tn_nightmareslashersearch14I guess I should’ve known about this one, but I didn’t. 1981’s generically titled NIGHTMARE (sometimes called NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN) is apparently pretty notorious due to getting banned in the UK as a “Video Nasty.” That’s not the same as being good. But it has a sleazy, unhinged feeling to it that makes it stand out. It feels like it is definitely not made by slick professionals, but possibly by actual crazy people.

It begins, appropriately, with a guy dreaming he wakes up in his underwear with a woman’s severed head in a pile of guts at the foot of his bed. This will be our killer, George Tatum (Baird Stafford), an often sweaty, always confused mess of a man constantly in agony because of his extremely messed up sexuality. He’s haunted by childhood memories of walking in on his mom (or a mistress or hooker, it seems like, but the credits say mother) in a corset on top of his tied-up dad, slapping him. And then he remembers Mom getting decapitated.

Not surprisingly this is a problem in George’s daily life. For one thing, he likes to go to the Times Square peep shows to jerk off, but he keeps seeing head stump flashes and falling to his knees in anguish. Ruins the whole night, I’m sure.

mp_nightmareAs different as it feels at the beginning, this is yet another slasher movie that follows the HALLOWEEN template. There’s the traumatic childhood prologue, then we skip to when the kid is grown up and has been in an institution. He escapes from a halfway house instead of a sanitarium, then he travels to the house where it happened, kills people along the way, makes hangup calls, watches from across the street, puts on a rubber Halloween mask (this one looks like Sid Haig), gets shot, gets back up.

Also it has a babysitter, but she’s not the heroine or the Final Girl. The focus is more on the little kids, which makes it feel extra creepy and unsavory. The little shitbag son C.J. (C.J. Cooke) plays the part of that popular slasher movie archetype, The Prankster Who Cried Wolf.

For example, there’s the incident when Mom is off having sex with her hippie boyfriend on a boat. She happens to call home just after C.J. came face to face with George while taking the garbage out. The sister tells her something happened and C.J. is dying. The scene goes on for quite some time with mom screaming in terror while being driven back to the house, the kid acting dazed and horrified clutching his bloody chest, and the audience having a pretty fucking good guess that he just coincidentally at that moment was playing a hilarious prank where he covers himself in ketchup and pretends he got stabbed.

I felt kind of bad for the boyfriend. I don’t get the impression that he’s serious enough about Mom to commit to this family, but he does a good job of trying to keep everybody calm and mediate after the kid has done this shitty thing. Also he references Antonioni.

In HALLOWEEN, young Michael Meyers murders his sister while she’s having sex with her boyfriend. That scene always gets credited for inadvertently leading to the sex = death theme prevalent in the sub-genre, where young people have sex and then get killed and it kind of implies that if they had been good little boys and girls and said their prayers and the flag salute instead of getting it on then this wouldn’t have happened. This movie has one of those scenes, and more sexually graphic than usual, with a shot of the dude’s ass with her legs wrapped around him. But it also has a different strain of that attitude that also stems from the HALLOWEEN opening: a kid walks in on adults (usually a parent or parents) having sex (usually kinky) and then that’s the cause or one of the causes of the kid growing up to be a psycho. It happens in this, THE INITIATION, SLEEPAWAY CAMP, MANIAC, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT, I’m sure others.

It’s a weird thing to be so common, and arguably hypocritical. They’re making these graphic, sleazy movies but promoting a really Puritanical idea. These NIGHTMARE parents obviously should’ve been more careful about when to play their weirdo sex games, but I feel confident that parents-doing-it faux pas like that do not create maniacs. I bet it’s more of a boner killer than a killer creator.

It’s funny though that NIGHTMARE has this theme of kids being messed up by seeing things they shouldn’t, ’cause my buddy who recommended this claims he saw it when he was 9. I’ll keep my eye on him.

