Nightmare (1981)

nightmare 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: This one gets grisly.

George Tatum (Baird Stafford) is a middle-aged man tormented by strange nightmares where he sees himself as a young child decapitating with an ax an older man and his female lover. The dreams have had such an adverse effect on him that it has sent him to the mental hospital, but now the doctors consider him cured and send him back out into the real world, but the dreams continue pushing him into a psychotic state where he murders a woman that he meets and then eventually starts menacing a family.

This film while not being a particularly good movie and still straddled with a lot of the expected low budget limitations has managed to achieve a strong cult following as well as a limited Blue Underground 30th Anniversary release due mainly to its explicit violence. While the body count isn’t high the gore is nasty and effective. One scene involves George knifing a woman and the camera cutting in real close to her slashed neck and we hear her literally gurgling on her own blood and then watch as he licks her blood off his hands in an aroused manner. The scene where the boy cuts the head off another woman is also well handled despite the fact that it looks too much like an empty mannequin’s head. Writer/director Romano Scavolini approaches it with an artistic flair and it works. Watching the boy, who couldn’t be much older than 10, drenched in blood and looking menacingly into a mirror is the film’s creepiest moment.

The wide array of locales also helps and takes this a step above most other films of this genre and time period. Scenes are shot on-location all the way from New York to South Carolina, Georgia, and even Florida where there is a nifty segment inside an abandoned house. I found George’s trip to an old-fashioned New York adult theater to be the most captivating. I liked the part where the male customers put a quarter in a slot, which raised a small yellow door that allowed the men to peer through a window at a stripper dancing, but instead of seeing it from the male point-of-view we see it from the stripper’s. I got a kick out of seeing several of these guys looking all wide-eyed at this naked woman through their little windows and as their time ran out and the little yellow door began to slide down over their peep holes they would strained their necks as far as they could through with what little opening was left to continue to gaze at her as long as possible.

The dialogue and characterizations were less cardboard than the usual slasher film. However, outside of the gore it is not very suspenseful. The scares are derivative and too much time is spent on the bratty C.J. trying to spook his babysitter and mother.

Although the film keeps things plausible for the most part I was a bit confused why the doctors at the hospital didn’t know about George’s violent past or why he was menacing the certain family that he was. They were able to track down his whereabouts and car, so why were they not able to do the same with his criminal and family background? Having this loophole hurts the film as it ends up seeming poorly thought out.

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My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: October 23, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Romano Scavolini

Studio: 21st Century Film Corporation

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

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