horror podcast

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!]

Burnt Offerings

burnt_offerings“Noah built an altar to the Lord, and taking some of the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it…” (Genesis 8:20-1)

In 1976’s Burnt Offerings, the Rolf family is sacrificed. No ROFL-ing matter. Their spirits are consumed by a real fixer-upper they agree to be custodians of over the summer (a house that was actually used in the exemplary Don Coscarelli film, Phantasm, as well).

Now we cannot stress this enough, people in horror movies: If it’s too good to be true, it usually is! Case in point, being offered what appears to be a relative steal, $900, to take up accommodations in a sprawling neo-Colonial mansion for the summer. The only catch? Having to look after a seemingly self-sufficient octogenarian in the attic.

There’s always a catch.

Unfortunately, the Rolfs don’t smell a rat, and sign on, giving the abode a good once-over cleaning, and fishing out debris from the unused pool. Ben Rolf even mulls over being able to finally make a dent in that doctorate.

Burnt Offerings is a rare breed indeed, a ceaselessly compelling and tightly-wound supernatural horror. A lot of supernatural horrors sacrifice (speaking of sacrifice), deep psychological fears to capture a youth demographic. And PG-13 stuff usually reeks like boiled cabbage. Sorry, but it’s true.

Household head Ben (Oliver Reed), is driven to madness during his duties overseeing the upkeep of this mansion, yes, the comparisons to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining are darn-near inevitable. And when carnal relations with his missus go south, and he tries to coerce her, that’s exactly the point where the film departs/diverges from the path usually trod upon by its brethren.

Oliver Reed is amazing. Unlike Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance, whose madness is tipped off from the very first frame, Reed’s performance as a doting dad really rings true. Also, Karen Black is the very picture of stability, if a bit Stepford.

Ben is trying desperately to keep his mental faculties together, as whatever spirits lurk inside the mansion, compels him to try to drown his son.

Bonus: Bette Davis.

***1/2 (out of 5)

[CHECK OUT OUR BURNT OFFERINGS PODCAST, FEATURING SCOTT DREBIT OF DAILY DEAD]