Like HALLOWEEN the climax is the masked killer invading the sanctity of the home, chasing them, chopping through doors (including a very SHINING-like scene that was apparently shot before THE SHINING came out).

Unlike Loomis the psychiatrist (more of a school counselor type who monitors the patient from files on a super computer) never shows up. So, as you can see above the kid doesn’t have the luxury of waiting around for an adult to shoot the killer.

One goofy thing that made me laugh is they have the cliche where a character sees the masked killer and assumes it’s her boyfriend or whoever joking around. In this case she thinks it’s the little kid, C.J., who’s a couple feet shorter than this guy in front of her.

But C.J., who is running around in his Chicago Bears pajamas, apparently has access to his mom’s hand gun, because suddenly he has one, and he shoots the guy. Five times. And when George gets up and chases him again the kid shoots him another time. And then he goes into the closet and gets the rifle and shoots him two more times.


This is a movie that probly wouldn’t be made today, in my opinion. I only wish the kid had a cigarette too.

The ending is actually the most effective part. As George is dying we see the full, uninterrupted version of that flashback he’s been having, and yes, it is confirmed that little bow-tie-wearing Georgie (Scott Praetorius) chopped both his parents up with an ax. This kid seems more authentic than C.J. and is real good at cold, creepy expressions. And what he does is so over-the-top brutal and gorey that you gotta tip your hat. This movie is not fuckin around.

I also like the HALLOWEEN 2-esque aftermath scene, the police bringing the bodies out with all the neighbors gathered. Better filmatism and production value than many other scenes in the movie, so it really worked for me despite a corny final stinger.

The gruesome special effects are clearly the main attraction for this one. There’s a graphic decapitation and blood squirting neck stump, for example. So I wasn’t surprised that Tom Savini is credited as “special effects director.” But afterwards I read that Savini denies working on the movie and says it’s a piece of shit. Here’s a good article about the claims made by Savini vs. the claims of writer/director Romano Scavolini (DOG TAGS). There doesn’t seem to be a clear cut answer about what happened, but my interpretation is that Savini did consult them in some way and his suggestions had a major influence on the techniques of the movie but that he didn’t actually make the effects and resents them exploiting his name as if he had. Keep in mind, this was shortly after DAWN OF THE DEAD, FRIDAY THE 13TH and MANIAC, and he was doing THE BURNING and THE PROWLER that year (and EYES OF A STRANGER? Did I know he did that one?), so he was a rock star to horror fans.

Hmm. NIGHTMARE is not really what I am searching for in this Slasher Search, I don’t think it’s a very good movie. But it’s just wrong enough to be interesting. I think it’s fair to say that serious slasher fans should see it.

Note: the Code Red DVD includes both a 4 x 3 and a 16 x 9 version, with no explanation. I decided the narrow one was better, the 16 x 9 is cropped on the top and bottom. Heads seem awfully close to being out of frame, and in the scene where he walks through Times Square you can’t see all the great marquees, which include CHARLIE CHAN AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON QUEEN, FADE TO BLACK, KUNG FU MASSACRE, FIVE DEADLY VENOMS, SISTER STREET FIGHTER, CALIGULA, THE FOUR ASSASSINS, MANHUNT and STIR CRAZY.

Most of NIGHTMARE was shot in Florida, but taking a few days to open the movie in sleazy 1980 Times Square goes a long way toward establishing what type of movie we’re dealing with here.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 at 11:21 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

42 Responses to “Nightmare”

  1. My mom likes horror movies but hates slasher movies, in part because she says my dad and their friends took her to see one in the early 80’s called NIGHTMARE or NIGHTMARES or something along those lines. It seems like there are numerous movies that fit that description, but I’ve been trying for years to figure out what movie she was talking about. Might have to run this one by her.

  2. Mothers don’t fare very well in some of these slashers/horrors. PSYCHO might have been the first horror to introduce the idea that a mothers influence could create a nutbag. However, my vote for worst movie mother would have to be the one in BAD BOY BUBBY.

