42nd Street Cinema

Nightmare (1981)

Romano Scavolini's Nightmare. More formally known to us residing in the UK as, Nightmares In A Damaged Brain.

Starring: Baird Stafford, Sharon Smith, C.J. Cooke, Mik Cribben and Scott Praetorius.

Banned upon its initial VHS release amidst the Video Nasty scandal, Nightmare has had its fair share of censorship and controversy. A distributor was sentenced to 18 months in prison after refusal to edit 1 second worth of footage. Since then, Nightmare's home video releases since have been sporadic, including a number of US VHS tapes, which do feature an uncut print in terms of violence and gore, but are missing scenes of dialogue. The film also had no legitimate DVD release aside from a pre-cut version put out in 2005, in the UK.

The other major piece of controversy surrounding Nightmare is, as I'm sure you all know by now, the involvement of Tom Savini. His name is featured on both the film's poster and credits, there are also a number of production photographs featuring him. However since, Savini has publicly denied working on the film. One would have to speculate that Savini was purely on set to serve as a consultant to effects artist, Ed French and that, Scavolini and/or his producer used Savini's name on the poster and credits as a marketing ploy in order to sell the film.

The plot in Nightmare closely follows the story of a psychopath, à la Lustig's Maniac (1980), named George Tatum (Stafford), who is discharged from a mental hospital, after supposedly being cured through a 'major breakthrough in behaviour control'.

Thrust out onto the dirty streets of downtown Manhattan, George's mental health quickly relapses, feeling from New York to Florida. He begins to stalk single mother, Susan (Smith) and her 3 children. One of whom is growing up to be a little terror himself.

One thing I particularly liked about the character of George is how distanced he is from other slasher antagonists. He's not a remorseless indestructible monster, hacking and bludgeoning his way through promiscuous teenagers. But a man, haunted by the memory of murdering his parents. We also learn that George feels remorse and a confusing sexual gratification from his murderous acts.
The correlation between sex and violence in Nightmare is strong. From the get go, the whole reason as to why George is disturbed, is from witnessing his parents engaging in mild BDSM foreplay as a child. Mistakingly believing that his father was being harmed by his mother, the young George grabs an axe from the shed, beheads his mother, before quite literally 'burying the hatchet' in his fathers head.

Scavolini wraps up Nightmare with an ambiguous ending, neatly tying up one story strand and leaving another wide open. Without spoiling the whole plot, the ending allows the viewer to speculate the future of C.J.'s character.

Scavolini's Nightmare is by no means a standout slasher film, performances are adequate and from a stylistic standpoint, it's fairly basic. That said, there are some excellent and rather vicious murder sequences.
I believe Nightmare is surrounded by something of a mythos. In a sense that, it's become more written about than actually seen. However, much like Meir Zarchi's I Spit On Your Grave (1978), it possesses a memorable and scuzzy charm that's difficult to shake off.


Film Geek Bastard said...

This is an interesting movie blog. Followed!

Arion said...

There is always something about this sort of movies that fascinates me.

Oh, you can visit my blog (films & comics) here: www.artbyarion.blogspot.com

Kev D. said...

I'd love to see a sequel.

With the original cast.

Dead Moon Night said...

Great review! I just boght the Code Red 2-dvd and are looking forward seeing it again soon. I had an uncut swedish release, released by a company namned Horse Creek but I only remember the movie vividly.

I also have a blog that reviews the alternative cinema, feel free to check it out (eventhough it's in swedish...)


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Nick Cato said...

Nice post---I had an article on this film in the 2011 book BUTCHER KNIVES AND BODY COUNTS. One of my faves!

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