2018 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 25: Nightmare (1981)

Today’s Scarecrow Psychotronic challenge is 25. INSTITUTIONALIZED. An antagonist from the funny farm. I’ve answered with Nightmare, which probably best known for being a video nasty, one of the 72 films that violated the British Obscene Publications Act of 1959. In fact, its distributor was sentenced to 18 months in prison for refusing to edit the film. It also brags that Tom Savini created the film’s effects, a credit denied by the FX artist.

After mutilating and murdering a family, George Tatum has been jailed for years. Now, he has been given the opportunity to be reprogrammed and returned to society. That said — he still has nightmares of his childhood and a trip to a Times Square peep show unlock flashbacks that make him a killer all over again.

En route to Florida — where his ex-wife, daughters and son live, George follows a woman home and kills her. Meanwhile, his doctors have no clue that he’s left the city.

Imagine his wife’s surprise when she starts getting all manner of threats over the phone. All she wants to do is carry on with her new boyfriend, Bob. She has enough to deal with, as her son C.J. is the worst of all horror movie kids. He often plays pranks that go way past the line of good taste, like covering himself in ketchup and pretending to be dead. So when the kid says that a man is following him, everyone thinks he’s just up to his normal young serial killer in training mischief.

After killing some of C.J.’s fellow students, George breaks into their house and kills the babysitter while mom is at a party. But C.J. calmly and cooly deals with it — he shoots his father with a revolver while dad has a flashback of catching his dad engaging in BDSM games with his mistress before he decided to kill them both with an axe.

The movie closes with C.J. sitting in a police car, mugging for the camera, while his mother returns to see her ex-husband’s body being removed from the house. How does C.J. know the camera is there? Has he learned how to break the fourth wall? Will he soon be able to hear his own theme song, much like Michael Myers? And when I’m asking questions, isn’t the full title, Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, way better than just Nightmare?

Director Romano Scavolini started his career in porn, which might explain the incredibly casual nudity in the film and its devotion to giving the viewer exactly what they want from a slasher. It knows exactly why you’re here and gives you what you need. He stated about the film that he wanted to tell a story that has roots in reality and not just fantasy. A story of no hope, because mankind is at the mercy of its own demons. And, perhaps most importantly, a story where a young boy is unable to deal with the fact that his parents might just happen to be down with BDSM.

According to Matthew Edwards’ Twisted Visions: Interviews with Cult Horror Filmmakers, Scavolini claimed that prior to receiving distribution through 21st Century Film Corporation, Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures had both wanted to buy the film, but only if the gore was cut down. Scavonli refused, feeling that “the strongest scenes had to remain uncut because the film should be a scandalous event.” Yeah, I’m gonna call bullshit.

This is a scummy, down and dirty affair. C.J. is an annoying kid, but who can blame him, He has the worst parents possible — one’s a serial killer and the other would rather party on down with Bob than deal with the wretched fruits of her ex-husband’s loins. It’s everything that 20/20 exposes on how horrible slashers movies are should be.

If you want to see this for yourself, it’s streaming for free with an Amazon Prime membership.

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