I love a good haunted house story. I’m a superstitious and cowardly man, easily frightened by anything that defies rational explanation. Films like Peter Medak’s nerve-shattering The Changeling, Robert Wise’s seminal The Haunting, and, on a much greater scale, Stanley Kubrick’s take on Stephen King’s The Shining stand out as serious horror movies with sophisticated scares that have cost me untold hours of sleep over the course of my life, while movies like The Amityville Horror and Poltergeist have absolutely ruined me for basements and television screens. The seventies and eighties were a veritable treasure trove of supernatural shingle shockers, from 1976’s Burnt Offerings to 1986’s comedy/horror hybrid House (we shant speak of House 2), but one of my favorite films from that era was an admittedly goofy, mildly erotic little horror flick called The Nesting.
Originally released way back in 1981, I first saw the film on VHS in the early 1980’s, and remember being quite surprised by the level of violence on display. Bear in mind that, up to that point, most of the haunted house flicks I’d seen were pretty much bloodless affairs, relying on slamming doors and ghostly apparitions rather than the impaled bodies and slow-motion shotgun massacres seen in The Nesting. I also remember being decidedly creeped out by the film’s lo-fi look and sound as if the budgetary limitations actually upped the scare quotient. I’ve long wanted to revisit the film if only to see if it lived up to my memories of it, and, thanks to Blue Underground I’ve finally gotten the chance.
Lauren Cochran (Robin Groves) is a successful author struggling with a crippling case of agoraphobia. Heeding the advice of her psychiatrist, Dr. Webb (Patrick Farrelly), Robin decides to get out of the big city and rent a house in the country so she can focus on writing her next novel. When she and her friend Mark (Christopher Loomis) stop en route to look at a potential place, Robin discovers a house that is the spitting image of one she’s written about in her most recent book. Seeing this as some sort of sign, Robin decides to rent the rundown manse, but, when she meets with the home’s owner, Colonel Lebrun (John Carradine), the Colonel suffers a massive stroke at the sight of her. Undaunted, Robin moves in to the house and almost immediately begins to experience all manner of paranormal phenomenon, from shattering glass and strange sounds to visions of a woman in a red dress running through the halls. At first, Robin is excited at the prospect of living in a genuine haunted house, and even begins to feel as though her agoraphobia has been cured by her new surroundings. She even takes it upon herself to learn about the house’s history, convinced that someone or something is trying to convey a message only she can understand. As the hauntings increase in both frequency and severity, however, Robin begins to feel as though her connection to the house goes beyond the supernatural, and, in her quest to uncover the home’s mysterious past, she learns the shocking truth about herself in the process.
The Nesting is a quick and dirty ‘80’s horror cheapie that borrows from a lot of established genre flicks yet, at the same time, brings some new and fresh ideas to the table. Without giving anything away, this film is as much a revenge movie as it is a haunted house tale, and it makes for good fun to when the bad guys get their comeuppance, whether it be at the hands of invisible assailants or Lauren, herself. While the performances are, for the most part, fairly inept (even the legendary Carradine hams it up to the point where it’s near impossible not to howl with laughter every time he’s on screen, although, at that point in his career, he’d earned a pass), Armand Weston’s slick direction, the intriguing story (co-written by Weston and Daria Price), and a few nifty kill scenes more than make up for the wooden acting and somewhat insipid dialogue. Anyway, who needs actors when you’ve got what is, perhaps, the coolest, creepiest, and most visually striking haunted house this side of The Overlook Hotel?
Once again, Blue Underground goes digging around in the eighties scrap heap, and hits pay dirt, bringing this long-forgotten gem to Blu-ray in impressive fashion. The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and boasts an impressive amount of fine detail, most notably during the daylight scenes where the film’s image is so crisp and vibrant you’d be hard-pressed to tell that it’s going on thirty years old (well, save for the flared trousers and feathered hairdos). Blacks are deep and true, with nary a hint of excess digital noise reduction, and the whole thing is veiled in a pleasing filmic grain. Very nice indeed!
The 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio track is a bit of overkill as The Nesting doesn’t boast the sort of soundscape that takes advantage of such beefy specs. Personally, I prefer the included (non-lossless) mono track as I found the dialogue much easier to discern. With the 7.1 track, there were several incidences of muffled volume or drop out with the dialogue, and I couldn’t replicate that with the mono track. Also included is a 5.1 Dolby Digital EX track.
Blue Underground sprinkles on a smattering of extras, including a collection of deleted scenes (HD) which are startlingly well preserved and look nearly as good as the feature! I’m so used to deleted scenes of this vintage being so damaged as to render them virtually unwatchable, so it was quite the pleasant surprise to see that Blue Underground took the time to treat these excised bits with the same care as the film. The scenes don’t really add anything to the film as most are just extended bits, but they’re a welcome bonus just the same.
Other extras include a comprehensive stills and ephemera gallery (HD) as well as trailers and television spots for the film, also presented in high definition.
The Nesting is one of those silly/scary treats that made the eighties such a great time for horror films. While it certainly isn’t a classic, it’s still a highly enjoyable, gory, and occasionally creepy little haunted house thriller, and Blue Undergrounds Blu-ray treatment is superb as usual. Fans of the film will most definitely want to add this one to their collection!