Did you know that John McTiernan made a film before his Predator/Die Hard double-bill that made him one of Hollywood’s biggest action directors? McTiernan’s work on 1986’s Nomads prompted Arnold Schwarzenegger to give him the initial Predator gig, and blowing the dust of Nomads, it’s obvious that the Austrian muscle-man had a good eye for talent. Nomads was a disaster on release, but looks pretty good now, with muscular direction and an unconventional urban horror-story that’s hard to pigeonhole.
Nomads also marked a first lead role for Pierce Brosnan, somewhat irrationally cast here as a bearded French anthropologist Jean Charles-Pommier. Poor Pommier dies in the opening moments of Nomads, but Eileen Flax (Lesley-Anne Down), the LA hospital medic who tries to save him, starts to experience key moments from Pommier’s life in flashback form. If that sounds odd, things get stranger still as Pommier tangles with a group of leather-clad ‘nomads’ led by a wordless Adam Ant who may, or may not, be Eskimo shape-shifting spirits who want to use his house as a place of worship for a dead serial killer.
If Nomad’s already sounds completely barking, we’re not even halfway done. How about a score from Rocky’s Bill Conti? B Movie queen Mary Wonorov as Dancing Mary? Nina Foch as an estate agent? And the whole style of Nomads is truly bizarre; McTiernan is clearly working out a few moves, and the famous Rickman fall from Die Hard is road-tested here. Yet the editing looks like it was completed by Nicolas Roeg’s janitor, skipping backwards and forwards in time in a way that dislodges and unsettles.
Nomads, written by McTiernan, is more in the vein of The Hunger, Cat People or Wolfen in that it belongs to an early 80’s sub-genre of finding supernatural interlopers in a collapsing modern society. It’s a baffling, yet hugely entertaining film that works its way to a strange yet unforgettable trick-ending. I honestly didn’t know this film existed until a couple of days ago, but having seen it, I’d absolutely love to hear from anyone that’s familiar with it. Do you know Nomads? Have you seen it? I’m here with a trained team of therapists ready to hear your experiences of this astonishingly odd film…