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July 10, 2011

The Nesting

(1981, Dir. by Armand Weston.)

Do you assume that every horror movie from the early '80s that you've never heard of is a slasher movie? Or is it just me?

The Nesting, despite being released in 1981 and featuring one of those round-and-stabby-things-that-have-a-name-I-don't-know on its poster/DVD artwork, is not a slasher movie.  And since all I knew about the movie going into my viewing of it was a) it was directed by a guy who spent most of the '70s making "adult features" and b) I thought it was a slasher movie - well, let's just say I was a little unprepared for The Nesting. Thus, this definitely falls into the category of early '80s films that don't meet what I expected.  And that's when I call these films "an odd duck" to cover my tracks.

Anyway, The Nesting is certainly an odd duck of a horror film.  Did I mention that it's not a slasher?  Well, it isn't.  Robin Groves stars as Lauren Cochran, an agoraphobic writer who takes up residence in an abandoned country home so she can work in peace.  That plot in and of itself isn't too odd, except for the agoraphobia part.

Do you guys know about agoraphobia?  Well, I thought I did when I started watching The Nesting. I mean, I've seen Copycat at least a dozen times (severely underrated crime flick, that one), so I was pretty sure that Sigourney Weaver - who would never lie to me - had told me the truth about agoraphobia.  But as I watched The Nesting....I started to wonder.  And then, just to be safe, I had to look up a real definition of agoraphobia.
Now, I may be crazy - and maybe Ms. Weaver and her screenwriter weren't entirely honest with me - but that definition reads like Lauren Cochran would maybe not want to live in a secluded house where there's no help available except for one inept handyman who comes and goes as he pleases.  And it makes me feel like Lauren wouldn't spend like 60% of the movie going to visit random people as she investigates the house she moved into because she "felt like she'd been there before".  The early part of the film does show her walking around city streets and getting panicky and such, which fits with the disease's description - but her disease seems to come and go as the film requires it.

So, without the agoraphobia really becoming a key contributor to the film (there are moments that rival the likes of Let's Scare Jessica to Death, but they fade quickly), The Nesting needs something else to make it an "odd duck" that stands out from other haunted country home films.  And that's where the hooker stuff comes in to play.  Yep, without spoiling too much, I can tell y'all that the visions that seem to be haunting Lauren's country home are some old-school "madam"s.  So, with the help of her bumbling love interest, her doctor, and her landlord (played by aging horror icon John Carradine), it's haunted house mystery time for Lauren - who pretty much has the worst control over her emotions of all-time. I suppose that could be her agoraphobia speaking, but I kinda think she just was a really bad spaz.

Then again, acting doesn't seem to be anyone in The Nesting's strong suit, so maybe I misread the film.  But I am pretty sure that Graves' performance slips from "passable" to "holy cow, she's totally freaking out and it's hilarious" a few times throughout the film, particularly after a late film reveal when she has a bit of a breakdown.  The other performers are pretty middling as well - Carradine gets in a few good moments, but also goes over the top at times, but thankfully - like the director's other films - this film offers a lot to make up for its acting faults.

With its creepy domed country house (What's the word for something that looks like a boob? Because this house is to that word as The Washington Monument is to phallic.), the nearby pond, and the bevy of hooker ghosts, The Nesting is filled with some unique visuals and a couple of characters meet very unique demises that should prove pretty memorable in the long run.  There's a lot of silliness involved in these proceedings, which - along with the acting - makes it very hard to take The Nesting seriously, but I found myself being forgiving as the film wrapped up.  I'll take a middling haunted house film over a middling slasher any day of the week, and The Nesting at least kept me interested - even if all my preconceived ideas about the film (slasher, porn-ish, confined to one space) were proven wrong.

Recently restored by the cult movie lovers at Blue Underground and available on home video for the first time in years, The Nesting can now be seen in all its original glory once again.  It's a departure from what you'd expect - think The Changeling, but a bit sleazier and with horrible acting and a silly final act - but it's worth a viewing if you're a fan of the way movies used to present a haunting.


therealphoenixanew said...

The tool is called a sickle. :)

I've always been under the impression that agoraphobia meant you were scared to leave the house, so I guess I was wrong too.

The Mike said...

Bah! I knew that. I was stuck on scythe.....and I knew it wasn't a scythe.

But at least I'm not alone on agoraphobia. I was curious when she was running around the house's roof...but when she started just randomly going places I was like "Huh?"

Silly movie.