  3. I think the whole “killer is traumatized by seeing his parents engage in kinky sex” trope also appears in Dario Argento’s Opera, if I’m not mistaken.

  4. If movies have taught me one thing, it’s that people with mommy issues become serial killers, and people with daddy issues become superheroes.

  5. Explain Blade then, smart guy.

  6. The Argento movie you’re thinking of is Profundo Rosso, I believe. Or is it he non-Argento Pieces, where the kid just wants to whack off to nudie pics, but Mom is a prude.

  7. Blimey. The comments on the link you put up there Vern get pretty nightmarish themselves with claims of affairs and suicide or even possible murder. And that Savini is a dick in real life, or a lovely chap depending on who’s comment you read. Never meet your heroes I say.

  8. This movie had one of the most unsympathetic kids ever in a horror movie. Forget the killer, I was hoping the mom would snap and chop up the little asshole.

    I had been tracking this one down for a long time, and though it can’t be called good, it didn’t disappoint. I love that super grimy, MANIAC style low budget horror. It reminded me a lot of the original WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, actually, following a realistic nutso as he builds up to a killing spree. Lot less of a build up in NIGHTMARE, though. He was pretty spree-capable from the start.

  9. Mr Majestyk: Blade has vampire issues. That’s something completely different.

  10. “This is a movie that probly wouldn’t be made today, in my opinion. I only wish the kid had a cigarette too”

    and for added measure he could also crack open both a beer and a Playboy magazine

  11. Oh, that’s easy. Blade has mommy issues, as detailed in the first movie, and he grows up to become a serial killer… of vampires.

  12. “The Shining”… famously influenced by “Nightmare”. (As listed on Stanley Kubrick’s Wikipedia page. Maybe. And if it’s not there, someone should totally add it.)

    Wasn’t “Sleepaway Camp” a direct reversal of that trope, Vern? The killer doesn’t kill people because he/she saw them naked. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    And what the heck is it with children using guns in eighties’ movies? “Stand By Me”, “Monster Squad”, this one, and I’m sure there are others.

    I can’t say I’d go out of my way to see this, but I might watch it if I ever come across it. Which seems unlikely if it was considered a “video nasty” over here. Doesn’t sound like I’m missing out on too much anyway – “Halloween” ripoffs are really not my thing.

    I’m trying to think of any exception to the general rule that horror movie “moms” are serial killers, overbearing monsters who turn their kids into serial killers, insane religious nutjobs, or (if none of the above) good people who get killed off before the climax to raise the stakes of the movie. I honestly can’t think of one other than Rosemary from “Rosemary’s Baby” right now, and she is hardly a typical horror movie heroine. That’s depressing. Why aren’t mothers ever the heroes of these movies? The nearest we ever seem to get are “surrogate mother figures” – babysitters, teachers, camp counsellors, etc – who don’t have kids of their own.

  13. Paul: I think you’re thinking of the SLEEPAWAY CAMP sequels, where the anti-sex motivation was much more on-the-nose. The original begins with the killer witnessing his/her dad getting frisky with his gay lover, which I guess is supposed to be eighties code for “really mind-warping shit.” Of course, I’d say the crazy aunt had more to do with the eventual killing spree, so that’s another fucked-up mother figure.

    The reason not too many horror movies feature heroic mothers is that the genre is still largely aimed at teenage boys. The last thing a teenage boy wants to watch is a movie that remind him of his mom. But there are a few. Funny that you mention THE SHINING, because while Shelly Duvall might be annoying, she is undeniably on the side of good. Another Stephen King movie, CUJO, comes to mind. Dee Wallace fights her balls off for her little boy. Then there’s POLTERGEIST. Jobeth Williams goes all the way to the slime-infested spirit world to get her daughter back. In fact, many ghost movies are more family-oriented than other kinds of horror movies so mothers often play a more prominent role. Adrienne Barbeau is a mother and a hero in THE FOG. The mom in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT certainly gets her licks in (I apologize for this horrible blowjob joke.) Mrs. Brody is the main character in JAWS: THE REVENGE. NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5 concerns a young woman fighting for the soul of her unborn child. And last but certainly not least, Jamie Lee herself has grown up to become a ferocious battle-mom in HALLOWEEN: H20.

