"Rejected by her lover, the only man left in Cheryl's life is the orphaned nephew she has raised as her own son. She'll stop at nothing to keep Billy with her. When her plans misfire, she is swept up into an insane frenzy that means death to anyone who comes between her and her obsession.
But the investigating detective is convinced that Billy is the real killer- and determined to prove it. Madness and fanaticism work together to drag all concerned into a terrifying vortex of blood-letting that adds a nightmarish twist to the classic Oedipus story.
BILLY LYNCH WAS TRIED FOR SECOND
DEGREE MURDER AND FOUND NOT GUILTY ON THE GROUNDS OF TEMPORARY INSANITY"
NIGHTMARE MAKER is one of the better films that were singled out for prosecution in the UK in the early 80’s and lumbered with the tag ‘video-nasty’.
Susan Tyrrell plays a woman who is so disturbed that she resorts to murder to prevent her young ‘nephew’ Billy, from returning to his parents- Tyrell’s sister and her husband. Billy is orphaned after they die in a very messy, and well orchestrated car crash; an ‘accident’ it is heavily hinted Tyrrell had a hand in.
Tryrrell manages to keep her delicate mask of sanity in place as she puts all her efforts into raising the boy, until around the time Billy (Jimmy McNichol) turns seventeen and begins to plan his future- one that doesn’t include her. Already twitchy about Billy’s blossoming romance with Julie (Julia Duffy- the star of slasher parody WACKO from the same year), Tyrrell balks at his talk of winning a basketball scholarship to Denver, "College is for rich kids and people with brains- you wouldn’t fit in"- (charming!) And when reasoning doesn’t work her mask slips briefly and, as her sanity starts to unravel, she resorts to shrill pleading, "You owe me!... You are staying and that’s that!" And further evidence of her fragile mind is her one way counselling sessions she partakes in with a mysterious headless corpse she has hidden away in the basement!
Perhaps in an attempt to shake off her barely disguised incestuous intentions- she seems to regard Billy as both a son and as a husband, on Billy’s Seventeenth birthday Tyrrell attempts to seduce a TV repair man who, when he rebukes her advances, she stabs to death in a sneering frenzy. Billy discovers his bloodstained Aunt clutching the handle of the knife- which still protrudes from the dead man’s neck; and attempts the pull her away. This gory little scene is, in turn, discovered by a couple of neighbours who dropped by to wish Billy many happy returns; and soon the police are called in. Leading the investigation is a reactionary detective (Bo Svenson) who, on the discovery that the repairman was gay and the lover of Billy’s basketball coach, turns his attention to the seventeen year old. Convinced that Tyrrell is covering for him and that the rape story is bogus- "...wasn’t his day- the poor guy didn’t even get his pecker out!", quips a policeman, Svenson proceeds to further his own private agenda and begins hounding Billy with accusations that the repairman’s death was due to some gay menage tois that had soured. Tyrrell also uses the scandal around the murder to further her own private agenda; which is to keep Billy with her for ever. But as she slips further into madness she finds it harder to maintain any air of normality and resorts to bloody violence and scenery chewing to keep Billy from leaving her clutches...
Incredibly this film was made by the director of such fluffy oddities as BEACH BLANKET BINGO and HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI (both 1965); and many I LOVE LUCY episodes! I say incredibly because NIGHTMARE MAKER really stands out from many genre movies of the time. Few other contemporary horror movies would have dared to delve into the tricky subject of incest; and whilst the desire is not fully consummated the intent is blatantly depicted. Tyrrell regularly changing from Mother figure to would-be seductress is disturbing and incendiary stuff. It is also unusual for a film of this type to tackle the issue of homophobia in such a frank way. The petty prejudices of the small town mentality are thrown into sharp relief when compared to the horror being committed behind closed doors. Interestingly it is Tyrrell and Svenson ,the film’s two psychos (Tyrrell is deranged; Svenson is dangerously obsessed), who are the most rabidly moralistic. Tyrrell is presumably blissfully unaware of the irony when she denies Billy the comparative safety of school, stating: "You don’t want to go back [to school]...you’ve learnt enough- besides, it’s full of perverts!"
Naturally it is Tyrrell who steals the show. Like Baby Jane Hudson’s younger sister, she wonderfully portrays a woman deep in psychosis who can still maintain a semblance of normality; be-it tenderising meat whilst nearly hyperventilating, or force-feeding a half conscious Billy drugged milk in a grim parody of motherhood. It is also a wickedly black comic turn; cutting most of her hair off she grimaces with apparent sincerity, to a neighbour, that it "makes me look younger!" And the sight of her, lips drawn back in a lop-sided sneer; clutching a machete and chasing a poor unfortunate through a stormy night is, once seen, never forgotten!
NIGHTMARE MAKER plays like a demented TV movie-of-the-week for about three-quarters of its running time and, apart from the car crash near the beginning (which features a nasty decapitation), most of the violence is reserved for the Grand Guginol showdown at the end; as are the slasher movie conventions of cat-and-mouse dramatics. It is hard to imagine why this film was banned in the UK (and indeed it is still refused a certificate- it was submitted under the title THE EVIL PROTECTOR to the BBFC a while back, but rejected); the incredibly splattery cover didn’t help I’m sure. Nor did, I expect, the lurid promise of a "terrifying vortex of blood-letting". But, in-fact, the ‘nasty’ tag obscures what is really in essence a rather interesting and oddball psycho-thriller; one which I would heartedly recommend you seek out.
BODYCOUNT 7 female:3 / male:4
1) Male decapitated in car crash
2) Female dies as car goes over cliff
3) Male stabbed fatally in neck
4) Female hacked in stomach with machete
5) Male has hand chopped off; and necked hacked with machete
6) Female impaled on poker
7) Male shot repeatedly