Nightmares & Dreamscapes: Battleground (TV)

Nightmares & Dreamscapes: Battleground (TV)
Starring William Hurt.
Updated: 06-13-2006

Battleground is the premiere episode of TNT's new horror anthology series, Stephen King's Nightmares & Dreamscapes. It will air, commercial-free, on Wednesday, July 12 at 9 p.m., and there will be an encore on July 13 at 11 p.m.


This is a great one to start off with, and an even better one to run free of interruptions because it is quite intense and the pace is ruthless. Commercials (in encore showings) will certainly hamper the pacing.


The teleplay is by Richard Christian Matheson, who also did the Masters of Horror anthology episode last year, Dance of the Dead. He also wrote the recent direct-to-DVD movie, It Waits. Battleground is his best work to date. Battleground is directed by Brian Henson,  and it is one of his few Muppetless projects — although, there are several toys in the story.


John Renshaw (William Hurt) is a professional hit-man. He's cold, calculating, and very good at what he does. We first meet him when he dispatches the CEO of a high-end toy company. He shoots him with a silenced weapon, then takes a lovely souvenir from the dead man's desk: A delicate little fairy figurine. Unfortunately, the play-pretty catches the eye of the wrong person, tipping the assassin's hand. But it's not law enforcement who makes him pay the price. It's divine retribution at the plastic hands of a special unit: a toy soldier unit.


Aside from Renshaw's grunts of frustration and his cries of pain, Battleground cleverly and meticulously avoids dialogue of any kind. It's a smart move, so well-woven that at first you might not even realize that no-one's said a word. Hurt is one of our best living actors (Altered States, Dark City), but he has been known to chew some scenery (Rare Birds, The Village) — he doesn't do that in Battleground. Even when he's beleaguered by a battalion of deadly green men, he makes you believe.


The small soldiers are very well-done, right in line with the excellent visual effects discerning couch potatoes demand. Surely this is in part thanks to Henson, but the whole crew on Battleground deserves kudos. The locations, editing, music are icing on the combat cake.


I have viewed four of the eight episodes of Nightmares & Dreamscapes, and so far Battleground is the best of the (Salem's) lot. It's a great preemptive strike to kick off a most-welcome horror anthology TV series, and it should keep genre fans' blood-thirst slaked until Masters of Horror returns to Showtime in the fall.


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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson

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