  14. Majestyk – I haven’t actually seen the sequels to “Sleepaway Camp”. I don’t remember that part of the original – just the aunt’s weird obsession with wanting a girl.

    And “Halloween: H20” is a great example of what I’m looking for (plus it’s probably the second-best Halloween movie after “Halloween”, so it has some legitimacy). As is “Poltergeist”. I should’ve thought of those. I haven’t seen “The Fog” (actually have it on DVD but haven’t watched it yet), “Nightmare 5”, or any version of “Last House on the Left”, so I can’t comment on those ones. And “Jaws: The Revenge” isn’t really a horror movie as such (I know it concerns a supernaturally-gifted shark who can cross oceans in search of the family of one specific person, but still… not horror.)

  15. And I have to admit that I’m not actually a fan of “The Shining”. I think it’s brilliantly directed, features some great moments and is intensely atmospheric; at the same time, the acting and much of what happens is so ludicrously over-the-top that it kinda leaves me cold. It’s one of those films where I absolutely acknowledge its genius while still having to remark “It’s not for me”. As Kubrick goes, I far prefer “A Clockwork Orange”, “Doctor Strangelove”, or even “Eyes Wide Shut”. Please don’t judge me!

  16. It’s best to watch THE SHINING as a black comedy about a husband and father who wishes his family would just give him some fucking space. It’s perhaps not surprising that a cold fish misanthrope perfectionist like Kubrick would relate more to crazy creative type Nicholson than the mewling brat and nagging shrew distracting him from his work.

  17. It’s funny that you talk about a father wanting his space in THE SHINING, because it makes me think of the pilot episode of BOB’S BURGERS which has one of the funniest spoofs of THE SHINING I’ve ever seen.

  18. I’ve never seen BOB’S BURGERS. What was their angle on the material?

    It’s understandable why Stephen King didn’t care for the movie. The book’s horror was generated by the idea that a father, through mental instability, might hurt his family, an idea that King, an alcoholic at the time, found terrifying. Kubrick seemed to have considered the concept more wish-fulfilment than anything else.

  19. What?! Who in the hell watches THE SHINING and thinks Jack is the sympathetic character?

  20. The same people who watch FRIDAY THE 13TH and root for Jason. Jack gets all the good lines and gets to have all the fun, while the family is whiny and annoying. The movie is clearly on his side.

  21. I started formulating my theory upon watching the behind-the-scenes film (shot by Kubrick’s daughter, whose presence on set either supports or disproves my theory) in which Kubrick tormented poor Shelly Duvall to make her as whiny as possible, while Jack was allowed to just chill out and do whatever the fuck he wanted. Duvall can be quite likable in other films so her annoying performance in THE SHINING had to be designed to limit audience sympathy with the character and thus force them to project it onto Jack.

  22. Pauline Kael’s description of the character in her review of THE SHINING: “Jack Nicholson plays Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance as King Of The Mountain”. Fuckin’ A right. I’ve long thought that his portrayal of Jack Torrance was the demarcation point in his movie career, where (onscreen, at least) Jack Nicholson the persona began to supersede Jack Nicholson the pure actor.

    Why Kubrick (who by many accounts didn’t give his actors much wiggle room in terms of executing a role) let Nicholson go full tilt is anyone’s guess. Yeah, it was entertaining as hell, but it strays way too much from the Jack Torrance of the book.

  23. I should add that, as a child growing up with a less than ideal father figure, I very much identified with Danny. As a grown-ass man who spends a lot of time wishing people would just leave him the fuck alone so he can write his little nonsense in peace for fuck’s sake, I find myself on Jack’s side.

