certain everydayness. It poses a challenge as simple as it is effective: a woman who has run out of cigarettes defies her husband’s ban on going out while a killer on the run is on the prowl. This marital tension and this character quickly on edge, allow Joseph Sargent to make the slightest element a source of potential concern (a dog, a hitchhiker, the gas tank almost empty) but also to inject a small dose of humor (the “I’m not Alone” of a shopkeeper proudly displaying his firearm) until the final fall mischievously thwarting expectations. The Bishop of Battlee, first stays away from the genre by introducing two arcade-loving friends, running a little scam to make some money. We gradually understand that JJ (Emilio Estevez before Breakfast Club) is obsessed with the idea of ​​crossing the last level of a video game, even if it means disobeying his parents and hiding in order to reach his goal at all costs. Probably inspired by tron by Steven Lisberger, released a year earlier, this segment observes the incursion of the virtual into the real, to the point of creating confusion in the mind of its hero and on screen. The most expensive chapter (it would have required nearly nine weeks of work), it is also the craziest and most impressive. The parts of JJ, filmed as a trance experience where 2D and 3D computer-generated images reconfigure the perception of reality with which they collide, constitute the highlight of a show that is simply astounding. Note that this is the only episode deprived of a happy or soothing conclusion, a point which accentuates its lasting obsessive power. In a gesture of feigned continuity, The Benediction, opens with a nightmare, if it depicts a spiritual crisis, de facto less immediately concrete, it gradually gains in scope, thanks to the visions of evil that disturb its hero and the trauma that haunts him. Above all, he makes an astonishing turn towards the spectacular along the way, when in the middle of the desert, under the stifling heat, a vehicle presented as disturbing becomes a monstrous object literally emerging from underground (as on The Bishop of battle, the special effects are of high quality). Hallucination? Madness? The realism and the seriousness of the staging as well as the solid interpretation of Lance Henriksen, sow the confusion. Night of the Rat, home invasion animal, first plays on a form of ambiguity (Clair seems to be the only one to hear strange noises) and suggestion (good management of the off-camera) before falling into a far more trivial savagery. As mentioned above, it is the least surprising chapter, nevertheless it remains a completely honest conclusion.

In the middle of a nightmare – Copyright Elephant Films 2022

A few months later MacArthur, the rebel general, Elephant Films looks at another feature film by Joseph Sargent, which had not been reissued in France since the VHS! Available in Combo Blu-Ray/DVD and single DVD, it is possible to view the film at your choice, in 1.85 or 1.33 format. The edition comes with a big supplement, tall tales in which Julien Comelli returns to the history of the film with sketches in general then specifically in the horrifying fantasy register until arriving on In the middle of a nightmarecomplete and provided document, to which is added an original trailer.

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