Horror

Horror films, traditional 80s movies from the slasher boom, to supernatural, found footage, cannibal, comedy horrors and zombie films.

Nightmare

Nightmare, also known as Nightmare in a Damaged Brain doesn’t know what it wants to be. It has the lingering kills and lurid trashiness of a giallo, but the structure of a slasher.

Guess that makes sense. After all, Italian director Romano Scavolini brought with him paisan peninsular sensibilities. The year checks out too. This filming of Nightmare straddled the 70s and 80s.

Like other Italian horrors, 1981’s Nightmare makes use of The Big Apple, however, instead of exploring urban seediness like The New York Ripper, it veers off to a warmer locale, almost like it was a cannibal film.

Patient George Tatum is getting treated with an experimental drug. He’s a psychopath plagued by nightmares about chopping up his parents (including his mom’s head/entrails, appearing in gruesome fashion at the foot of his bed) and the experimental pills are meant to prevent recidivism.

Director Romano Scavolini was apparently inspired by a newspaper account of CIA drug experiments, and Nightmare leads the viewer, via Tatum, outside of the mental hospital and onto 42nd Street. When Tatum hops in a car and skips town, neither the half-way house nor his attending physicians know where the heck he is.

Uh oh. Escaped mental patient on the loose! That’s the subject of more horrors than we can count.

Then, in languid, almost pastoral scenes, Tatum takes the I-95 south, through the Carolinas and down to the Sunshine State. But it’s not a scenic getaway. He has to get down to murderin’.

Nightmare appeared on the Video Nasties list, and has all the sleaziness that comes with the territory.

A killer with mommy issues is a common trope, from Psycho, through to Maniac and Friday the 13th. And speaking of the latter two, it was rumored that Tom Savini was involved in the practical effects (something the maestro vehemently denies). Anyone looking at it, can see that while the kills are over-the-top, they lack the precision and artistry Savini would bring to bear.

For Nasty completists.

*** (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast discussion of Nightmare in a Damaged Brain!]

The Amityville Horror

With real estate piping hot these days, it’s easy to see how someone might be enticed by a “fixer upper,” if not the demonic house in The Amityville Horror. Haunted homes in film are pretty numerous, going back to Eerie Tales (Unheimliche Geschichten, 1919) and probably even before that.

Broadly, they can be divided into those where the perspective buyers/renters know what they’re getting into (Amityville, or Burnt Offerings – there’s catch: a lady in the attic you’ll need to look after, no trouble at all!) or not (Sinister, where a crime writer played by Ethan Hawke, discovers his new home’s sinister past on reel-to-reel).

In The Amityville Horror, there’s a dark (and real life-inspired) backstory as to why the sprawling riverside homestead is suddenly on the market, and reasonably priced: a horrific mass murder perpetrated by Ronald DeFeo, Jr (a sicko who shot-gunned four siblings and his parents one early morning in the winter of 1974 in Long Island, New York). This is revealed in truly creepy cutaway asides…

The home buyers are George and Kathy Lutz (James Brolin/Margot Kidder), a good-looking duo with lovely kids who are gradually caught up in the bad Mojo from this home.

Like the earlier The Exorcist, there’s ecumenical associations, and one Father Delaney brought in (Rod Steiger). The padre is soon overcome by a strange presence in the home, his face covered with pestilence flies, his hands burned like stigmata after using the phone…

One child wants to go home, another has an imaginary friend, the couple argue about their new purchase (“I’m not going anywhere. You’re the one that wanted a house. This is it, so just shut up!”) the dog smells something odd and otherworldly, a children’s chorus sings something sinister, there’s a creepy raggedy Ann doll, and there’s a cat scare. In short, this is a one-stop shop for all things supernatural horror, if you’re into that kind of thing. However, apart from a few stellar moments, this one doesn’t deserve its longstanding appeal, and somehow Eli Roth is giving it yet another installment.

One bit of fun: Father Bolen is played by Don Stroud,  best known to the authors of this site for starring in two obscure, yet badass, Canuck exploitation films, Death Weekend and Search and Destroy).

** (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast discussion of The Amityville Horror!]