For all of the genius creations of humanity, there have been an equal or greater number of complete messes. Sometimes, these messes are hilarious – reaching a level of entertainment only achievable by strange misstep and circumstance (see The Room, Troll 2). Enter NIGHTMARE, a VHS horror board game that is so bad it’s good.
To be completely honest, NIGHTMARE is tons of fun. It’s just not fun in the way that A Couple ‘A Cowboys, the game’s developer, intended the game to be. And to this, we have the Gatekeeper to thank.
The Gatekeeper – the game’s true weakness-turned-strength – is an angry, angry man with a strange accent who wears a towel on his head and yells ar you in random intervals from your television screen. I don’t know what we ever did to piss this guy off so bad, but it clearly must have been something. The Gatekeeper really, really hates you. He’s even nice enough to tell you so.
I could describe him further, but no amount of words would do the Gatekeeper justice. Watch the video below to see this mysterious, hooded bastard in all of his angry glory. Five bucks for anyone who can do it with a straight face.
The Gatekeeper in NIGHTMARE has been credited as a man named Wenanty Nosul, but I’m not buying it. No; I’m convinced that it’s none other than Tom G. Warrior, frontman for the legendary metal band Celtic Frost. And if it really isn’t Warrior, then this Nosul guy needs to start a cover band ASAP.
NIGHTMARE is intended to scare the player, but in reality, it does not. If you play correctly, you’ll most likely jump at times – but then keel over laughing and possibly die from in. So in that regard, yes, it’s scary. But Warrior/Nosul’s dialog is so insane and nonsensical that it kills any chance that this game ever had at being frightening.
And that’s really why this game is so great. It’s so much fun that it hurts. It’s hilarious and beyond corny; the kind of fun that appeals to any bad movie connoisseur.
In a place called “The Other Side,” each player chooses one of six characters. The six characters, called Harbingers, consist of a mummy named Khufu, a vampire named Elizabeth Bathory, a zombie named Baron Samedi, a witch named Anne de Chantraine, a poltergeist named Hellin, and a werewolf named Gevaudan. Your goal as one of these Harbingers is to escape The Other Side. The Gatekeeper’s goal is to keep you in.
3-6 players are to write their greatest fears down on pieces of paper. Throughout the game, you must acquire six keys and reach the center of the board. Once there, the player draws a nightmare card. If it matches one of the other players written fear, the player with the keys is declared the winner. But if no one can complete this within 60 minutes when the timer on the television runs out, the Gatekeeper is the winner.
The Gatekeeper stops the game at random points to yell at you and make commands. As the game progresses, he becomes more and more decrepit – and of course, more and more angry at the world. If any of the players do not respond to his every word with “yes, my Gatekeeper!” the player is punished. This is a guy with a serious complex.
The game, released in September of 1991, was titled ATMOSFEAR in Europe to avoid copyright issues. Highly successful upon its release, interest in the game and the ensuing expansions gradually decreased, most likely due to the format of the VHS board game itself. The events and the “random intervals” never change because of the tape; a player, after a while, would be able to anticipate the Gatekeeper’s PMS outbursts, making the replay value very low.
But if you can get your hands on it in 2017, it needs to be played at least once. To remedy the issue of the events becoming memorized, I would recommend only playing it at special occasions with yearly intervals. And, if it’s your kind of thing, the use of alcohol is highly encouraged.
There’s a sick fascination I have with things that are atrocious and unintentionally hilarious. Fortunately, I know I’m not alone on this. If you have something we should cover, whether on the This Ain’t Right Movie Podcast or elsewhere, let us know in the comments! And remember, the correct response to this is:
YES, MY GATEKEEPER!
drafts of literary works