"WARNING: Not for persons of a nervous disposition"
directed by: Romano Scavolini choice dialogue:
starring: Sharon Smith, Baird Stafford, C.J. Cooke
(back of video blurb):
"NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN has been hailed as the American Cult Terror film of 1982(sic), starring BAIRD STAFFORD and introducing C.J. COOKE. It begins with a very bloody nightmare that triggers George Tatums' journey into madness and an axe-swinging insanity that doesn't stop for 90 minutes.
DEFINITELY NOT FOR PERSONS OF A NERVOUS DISPOSITION"
3 stars...3 STARS!- I know, I know, NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN may not be high art but it is grimly effective. Along with William Lustig's MANIAC, from the same year, it is probably the most fearfully visceral example of the sub-genre. A veritable St. Vitus dance of a movie, NIGHTMARE more than lives up to its reputation. A reputation that made it one of the most infamous of the films that was banned on video in the UK in the early 1980's. Along with I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, THE EVIL DEAD and DRILLER KILLER, NIGHTMARE was unlike anything that polite society had ever seen before, let alone let into their living rooms. And the man who dared offend the sensibilities of the Daily Mail, David Hamilton Grant- the films' distributor, was jailed for 6 months. He had released a version that was 60 seconds longer than the BBFC version and the harshness and ridiculousness of the sentence was certainly a kick in the teeth for freedom of speech in Britain.
The film itself is, more often than not, an inept addition to the sub-genre. It does ,however, transcend its obvious cheapness with an overwhelming air of true nastiness. You get the feeling that this film could have only been filmed in the early 1980's, when popular culture was at its most nihilistic. A nihilism that was soon to turn into the new morality of the Reagan and Thatcher years. Again like MANIAC, NIGHTMARE just oozes sleaze. And it is at its most monumentally sleazy in the scene where the psychotic Tatum(Stafford) collapses with a seizure, foaming at the mouth, during a particularly depressing sex show.
Stafford spends much of the movie screaming and gnashing his teeth in an awkward but strangely affecting portrayal of madness. He is released from the asylum after a course of experimental drugs appear to have cured his psychosis. Of course it has done no such thing and he travels across country to terrorize single mother(Smith) and her 3 children, mutilating as he goes. The reasons for him to home in on them become clear towards the climax of the film.
NIGHTMARE is a schizophrenic puzzle of a movie. It's director, Scavolini, shows he is able to use editing to heighten the sense of tension and horror one minute. The next, it seems he was wearing a blind fold whilst he was snipping away! He also lifts many elements from HALLOWEEN; the terrorized babysitter, screaming children trying to raise the alarm in the dead of night and the killer wearing a mask- in this case it looks like Abraham Lincoln! But, like Ulli Lommel's BOGEYMAN (1980), Scavolini fashions something different. It is no where near as good as John Carpeneter's film, but it is the logical conclusion, a full stop of hyper violence for the sub-genre before increased censorship caused the inevitable outbreak of anemia. And there is one moment of ultra violence that once seen is never forgotten. A flash back to when Stafford, as a child, beheads his mother(?) and slams an axe into his fathers forehead after he finds them participating in a kinky bondage game. William Schoell says of that scene in his 1980 book, STAY OUT OF THE SHOWER- " They are staged in excruciatingly explicit detail, lovingly and bloodily presented with exact precision, like a carefully crafted advertisement."
NIGHTMARE is 'grand-guiginol' of the lowest order and is, naturally, all the more interesting for that.
BODYCOUNT 8 female:4 / male:4
1) Female has her throat cut and then is repeatedly stabbed in the gut
2) Female teen stabbed to death (?)
3) Male pre-teen murdered (unseen)
4) Male teen strangled with cheese wire
5) Female teen stabbed to death in back with ice pick
6) Male shot to death with shotgun
7) Female gorily beheaded with axe (flashback)
8) Male gorily receives an axe in his forehead (flashback)