    Except in the film’s stealth scariest scene: the part where Jack seems to momentarily regain his sanity while Danny sits on the bed beside him. That scene is just too accurate. A child abuser is never more frightening than when he’s trying to be nice.

  24. In BOB’S BURGERS Bob goes between the walls in his house for some reason (I can’t remember why) and then refuses to come back out. He slowly goes insane & ends up in the bar from THE SHINING.

  25. No, wait, it was the 2nd episode not the pilot & I didn’t make it clear that he was hiding in the wall to get away from his family, which is why I brought it up in the first place. Sorry. I’m recovering from surgery right now & am on pain pills, so all comments from me for about a week or so could end complete rubbish.

  26. Doesn’t Bob go between the walls because his in-laws are staying with him. I’m not one hundred percent certain. It’s been a while since I’ve seen that episode.

  27. I like both THE SHINING: the movie and THE SHINING: the book, so what if the movie is very different than the book? that doesn’t make it bad, JURASSIC PARK is very different than the book too, does that make it a bad movie? of course not

    when you make a movie adaption of a book, the most important thing is to make it a good movie that can stand on it’s own, not if you adapt every little detail of the original novel

    and I love that we have two very different takes on the same idea, it makes both versions worth experiencing equally, in my opinion

    and while we’re on the topic of THE SHINING, one thing I love about both versions is the insane cleverness of having what is fundamentally a ghost story but adding to it a very real, tangible threat in the form of Jack, it’s like ghosts are scary and all but what can they really do to you other than creep you out? no, what you really need to worry about is the crazy LIVING mother fucker coming after you with an axe.

  28. I’ve read the book as well as seen the movie, and one thing they both succeeded in was scaring the crap out of me. King is good at suggesting what we should be afraid of, like a cold hand reaching up from under the bed and touching your flesh in the middle of the night. Kubrick shows Jack kissing a beautiful naked woman in a bathtub who then turns into a cackling, rotting hag, and it’s as equally disturbing.

    And Maggie, hope all is well, and you have a quick recovery! We need our Number 1 girl poster to keep on posting. You know, to balance out all the macho shenanigans around here…

  29. I like the book and the movie, too. I think the movie wins out, though. It’s one of the most distinctive horror movies of all time with some of the most iconic images ever created, while the book is just another in a long line of very good Stephen King books about writers going nuts. I also think the movie is scarier for keeping the hotel’s evil more opaque. The book gives away a little too much and trades terror for mythology.

  30. One funny thing about the book is that I think Kubrick saw the character of Jack a little clearer than King did. King clearly had a lot of sympathy for the character because there were a lot of biographical similarities: from Maine, teacher, struggling writer, alcoholic, had kids at a young age. But that sympathy doesn’t necessarily pass on to the reader. King saw the book as the story of a good man who went crazy, but I never thought Jack was that great to begin with. He was pretentious, arrogant, angry, smug, and he blamed all his problems on other people, even in the early going where we’re supposed to be on his side. I like the character much better after Kubrick straight up made him a monster who only gave a shit about himself.

  31. ” I like the character much better after Kubrick straight up made him a monster who only gave a shit about himself.”

    Well I wholeheartedly agree there. One of the best things about the movie is the way it skips the rather long-winded transformation from normal guy to nutcase that the book goes for. Jack seems pretty unhinged from the get-go, and I find that far more entertaining.

  32. Thanks, Darren. I’m doing okay. I even managed to get out & see JOHN WICK & can’t wait to discuss it.

  33. That’s great, Maggie. And from what I’m hearing, JOHN WICK is good therapy.

  34. Unless perhaps you’re a dogowner.

    Whole other topic but horror related…who caught CONSTANTINE on tv tonight?

