The segments found in Joseph Sargent's 1983 film Nightmares were originally intended to be aired as a part of the ABC horror series The Darkroom, but when they were deemed too intense for American audiences Universal Pictures released the four segments in theaters as an anthology film. Nightmares is one of those movies that, due to a mixture of late night cable and the wicked insomnia problem I suffered from as a young hustler, I have incredibly fond memories of. The funny thing though, is those fond memories aren't really for the film as a whole, as I honestly cannot remember any one of the four segments outside of one, and that comes from the film's second chapter:
The Bishop of Battle
The Bishop of Battle stars Emilio Estevez as J.J., a video game wiz whose life has become overtaken by a desire to get to level 13 of one of the most difficult games ever designed, The Bishop of Battle. J.J. is first introduced as he and his best buddy Zock (played by one Billy Jayne) are out hustling money from fellow gamers (aka over-the-top, stereotypical Mexican gangsters) in the hopes that J.J. can nab enough cash so he can afford a few rounds against the Bishop.
After staying out a little too late trying to make it to the almighty level 13, J.J. goes home only to catch a bunch of shit from his parents who are royally peeved due to his sudden drop in grades and crummy attitude. Because parents are simply too stupid to understand the importance of video games over garbage like math and science, they ground J.J. for a week.
Being grounded means very little to a guy like J.J., as his obsession is far too great to be oppressed by parental tyranny. As a result, and soon after his parents fall asleep, J.J. sneaks out and breaks into the arcade for an evening with the Bishop (this is starting to sound a little homosexual, no?).
In an intense battle between man and machine, J.J. does finally make it to level 13. However, as it turns out, level 13 isn't exactly what he expected, and the game world crosses over into the real world with devastating results.
One word: laZers. And lots of 'em. In the post Tron world of 1983, the old school optical effects in The Bishop of Battle are surprisingly solid for such a minor film. The 3D game graphics blend well with the real world surroundings, making J.J.'s battle with the Bishop as realistic as can be, considering the technology available for the time. Apparently, all of the game sequences were so costly that the production nearly went bankrupt. But hey, at least they put their money into the right segment, right?
Nothing says high score like a soundtrack consisting of music from Fear and Black Flag. 'Nuff said.
It's your standard morality tale with a video game hook, but the briefness of the segment, which runs just under 30-minutes, makes for the perfect little horror snack when the belly aches for a slice of cheap, lean '80s horror. The video game scenes are as fun as they are nostalgic, and it's cool to look back on a time when arcades were as abundant as they were popular.
Something that's always been one of my favorite things about The Bishop of Battle segment is Estevez, who is, as he was in most every film he starred in around this time, awesome. Actually, Estevez was one of my first favorite actors when I was a young buck, so it's pretty difficult for me not to love the segment, as his bratty character was one of many that I could relate to growing up.
Replay Value: 8/10
I've made it to level 13 many times throughout my youth, and I can very easily see myself revisiting the Bishop at least a few more times within my lifetime.
The 32-Bit Rating: 8