Nightmare (1981)

Welcome back to B-Movie Enema, my lovelies.  This week, we have a peculiar little exploitation slasher flick from the early days of the gory mass murderer days – Nightmare.  There’s a positively interesting story behind this movie.  However, this is yet another of those Bizarre TV watches.  It is indeed part of the “final six” – the final six films that ran on repeat for several months until the Roku channel disappeared forever.

In the event that you ever watched that channel or curious about these final films, they were (in the order that I reviewed them on this blog up to this point) Werewolf of Washington, Zombie Nightmare, Slaughterhouse Rock, and Doom Asylum.  The final film of this grouping, Slumber Party Massacre, will be my special Halloween article, so that’s something to look forward to, I suppose.

I talk about the defunct Bizarre TV because it really is what re-energized me to start this blog up again after I took almost a year and a half off from writing it due to a bad case of fuckititis.  If it wasn’t for me watching that non-stop, and for the dearly departed Mistress Rhonda tirelessly providing awesome horror and exploitation, I don’t think I would have been able to jump back into this.  So, if you want to blame something for this guy’s thousands and thousands of words of bullshit, I guess you can blame that.

Also, if you do have a Roku, and you’re looking for a good, free streaming channel, check out OtherWorlds TV.  That was created as a direct homage to Bizarre TV and just kills it with content.

Alrighty… Let’s dig deep into this Nightmare.  This film, while an English speaking American film, is directed by Italian director Romano Scavolini.  Nah, I’m just kidding, that guy is really Japanese.  Yeah, Romano Scavolini is actually a traditional Japanese first and last name.  Nah, I’m just rippin’ your dick.  He’s an Italian guy.  His films generally leaned more on experimental indie type of flicks.  Nightmare (also commonly know as Nightmares in a Damaged Brain) is what he is best known for.

Scavolini wrote the film after reading some articles in Time and Newsweek about how psychiatric patients experienced major changes in their behavior after being administered some pretty heavy doobies.  He finished the script in a couple weeks while chilling with friends in Florida.  This was pretty much his style, he wanted to do something that was somewhat experimental, but also really tried to pique the fears of the audience by way of really trying to sell the idea that, yes, there are cases of people’s behavior have been modified by way of drugs and, yes, it could turn pretty terrifying and the so forth.  Basically, scare the audience by way of giving them something that at least felt real.

The film is particularly gory.  In fact, it received an X rating, and was released as such, but very nearly got picked up by major studios like Warner Brothers and Universal, but they demanded it be trimmed down to an R.  The gore immediately got it slapped onto the UK’s Video Nasty list upon release.

What makes this gore a little more interesting than it being there and enough to garner an X rating, is who gets credited for working on the film – Tom Savini.  Savini was a young master at this time working mostly on hugely popular films like Dawn of the Dead and Friday the 13th.  Much of the marketing of this film and the credits itself give Savini credit for working on the film.  However, Savini, for like the past 40 years, vehemently denies ever working on the movie.  Scavolini, on the other hand, is puzzled by Savini’s claim.  The director admits to having others work on practical effects, but that Savini was on set to direct and lead some key effects shots.  Others working on the film claim that their understanding was that Savini was indeed approached to direct all the special effects, but that he declined and suggested others that could do the job they needed just as well.

The movie opens with a young man seemingly having a nightmare in his crappy little bed.  When he wakes up and throws the covers off, he sees the severed head of a woman at the other end.  What’s more, her eyes open.  We then see that this guy is in a straight jacket in a New York mental institution.  This is George Tatum.  He’s in the hospital for having done some very bad and naughty things as an adult, but also as a youth.

After the credits, the story moves to Florida, where a babysitter, Kathy, is watching a couple girls while wearing a fairly see-through dress and no bra.  The kids she is watching claim that they saw someone looking in the windows at them.  Kathy, not really believing it just puts them back to bed and goes back downstairs.  Someone is inside looking at her, and she might have at least some sense to maybe, I dunno…  Check the doors, windows, etc.

Or…  Or she could go outside to see who might be around peeping in windows and shit.  Yeah, that works.  This is what smart, hot, blonde babysitters should do in horror movies.  Now, despite this being a really solid plan on Kathy’s part, she gets attacked by a guy jumping down from the roof of the house.  Again, George Tatum wakes up from a nightmare in New York.  In Florida, the cops look around to see what all the hub bub is about this hot babysitter who got attacked.  Surprisingly, Kathy is still alive.  She’s traumatized, but alive.  One of the little kids she was watching creepily giggles at how scared Kathy is.

