FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 11, 2006

Day 10- Peep Show

Romano Scavolini's Nightmare (aka Nightmares in a Damaged Brain) appeared on the scene in late 1981 (ah, that magical year...) and brought the slasher film from the realm of parody, dumb teenagers, and mainstream acceptance (eg Student Bodies) directly back into the realm of the gritty and of the dirty- back into the fringes of cinema.

George Tatum (Baird Stafford) is a particularly dangerous inmate at a mental institution in New York City. He's plagued by violent visions and nightmares, but doctors put him on an experimental drug treatment and are soon confident that he's ready to become a functioning member of society yet again. Upon leaving the institution, Tatum visits a sleazy peep show and...something in his brain breaks-- or re-breaks. Whether due to the visions from his past or simply the odor of an early-80s 42nd Street porn palace, we don't know. Either way, however, Tatum ends up writhing on the floor and foaming at the mouth as some chick with frizzy hair pleasures herself on the other side of the glass.

Tatum recovers well enough to hop in his giant early-80s car and head down to Florida in search of his ex-wife and his son, dispatching a few unlucky women along the way. At the film's end, Tatum's memory-nightmare-vision is played out in full and we finally learn the reasons behind his madness. When he was but a boy, George came home one afternoon and caught his parents engaging in a game of "tie me up and slap me around a little!", which freaked out the poor young thing. He promptly fetched an axe and got all Lizzie Borden on mom and dad.

Were the film not so bloody and, at times, explicitly gory, the plot could almost pass for a Lifetime movie starring the late Robert Urich of television's Spenser: For Hire as George Tatum and Meredith Baxter Birney of television's Family Ties as his estranged wife. Nightmare, however, is very bloody and just as seedy as the peep show George hits in NYC. Despite the relatively low body count, there are plenty of gurgling, gaping wounds on display and the blood flies freely- especially as little George gives mom and dad some well-placed whacks.

There's always been contention as to who exactly is responsible for the gore makeup FX in Nightmare, and even 25 years after the film's release, the mystery hasn't been resolved. Writer/director Scavolini insists that the effects are courtesy of the maestro himself, Tom Savini. Savini says that while he was contaced about the film while it was in the early stages, he never officially signed on and eventually went to work on Creepshow instead. He threatened a lawsuit to have his name removed from the credits but never followed through. While Savini disavows the film to this day, his name is still emblazoned on the screen: Makeup by Tom Savini. Where's Columbo when you need him?

I'm kind of torn about Nightmare. Whenever I think of something I like about it, like the truly creepy moment when a Polaroid picture of a house develops and there might be a man standing in the upstairs window, I think of something else about it that I hated, like the terrible acting- particularly from Tatum's bitchy ex-wife (Sharon Smith). This movie as the balls to kill a kid (albeit offscreen)- that's good. Ultimately, the plot is too drawn out and fairly dull- that's bad. Tatum is a truly insane psychopath- that's good. The film feels a little too trashy and exploitative for me to really say "Yeah, I like this movie!"- that's bad. See what I mean? A movie I didn't really like has some elements that I really did like. What am I supposed to do with that? Fine...middle of the road it is! I give it 5 out of 10 just call me Sybils.


Stacie Ponder said...

And yes, I realize that I missed posting yesterday...and I'm deeply sorry, my babies.

Late yesterday afternoon, I got a message to the effect of "if you want to try to get on this project, we need your samples first thing tomorrow morning!" I worked straight through until about 4am on some art samples and everything else fell by the wayside. Despite my lack of a post, I need everyone to send me some good vibes with crossed fingers that my last night was worth it!

Amanda By Night said...

You are totally in my thoughts Stacie! If they know anything about talent, you're already hired!

I love this movie. It's total grindhouse. The scene where he murders the woman for her car is just...AMAZING. I mean, it just affects me.

A lot of the acting was improvised, so the family would seem more realistic... or annoying as it were. I can't understand what mom does. She's asleep ALL of the time or whoring around with her hairy mancub and the kids are kind of gross. So in essence, it IS like real life!

There are some extremely effective moments in Nightmare and as a whole I feel it works and it pays in spades. I think a lot of the gore is cheeseball but the feeling of dread just sits there like a ton of bricks.

Amanda By Night

Anonymous said...

Good luck, Stacie Ponder!

I must admit, I wasn't interested in seeing this flick until I read Amanda's phrase "hairy mancub." Any movie where that phrase can be used in a description deserves at least a peep (ha).

Stacie Ponder said...

Thanks, kids. The waiting is, in fact, the hardest part.

Hee hee..."Hairy mancub". That dude looked like Tommy Chong!

The mom is a terrible mother and she has terrible kids. Though they were all shrieky and grating at the time, looking back I kinda like that. Tatum wasn't stalking some perfect little family...that's a different approach. But lord, I hated them all!

I'm staring to lean toward "I liked Nightmare". I'm very open to having my opinions changed...maybe I should go back and re-visit movies from time to time and see if my initial reaction holds true.

Or maybe that would be a silly waste of time!

Anonymous said...

So when this came out in the UK they had a 'guess the weight of the human brain in the pickle jar contest'. Just thinking about it makes me feel dirty, kinda like when I watch the movie. Consensus still out if was real brain. But as far as advertising a film called NIGHTMARE IN A DAMAGED BRAIN, brain in pickle jar pretty much sums it up.

John @

Anonymous said...

Code Red is supposed to be releasing this on DVD. I hope so, it sounds really good, and I saw the scene with the little boy killing his parents on Youtube, that was one nasty but effective scene.