  35. I just watched it. I liked it. I’m not familiar with the source material and don’t remember the movie very well. I know a lot of people didn’t like the movie, saying it wasn’t true to the comic. As for the TV show, a couple of the effect were cheesy, but that’s TV. The story was a little clunky, but that’s often the case with a pilot episode that has to establish everything in a short amount of time. I liked the lead actor. I hadn’t seen him before. I thought he had charisma. It looks like it could be fun.

  36. MMP – I thought it was OK.

    The only FX moment that was cheesy for me was that opening demonic scene. Really? Your first moment in your program where you introduce what in essence this guy deals with for a living, and…you throw the audience that shit? I’m disappointed in you, Neil Marshall.

    The lead actor at first…he was off to me, but I warmed up to him in the 2nd half.

    Broddie (and other Hellblazer readers) might disagree with me, but those two scenes with the train and threatening his old associate Richie to help him out…those are asshole John Constantine moments you would’ve gotten from the books. Obviously that ending was produced in reshoots when that lead actress in that pilot either decided not to stay for the series or was replaced (I don’t remember) so to write her out.

    Plus hey Dr. Fate’s helmet!

    I would put it behind THE FLASH and GOTHAM as pilots on the DC TV slate so far this season. I’ll keep watching, and hey maybe GRIMM viewers will stay over and watch it? But I don’t know if it convinced enough people to stick around weekly for it. We’ll see.

    P.S. – I don’t understand why they wouldn’t let him smoke. A lost creative opportunity if you ask me. That character is the sort of personality who would go into no smoking bars and restaurants and light’em up because fuck you, that’s why. I think it would’ve added anachronistic charm considering the mainstream trend against smoking. A minor complaint, nothing more.

  37. That was the same scene I was thinking about when I said the FX were cheesy. I did think the dead body on the hood was creepy and a good use of old school FX instead of CGI.

    I thought it was odd that the woman was scared off at the end as well. I was thinking it was a set up for her to feel guilty that she didn’t do something to try and stop it from happening, causing her to embrace her gift to help people.

  38. I’m not a major John Constantine fan, although one of my very favorite comic book stories was Garth Ennis’ first arc on the character, the one about lung cancer that they used for the movie. So Constantine not smoking might be a deal-breaker for me.

  39. MMP – Maybe that was the original plan? Who knows.

    Mr. M – To be fair, they make allusions to JC smoking (mindlessly flicking his lighter’s lid off/on, etc.) but still its just a weird trivial network thing to be anal about and them having to dance around. Especially when you consider on the same NBC that has a weekly show about sexual assault (and been on forever) and also have HANNIBAL which is cannibal-flavored…I don’t get it.

    Then again Joe Johnston fought (unsuccessfully) to have smoking in his Captain America movie because you know, it was the 1940s-era duh. (I’m not holding my breath for smoking on the upcoming AGENT CARTER tv series either.)

  40. I’m a guy who never has and will will touch a cigarette, but that no-smoking rule in movies and TV shows pisses me off, cigarettes are just a great prop (what would Cowboy Bebop be if it’s crew wasn’t always smoking?), it’s as simple as that and if you’re so dumb you’d start smoking just because a character on a TV show does, well that’s your problem….

  41. *I’m a guy who never has and never will

  42. Did you guys keep watching CONSTANTINE? It’s pretty mixed. I really liked episode 2, hated episode 3, episode 4 was meh and really liked the last episode.

    Also, he does smoke, you just never see him inhaling, or exhaling. The closest is one shot in episode 2 where he’s walking down the street and it’s shot from behind and you see the smoke billowing out around his head and he turns just enough that you can see the cigarette in his mouth. Every other shot is stuff like him putting them out or going to light up. It’s pretty ridiculous. Like seeing him inhale is going to be the tipping point where the impressionable youth decide to take up smoking. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone smoking on a network show. You see it in cable, like MAD MEN and TRUE DETECTIVE, but I guess it’s taboo on networks nowadays.

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