Director: Armand Weston
Blue Underground

Also known as MASSACRE MANSION and apparently shot under the title PHOBIA, THE NESTING was the creation of adult filmmaker Armand Weston in an attempt to go mainstream after witnessing the box office success of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. This New York-lensed oddity has garnished a decent cult following over the years (as do many low budget early 1980s horror flicks), but has been pretty much out of view since its VHS release on Warner Home Video back in the day. Blue Underground is now bringing it into the digital age on DVD, as well as this Blu-ray disc presentation.

Gothic novelist Lauren Cochran (Robin Groves, SILVER BULLET) is living in a Manhattan townhouse, suffering from a neurosis her analyst (Patrick Farrelly) deems to be agoraphobia. Even though Lauren has a fear of leaving the house, she somehow manages to have friend Mark Felton (Christopher Loomis) to the country, or rather, a small town called Dover Falls, so she can complete he latest novel. Their car stops on the road, and Lauren’s attention is caught by an old Victorian house in an octagonal shape, and she senses that she’s seen it before, on the cover of one of her books actually.

As the house has been deserted for some time, Lauren goes ahead and looks into renting it from Daniel Griffith (Michael David Lally), a scientist on a leave of absence, staying with his wealthy grandfather, Colonel Lebrun (the legendary John Carradine), the long-time owner of the house. But as expected, strange things occur immediately, with the old Colonel having a stroke at the sight of Lauren. Lauren’s mental condition is heightened, and at the same time gradually enlightened during her stay at the house, but are her experiences based in reality, dreams or the existence of apparitions? A number of people around her fall victim to violent deaths (her analyst on visit from the city and a horny handyman are two of the first to go) and some paranormal shenanigans arise before the decades-old secret of house is finally revealed.

THE NESTING blends old traditional Haunted House thrills with some scattered bits of modern gore thrown in (a Savini-like scythe to the face is pretty horrific) to make for an intriguing, if flawed production. Director Weston strays from his adult film roots, with only a few non-gratuitous glimpses of female nudity, and the film is fairly restrained on the graphic level, given the high climate for exploitive slasher pics during the period. With its “kitchen sink” approach, THE NESTING incorporates a number of familiar spooky house elements (various objects levitate for example) and despite a number of scenes dragging on too long, there’s a few ingenious moments, including a lake of corpse arms dragging a poor guy down to his drowning death and a bloody slow motion shootout during a period flashback sequence.

Groves makes a good lead (reminiscent of Trish Van Devere in THE HEARSE and Carrie Snodgress in THE ATTIC), with a lot of the other performances being either bland or hammy. Carradine has a small roll as the elderly family patriarch, and his character attempts to explain things from his death bed in the final reel. Carradine’s distorted, arthritic hands look quite disturbing in High-Def by the way. Gloria Grahame, the glamour queen of the 1940s and 1950s, appears as Florinda, a ghostly brothel Madame in an evening gown. Since she ended up doing numerous exploitation films during the 1970s (BLOOD AND LACE, MAMA’S DIRTY GIRLS, MANSION OF THE DOOMED), it’s no surprise that this was her final feature, though she was only 57 when she passed away in ’81.

With all the great Blu-ray horror titles that they have already released, as well as the ones on the horizon, it’s nice to see Blue Underground giving more obscure efforts like this a chance on the format. The film has been newly transferred in High Definition from the original camera negative, and for anyone only used to the old Warner Home Video version, this will come as a major revelation. The 1080p HD resolution transfer presents the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and this independent excursion looks quite nice all around, with only some of the low lit scenes looking only slightly inferior. Colors are vivid and fleshtones are life-like, and the original elements proved to have been in excellent condition, making for an extremely clean HD transfer. Three sufficient audio tracks are provided: English DTS-HD 7.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as the original mono. Optional subtitles come in English SDH, French and Spanish.

Although none of the film’s talent have been interviewed for this release (Weston passed away in 1988), there are still some nice supplements. About 12 minutes of deleted footage and extended scenes (presented in HD and looking just as good as the feature) are made up of extra dialog between Lauren and her analyst, a visit from the sheriff and an elongated car chase sequence. The best of these deleted bits is a scene in the attic involving a ghost with a see-through hole where its face should be! The original trailer (as well as a Spanish one) and three different TV spots promote the film in a very exploitable way, and a hefty photo gallery not only includes the expected behind-the-scenes shots, but also original legal documentation and letters, the original oil paint artwork done by Weston himself and amusing clip from The New York Post from the time of the film’s shoot. (George R. Reis)