Nightmare at Bitter Creek (1988)

20 Horror Movies for $7.50 — Part III of XX.

nightmareatbittercreek01We open with a SWAT team opening fire on a house in the woods.  Amazingly, most of the men inside are able to escape despite their strategy of standing directly in front of the windows, backlit,  firing at the police.  The SWAT team pulls a Waco, but the men are able to escape down a hatch in the floor. I doubt this escape route is the length of the chunnel, but the police opt to not look for the exit.  The leader concentrates on interrogating the one man left behind.  When asked who they are, he replies, “The future.”

Cut to Nita (Lindsay Wagner) and Allison (Joanna Cassidy) driving through the mountains.  They meet up with their friend Connie her hot tnightmareatbittercreek04eenage daughter at a diner where they will begin their mountain climbing adventure.  With the all female cast, and one waving a guidebook that will no doubt prove useless, there is a definite The Descent vibe; without the, you know, quality.  So maybe it’s more of a The Descent II vibe.

They hire local drunk Ding (Tom Skerritt) to lead them on horses to the top of the mountain.  Near the summit, they encounter the survivalists who escaped the burning building.  They shoot one of the guides and start shooting the horses.  BTW, in various places they are referred to as Aryans, survivalists, Neo-Nazis.

One of the men accidentally stumbles onto Ding and they fight it out until the man goes over the waterfall.  The group now has to make a decision — should the hungover Ding try to trek the 15 miles to the ranger station through thick brush?  Yeah, the girls don’t put up much of a fight on that one.

On his way down the mountain, Ding snags a trip wire that sets off a grenade sending him tumbling down the mountain.  On the plus side, it nightmareatbittercreek05probably cut 200 vertical feet off his trip, on the other hand — tumbling down 200 vertical feet and landing on rock.

Meanwhile, young Tracy is playing with her radio and is picking up a very staticky signal which is strange — since it apparently picks up FM, CB and walkie-talkie frequencies, it must be a pretty good piece of equipment.  Nita very sensibly suggests that she climb to the top of a nearby rock outcropping for a clearer signal.  When that doesn’t quite do it, she suggests pointing the radio upstream.  Now, I’m no Marconi, if you’re lost on a mountain, 1) I suspect radio signals do not flow downhill, and 2) I suspect the search party would be coming from downstream.

Ding finally wakes up with the world’s worst hangover; also hurting from the fall.  Soon his trusty dog Buster and the girls finds him.  On the radio, they hear that the group is onightmareatbittercreek07n their trail.  The group also says to be sure to “keep two of them.”  Well, the college girl is clearly the first round draft pick, and I would go for Lindsay Wagner as the 2nd.

In short order, Ding gets shot, and his dog is killed.  As the men spot the group and begin pursuing them, things get so intense that Nita actually unbuttons her top button.

There is all kinds of potential here to be a great survival movie like The Descent, Eden Lake or a dozen others.   Sadly, there is almost no area where it excels.  I can’t recall a note of the score (if it even had one), the bad guys were boring, the police lacked such presence that they could have been cut from the script altogether, some locations were interesting, but muted by the cinematography (or, to be fair, the cheap transfer).  Most of the cast seemed capable, just poorly used.

The standouts were Skerritt and Lindsay Wagner.  Skerritt spent most of his screen time drunk or shot so his options were limited, but he did what he could with the role.  The producers (of “Rain Man” the cover tells us) missed a huge opportunity by not making Lindsay Wagner the center of the movie.  She is identifiable as a natural leader even from the time they are in the diner.  It takes forever to bring her into the action and get a gun in her hand; she doesn’t even get to cap off the last bad guy.

Joanna Cassidy realizing she is in 2 movies in this collection.

Joanna Cassidy realizing she is in 2 movies in this collection.

Sigourney Weaver looked tough, so never really felt like she as playing against type (only if you were watching the movie in the evil sexist 1970’s).  Lindsay Wagner is more an older version of Sarah Connor in the first Terminator movie.  They just seem like nice women, a generation apart, who both got caught up in something they were totally unprepared for.  Lindsay Wagner has shown in some nothing parts that she can dominate the screen — this could have been gr . . . well, much better.


  • Skerritt was one of Hawkeye and Trapper’s tent-mates in the movie MASH, but his character didn’t make it to the TV show.  So, Ugly John and Spearchucker Jones, they kept, but Duke was a little too controversial?  It was a different time.  Well, we’ll always have Dallas.
  • Joanna Cassidy has been in 2 out of 3 movies in this collection so far.  On the plus side, they were the two best.

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