Back in New York, George is having a nightmare about something he did in his youth.  Apparently, he walked in on a lady doing some kinky BDSM shit to a guy.  We get flashes of splattering blood and the lady’s headless body.  This became a childhood trauma that ultimately led him to have violent episodes throughout his life.  As an adult, he killed a family in Brooklyn by sexually mutilating them.  While he’s been in the nuthouse, he has been undergoing experimental treatment with a new drug to help alter his brain and reprogram it so he can return to society.

And, later, we learn that George does start to show great progress, at least according to his doctor.  He’s allowed to leave the hospital and re-enter society as most of his episodes have gone away.  So, what does he do the moment he gets out?  Goes to a peepshow in the red light district.  This…  This starts to trigger some of those childhood trauma that led him down the path of crazy town.

He eventually comes across what appears to be a fairly happy lady named Tara Alexander in a booth with a phone and a vibrator.  She’s just kicking back with feet up and running that vibrator across her puss that’s just out there in the open.  Just out there for all to see.  We actually get to see her fucking that vibrator.  That’s rad.

This makes poor George have all sorts of crazy relapse and fall to the floor foaming at the mouth.  I mean…  If that’s not an obvious positive review for Ms. Alexander’s talents, I don’t know what is.

The next day, George is supposed to meet with this doctor, be he’s like, fuck all that, I’m going to find a phone and check in with my ex-wife and kids.  Now, his ex-wife, Susan, is the lady that hot ass Kathy babysits for.  And, yes, I am well aware that Kathy is probably like 16 or 17, or at least meant to be, but this is the early 80s, and much like with the 1970s, everyone looks way older.  So I’m going to assume that the girl playing Kathy is perfectly fine for me to say that she’s smoking hot.

I digress…

Susan has moved on with her life.  Yeah, her ex-husband might have been a total cuckoo, but she’s got an absolute bear of a new boyfriend.  And he has a boat!  And he sings pirate songs on said boat!  This new boyfriend of Susan’s is Bob.  Susan tries hanging in there, but, quite frankly, she’s struggling as a single mom.  She’s got three kids, and a pirate boyfriend.  Things are tough for her.

She doesn’t realize that things are about to get a lot tougher because George isn’t just trying to call her house and check in on her, but he’s rented a car and on his way TO Florida.  And, here’s maybe the kicker in all this…  George is about 120,000% nowhere near cured of his homicidal tendencies.  After stopping somewhere along the way at a bar to whet his whistle and try to figure out what to do now that the car he is using is broken down, he hitches a ride in the back seat of a girl’s car – with her unawares.  When this girl’s boyfriend calls her and the line is all garbled, she tries to figure out what’s up and it leads to one of the coolest murderer reveals ever…

In a particularly gruesome moment, he doesn’t just slice her throat, he also stabs her and it looks almost like he gets sexual released from it as the knife slides in an out of her stomach.  He also licks the blood or eats a little bit of her innards.  It’s a very well done scene.

Back in New York, things aren’t so good.  George is gone, and no one knows where he is.  His doctor doesn’t think he’s dangerous, but another doctor working with George on the experimental drugs is pissed and thinks that none of this is going to end well if George is not back in the hospital as soon as possible.

Now, I will say that Susan is a total MILF.  A real fox if you know what I mean.  She is excited over the fact that the kids are gone for the day and she can go over to Bob’s boat, get their fuck on, listen to some smooth yacht rock, and just go topless.  But she’s kind of a shit mom.  She kind of ignores the time and realizes she isn’t home for when her kids get home from school.

She tries to call home, but her son, CJ, took out the trash, and sees George watching him.  He comes back in covered in blood.  This gets Susan and Bob to rush to her house.  When she gets there, CJ tells Bob that a man outside tried to kill him with a knife.  However, after further checking, they realize that it was all a prank.

Susan flips the fuck out.  First, she flips out on CJ.  Then the two older daughters.  Then Bob who only tries to calm her down.  Fuck, this lady sounds like some of my neighbors completely over stressed with kids who are a little too smart and a little too energetic.  Unlike some of my neighbors, I kinda like the heat Susan is bringing to the movie.

