It Came From Under the Bed . . . like a dust bunny on a rampage: "Nightmares," an anthology of suspense shorts, is about as scary as getting up to face another day. It's teddy-bear terrifying, definitely not for those who're into blood and guts.
It includes three stories of varying quality by producer Christopher Crowe and a final clinker by Jeffrey Bloom. The overall film seems patterned on TV's "The Twilight Zone." But this is, after all, the movies, where we've come to expect more terror and twists than in that gentler series of the '60s. (That's something the folks behind "Twilight Zone -- The Movie" realized.)
The first story, "Terror in Topanga," is a respectable Hitchcockian quickie about a mad slasher who stalks a well-to-do California canyon residence and a woman who goes out for a carton of cigarettes. Needless to say, she gives up smoking the hard way. It includes some amusing casting, with Anthony James, who usually plays the resident psychopath in such movies, as a convenience-store clerk. It's tight and menacing, with a suprise twist. And it's well-acted by Cristina Raines and well-directed by Joseph Sargent, whose skill goes up and down with the material at hand in the four sequences.
The second yarn, "The Bishop of Battle," stars Emilio Estevez as a 16-year-old whose compulsion is video gamesmanship. He's an electronic hustler who tests his righteous stuff against a video villain and lands himself in another dimension called the 13th level. It's a twist on "TRON," with computer graphics used much less effectively here. It's a good idea that goes on too long and a little wrong, although Estevez gives a manic, well-handled performance.
From here on, things get bumpy in the night. The third sequence is a laughable lesson from on high called "The Benediction" -- a better title would be "The Devil's Pick- up." A troubled priest (Lance Henriksen) loses his faith and leaves his Mojave Desert monastery in his faded white car with $78 and a picnic jug full of holy water. Later he's attacked by a driverless truck of satanic black and chrome. It's a crossroads for the priest, who regains his belief during this allegorical "Road Warrior."
The finale, "Night of the Rat," stars Richard Masur as a martinet whose home is invaded by a legendary medieval rodent the size of a Chevette. The rat, which can't be killed, clogs the drains with its thick, gray fur, eats the grand piano and kills Rosie the cat by shaking her to death. It's a silly saga, full of absurd dialogue and dated effects (can't call them special), the likes of which we haven't seen since "Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster."
If you think you'll lose any sleep over "Nightmares," dream on. NIGHTMARES -- At area theaters.