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Review: Nightmare (1981)

Reviewer: Lance Vaughan


George Tatum wakes up to find a decapitated head in his bed, and then he wakes again to find it was only a dream. Relief is short lived as, upon his second awakening, he finds himself in a straightjacket, in an insane asylum. He is given experimental drugs, which the doctors assume have completely cured him and is promptly discharged. Like any normal person who has just been let out of a loony bin, George makes a beeline to the nearest strip club. It is here that we discover that perhaps our buddy George's miracle cure may still have a few kinks that need to be hammered out. Rather than enjoying the lovely lass who is trying her darndest to entertain him, George begins having visions of the double homicide he committed in his youth. This is followed by full body spasms and foaming at the mouth, like one of those high school volcano science projects.

As troubled as George may be, I'd much rather spend time with him then the atrocious Temper family. The Temper family is the most vile group of people ever to be committed to celluloid. Mom Susan Temper is solely to blame, as she does little to hide her complete disinterest in her family by spending her days boating with her hirsute boyfriend while her three children fight over hamburgers. All these kids do is scream and yell and tell each other to "shut up," which sadly none of them ever do. Kim and Tammy are whiney brats, but they're saints compared to their brother C.J., who is obsessed with elaborate death pranks and is an obvious psychopath in the making. Props go to long-suffering baby sitter Kathy for putting up with this brood's shenanigans for a measly 20 bucks a session.

The bulk of the film cuts back and forth as George gets closer and closer to the insufferable family, killing random folks along the way as we sweat in anticipation of viewing the horrid clan's massacre. At some point his doctors realize that they suck at their jobs and begin trying to track our hero down. George feels bad about what he is doing but he cannot help himself, which proves he has a conscience and feels remorse, unlike the Tempers. Sadly George and the viewers' dreams are not to come true as every member of the Temper family escapes unharmed. It is only the stalwart sitter and her boyfriend who are snuffed as little C.J. guns George down before he can finish his mission. It is then we get to see George's previous flashback in it's entirety, which consists of young George walking in on his parents afternoon s&m session and responding accordingly by beheading both of them before they can finish the deed. It is then reveled that George is in actuality the absentee patriarch of the motley Temper crew and was probably just trying to undue the damage he had done by spawning such despicable and potentially dangerous offspring.

Directed by rumored porn helmer Romano Scavolini, NIGHTMARE aka BLOOD SPLASH aka NIGHTMARE IN A DAMAGED BRAIN is one sleazy trip into the bowels of depravity. Although not particularly well executed, its audacious lack of restraint resonates long after the film is over. This is definitely a movie to watch with a bunch of drunken friends. The dialogue is so stilted and repetitive that I can only assume the non-actors were forced to improvise for painfully long amounts of time, and the results are usually hilarious. On the other hand, some scenes like the one of the masked protagonist bashing down a bedroom door are unquestionably horrifying and wonderfully shot from unnerving low angles. The film's centerpiece double murder is unquestionably gratifying and brings to mind similar catalytic flashbacks from THE BOOGEY MAN and PIECES. It's like a sloppy, amateurish, strangely compelling cake with a gooey, blood-splattered, "Rewind It Again!" center!

Notorious not only for being one of the U.K's dreaded, banned "video nasties", NIGHTMARE courted controversy in the States as well, due to an ad campaign boasting special effects from legend Tom Savini. Savini denied any involvement in the film outside of giving friendly advice and demanded the ad campaign be altered. Black tape was used to cover the offending statement from all the movie posters. A still does exist of Tom on the set but whether it proves anything continues to be up for debate. In any case, the dispute has certainly kept this movie on gorehound's must see list for decades. Regardless of who did the special effects, NIGHTMARE, like William Lustig's MANIAC before it, most be given credit for telling the slasher tale from the point of view of the original victim, the slasher himself. I'm not saying either film is entirely successful in this department (although Lusting's comes awfully close), but I have to give them both credit for not only daring to test the audience's endurance limit for gore, but for also daring to show their killers as uncomfortably human.



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