Later in the night, the kids are at home with Kathy watching them.  One of the girls is trying to learn how to do math and laughs about not knowing how to add numbers.  The oldest girl tells Kathy that she doesn’t understand anything that she’s saying about needing to do learnin’ and shit because I guess she’s dumb.  CJ is upstairs possibly making a pipe bomb.  Sigh…  A MILF who would rather be out with her hairy pirate boyfriend who lives on a boat and has a hair trigger temper with her kids, a daughter who can’t add numbers, a son who looks to someday be a domestic terrorist, a sexy blonde babysitter who thinks it is a good idea to go outside when the kids say someone’s outside looking at them through the window…

If you ever wanted to know if Florida has always been fucked up, Nightmare proves that, yes, yes it was.

Things begin to escalate as the house begins receiving odd phone calls that begin to scare Kathy.  Meanwhile, George has been driving around with this dead lady in his trunk.  You know the lady he cut up right good back on his trip down from New York?  He did that so he could take her car, and he’s been keeping her around for the ride.  He eventually takes her to the beach and leaves her body behind and has a little bit of scream therapy as he does so.

Seriously, this fucking kid…

As Kathy showers, we see someone has been lurking around and has even come into the house.  This leads to yet another wonderful reveal.  Kathy has been in the shower.  We’ve tracked this potential intruder outside and now inside.  He’s coming up the stairs while Kathy is drying herself off and going into the medicine cabinet for some cream or something.  When she shuts the sliding mirror door, there’s this strange looking mask thing staring back at her with glowing red eyes.  It turns out to just be that little turd CJ and this is what he was working on in his room.

I’m still not sure he hasn’t built a pipe bomb at some point in his life, though.

The next day, Kathy tells Susan she cannot babysit for her anymore.  CJ is a total psycho.  She says he is not normal.  He scares everyone and she just will not ever come over again to watch these motherfuckin’ kids.

Kathy decides she wants to sell the house.  Why?  Because CJ is probably a psycho?  I dunno.  I think she and Bob may be considering moving in together, but either way, as Bob takes pictures of the house, one of the Polaroids shows a man in one of the windows.  Bob and Susan go in to see who it is, but we all know it’s George.

Sweaty, sweaty George.

Meanwhile, the psychiatrists back in New York are using computerators to learn that George’s rental car was found, and 24 hours after the car was found on the side of the road, a woman’s car was reported missing and she’s presumed dead because of all the blood.  The computron 4000 computerator says there’s a 91% chance that George is going to Daytona, Florida.

On the beach, Bob and Susan are hanging out with the kids and CJ sees George.  Now, earlier it was said that George left the day CJ was born.  So CJ doesn’t know who his father is.  But when he says he saw this guy, Susan flips the fuck out and shakes CJ and pushes him down and screams at him.  Bob talks to CJ and realizes that maybe he ain’t so bad, but he’s gotta cool it with them damn stories.  CJ tells Bob that he’d love for him to be his dad if he married his mom.  Me?  I think Susan needs some little helpers or just some fucking Xanax for Cheesus Crust.

In the middle of the night, George calls and tells Susan he wants her body and he’s coming for her.  George calls his psychiatrist too saying that his urge to kill is stronger than the pills.  His doctor tries to talk him down, but his dreams and visions are starting to affect him as if they are happening to him in the real world.  Because he’s so whacked out, he answers the call for some more murder.

There is an abandoned building in town that CJ and some of his friends like to play at.  One of the local girls, probably another babysitter who knows CJ, thought he went into the building and, while in there, she was killed by George.  Tony, a friend of CJ goes in trying to find CJ.  After he finds the body of the girl, George kills the kid as well.

The police question CJ, but he doesn’t really understand what they are asking him.  They repeatedly ask him if he knows what happened to his friend, but he just remains silent or tries to get the cops to talk to the other kids.  He does say he didn’t kill him, but it doesn’t really help him.  He asks Susan what happened, she just tells him to shut up.

The next day, George breaks into Susan’s house and sniffs some of her panties.  CJ comes home from school upset because I guess a teacher told him she thinks he killed Tony.  Jesus, Florida is a fucked up place.  Anyway, CJ, looking for his mother, finds some of George’s pills.  George calls the downstairs phone and tells CJ to get out of the house as soon as he can, but he just thinks it is one of his friends pulling his leg.

