An agoraphobic author is trapped in a haunted house inhabited by ghosts in “The Nesting”

By on October 31, 2019

An agoraphobic author is trapped in a haunted house in upstate New York inhabited by ghosts in Armand Weston’s The Nesting (1981), now streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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Robin Groves — who later had a major role (“Nan Coslaw”) in Silver Bullet in 1985, before moving on to mostly acting in network TV fare — is “Lauren Cochran,” an author of best-selling Gothic romance novels.

Lauren just happens to be suffering from agoraphobia, though, and the panic attacks and writer’s block are keeping her from being able to sit down in her Upper East Side townhouse and knock out her next novel.

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Stretching her legs on a rare outing upstate with her boyfriend “Mark Felton” (Christopher Loomis) — they travel near bucolic and totally fictional Dover Falls — Lauren finds herself “strangely drawn” to an unusual large octagonal-shaped Victorian mansion.

It looks suspiciously like one featured on the cover of one of her books, the one titled The Nesting, which was illustrated from her own description.

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Lauren decides the rotting manse might be the perfect place for her to find some peace and quiet and get back to writing.

Lauren makes rental arrangements with the house’s owner, the cranky, wheelchair-bound “Colonel Lebrun” — played with great relish, as always, by the legendary John Carradine — and his grandson “Daniel Griffith” (Micheal David Lally).

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Things go bad almost from the get-go, of course, once she’s moved to the quiet countryside, simply because she’s totally unaware of the shocking history of what happened in the house.

Windows break for no reason, and music plays on an old Victrola suddenly during the dead of night. Lauren soon begins to have nightmares, and someone is leaving cryptic messages on her typewriter for her to read.

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Lauren eventually learns the old house is haunted by a brood of cackling prostitutes, all of whom we learn were slaughtered in the house back when it was a brothel.

Academy Award-winning actress Gloria Grahame plays “Florinda Costello,” the brothel’s former madam, in what turned out to be her last film role.

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The women use Lauren as their instrument of revenge, murdering her visiting psychiatrist, “Dr. Webb” (Patrick Farrelly) while he’s making a house call.

A local handyman, “Frank Beasley” (Bill Rowley) is also mysteriously drowned after first trying to attack Lauren, and a local farmer “Abner Welles” (David Tabor) also becomes violent towards Laruen when he’s questioned about what has happened at the house. It doesn’t end well for him either.

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The Nesting features wonderfully gloomy cinematography by Joao Fernandes and a noodling early ’80s synth score by Jack Malkin and Kim Scholes.

There’s also snatches of partial nudity and adult lovemaking mixed in with the violence, too, if that matters to you, you sickos, which is why we’ve marked this one slightly NSFW.

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Read more about The Nesting below.

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One-time porn film director Armand Weston — who had previously directed feminist-infused bondage & S&M-heavy X-rated adult movies like Defiance! (a.k.a. The Defiance of Good, 1975) and The Taking of Christina (1976) — lensed The Nesting almost entirely at the Armour-Stiner House, located at 45 West Clinton Avenue in Irvington, New York.

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Weston — who died on May 26, 1988 — wrote the screenplay with Daria Price, who that same year penned 1981’s Dawn of the Mummy (these days she’s actually better known these days for being a documentary filmmaker).

Weston was also apparently a talented artist whose output included mostly book covers and movie posters, and he also published a mass market paperback titled Personals (Lancer Books), which was a novelization of his documentary film Personals (1972), in which he interviewed real people who had advertised in the personals column of adult publications (each interview was followed by a hardcore re-enactment of the scene they’ve described).

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At the time of its release, The Nesting was occasionally dismissed as a low-budget revision of the age-old story about an agoraphobic writer trapped in a haunted hotel or house inhabited by ghosts or poltergeists who trigger their latent dementia.

Movie critics fell all over themselves pointing out obvious comparisons to Stephen King‘s novels and, especially, Stanley Kubrick‘s film of one of those, The Shining, which had been released just a year earlier.

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In the late ’70s and early ’80s, however, haunted house stories of one type or another — like Dan Curtis’s Burnt Offerings (1976), Stuart Rosenberg’s The Amityville Horror (1979), Peter Medak’s The Changeling (1980), John Irvin’s Ghost Story (1981) and Italian maestro Lucio Fulci‘s The House by the Cemetery (1981) — were all the rage, and The Nesting fits right in with all of these and other similar supernatural-themed Gothic ghost stories.

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The Nesting was given limited theatrical distribution by exploitation giant William Mishkin, who was a major distributor of sex-oriented exploitation films in New York in the 1950s and ’60s.

By the ’70s, Mishkin was distributing titles like trashy omnibus flick The Filthiest Show in Town (1971) and the sex farce Pelvis (1977). He had nothing to do creatively with the production of The Nesting, however, which might actually be a shame, as Mishkin might have added some additional interesting moments.

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Theatrically-distributed as both Phobia and Massacre Mansion, VHS copies of The Nesting were seized and confiscated in the UK in the early 1980s under Section 3 of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 during the “Video Nasty” panic.

That may be one reason why Blue Underground were attracted to the idea of releasing The Nesting on DVD/Blu-ray in 2011.

Watch The Nesting and other horror titles on Night Flight Plus.

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.