Color, 1988, 81m.
Directed by David DeCoteau
Starring Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer, Brinke Stevens, Timothy Kauffman, Matthew Phelps, C. Jay Cox, Richard Gabai, Dukey Flyswatter
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Retromedia (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)
Shot over a long weekend, this self-proclaimed "4 Day Wonder" began as a dare to director David DeCoteau to throw together a single-location shoot using 35mm short ends after the completion of his successful Full Moon feature, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-a-Rama. Three of his leading ladies (who would remain with him for years in a variety of other scream queen projects) -- Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer, and Brinke Stevens -- gladly jumped at the chance to star in a T&A comic horror fantasy while getting to stretch a bit by playing both sorority nerds and demonic temptresses.
After a lengthy prologue in which we're introduced to a malevolent mystic named Omar (Flyswatter, aka Michael Sonye) and his crystal ball, our story proper involves a trio of geeky college girls who can't get the attention of any of their male peers. Bucktoothed Melody (Quigley), chunky Mickey (Bauer), and awkward Marc (Stevens) decide to land some boys by inviting some of non-jock students over for a nocturnal seance, which has the unintended effect of summoning the crystal ball spirit and turning the female trio into a gang of topless succubi who fulfill the boys' sexiest fantasies but take a big bit out of their manhood in the process.
After a fairly pokey start with some very long dialogue scenes, Nightmare Sisters really kicks in and delivers the goods after the half-hour mark once the possessions start and the ladies clearly enjoy themselves immensely camping it up as demonic vixens. Fans of the three leading ladies will find a lot to enjoy here as they dominate almost every scene and get loads of screen time, usually in varying degrees of undress and playing a number of distant personas (with Quigley even getting a quasi-cabaret number she describes as a bit "Liza Minnelli"). The actual horror content is pretty low unless you're terrified of plastic fangs and implied castrations, but there's a fun Halloween quality to the big showdown between an exorcist and the main succubus spirit, a puppet prop left over from Evil Spawn. Great art it ain't, but it's exactly what you'd expect and that's just fine.
Originally issued on VHS by Trans World Entertainment, Nightmare Sisters has had a long life on home video with the '80s tape master used for editions from Retromedia and Rapid Heart (as a Quigley triple feature). Anyone who's encountered it in these guises will be shocked by its appearance on Vinegar Syndrome's dual-format Blu-ray and DVD set, offering a fresh scan from the original negative that brings out way more color, detail, and depth from the film than you'd ever expect. It really looks great from start to finish, and the DTS-HD MA English mono audio (with English SDH subtitles) is also far more healthy than the mix we've had before.
DeCoteau pops up for a quick video intro about the film's origins and video history, and then he's joined by Quigley for an amusing audio commentary about how this one quickly came about with the three stars eager to work together again. They have a great rapport together as always as they share plenty of stories about the breakneck shoot and the resources they had to pull together some of the supernatural effects, including a fairly ambitious finale. An alternate TV version clocks in at almost the exact same running time but replaces the nude scenes (especially the very, very long one in the middle of the film) with different takes involving the actresses in lingerie and some different scenes (shot much later) with them bouncing around on a bed instead of frolicking in the bathtub. This one was evidently prepared for the USA Network and looks like an old broadcast master, which is fine in this case; oddly, some profanity and sex jokes still slip through here that seem pretty strong for broadcast standards at the time. Writer and jack-of-all-trades Kenneth J. Hall turns up for a new 12-minute interview about how he came on to the film after writing films like The Tomb and came up with the whole transformation angle, not to mention how he and Quigley joined forces to play the demon at the end (with Hall's voice, plus a bit of reverb, still left in the final cut). An 8-minute blooper reel (sourced from a very lo-res, rough VHS copy) is also included, of particular value for showing off Quigley's oft-noted difficulty with her fake teeth!