The doctors fly down to Florida to work with the cops and try to find George.  Meanwhile, Susan begs Kathy to watch the kids for two hours that night while Susan and Bob go to a business party that features cocktails and women being tossed into a pool.  She tries to decline, but Susan begs her and swears CJ will not cause any more trouble.

Now…  I’m very glad to see Kathy one more time with the shortest of short shorts (like Hooters style shorts for real), but I just realized, I don’t think there is one night in this movie in which Susan has been home with the kids.  Not one.

Anyway, Kathy’s boyfriend comes over to see his sexy ass girlfriend and says he just let himself in…  Which probably means George is either already in the house or will get into the house.  So the two young lovers start making out, fucking, and planning on getting high.  I’m sure this will end well.

Their sexy shenanigans end while someone creeps around.  Joey, Kathy’s doofy boyfriend, looks for his joint while she goes to take a shower.  I also realize that not only does this movie not feature Susan at home with the kids at all in this movie, but Kathy has two shower scenes and we see no boobage.  That’s a shame.

Joey is killed by George wearing CJ’s mask that he wore when he scared Kathy the last time she babysat him.  He then kills Kathy with like a pick hammer or something.  CJ tries to tell his sisters but they don’t believe him.  They do eventually get into a room and lock themselves in.  Susan calls home and George answers, but just hangs the phone up.  Susan decides maybe she should be home for once.

George tries to bust into the room that CJ is hiding in.  When he tries to open the door, CJ uses his mom’s revolver to shoot him like four or five times.  CJ gets his sisters downstairs and out the door, but of course George is not dead yet.  CJ tries to call for help but ends up shooting George one more time.  George keeps coming after CJ and he’s out of bullets until he gets the fucking shotgun out and blows his dad away one more time.

As George dies, he has a flashback to seeing his dad in some sexual bondage with a woman.  Not his mother as we might assume or have been led to believe, but someone else.  He finds an axe and cuts her head off and kills his father.  Back in the present, Susan returns home (the next morning like the super parent she was – I guess promising Kathy she’d be home in two hours was just a bunch of smoke up her ass), and gets the kids to safety while CJ winks at us as if we’re surprised that he’s going to be a complete and total lunatic when he grows up too.

In all, there’s probably three main nitpicks I can make about Nightmare.  First, it’s probably longer than it needs to be.  It doesn’t need to be almost 100 minutes.  If it was 80, it probably would be a tad easier watch.  Second, there’s absolutely no mystery to George’s condition.  I could say that it would benefit a little bit from a red herring element to the story, but it’s not a huge problem with the movie because that’s not the story it is trying to tell.

Thirdly…  Susan and her kids are terribly unlikable.  Yeah, we can have some fun about how Susan needs some Xanax or how her wild, unpredictable behavior really, really turns me on, and that she is generally a MILF.  That doesn’t really cover up the fact that she should have her kids taken away from her.  CJ is also a complete and total psycho.  That kid will have a rap sheet a mile long by the age of 12.

All that said, Nightmare is actually a very well made movie and actually competently shot and framed.  You can definitely see where Romano Scavolini was going for a different type of horror.  It’s not quite like the general slasher movies of the era, but it doesn’t have the same feel as the euro horror of the time either.  Shit, George kills a kid in this movie.  It’s some pretty serious shit.  It surely does make some people wonder if there are folks released from institutions mixed in with the population.  Scavolini definitely does what he could with his kind of interesting take on advancements in how psychological help began being administered by drugs.

Not only that, but it does the whole “sex leads to death” trope for horror movies slightly differently as well.  It certainly could be said that sexual repression could lead to some pretty fucked up ideas as a grown up.  It’s possible that it handles all this a little bit better than some of the other horror films that deals with the same idea that came out around the time (I’m looking at you, Pieces).

That does it for this installment of your favorite blog about movies and somehow relating it all to cleaning out a dirty asshole.  Next week…  Woo boy.  It’s one of the two or three movies from 2019 that got pretty much all the attention in critics and other people who talk about movies’ worst of list.  It’s not The Haunting of Sharon Tate.  It’s not The Fanatic.

Yup, motherfuckers, it’s Cats.

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