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A Deranged (Yet Inept) Classic of Its Kind
FilmFatale4 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I'd wanted to see Nightmare for years, especially as a young Savini fan, but ensuing controversies and time prevented me from watching it until tonight. Sure, I'd come across it from time to time in a reference or review book but tracking down a copy in the US seemed to never work out for me. Cut to a sick-day in 2012, and internet movies, and finally, this grim little darling was mine for the watching.

Tonally, I found Nightmare similar to Pieces, what with it's childhood traumas and bloody ways of dealing with them, but Nightmare has a certain raw charm all of its own. It's not a very *good* movie, but it moves along at a decent pace and is just so bizarre in its execution. Our killer, George Tatum, is one of the more debonair axe-wielders of the slasher generation, but most of Baird Stafford's performance consists of squealing, foaming at the mouth, and giving Ken Doll-esque lingering looks at the camera whether he's killing or sleeping or walking about. George was being treated for his myriad mental issues under an experimental program and when he's deemed cured, he's simply let loose in NYC (delightfully grimy, pre-Giuliani NYC) to go to sex shows (bad idea!) and then head south to kill a very special family. Said family seemed over the top, what with constant prankster/brat CJ and constantly screaming and slapping mom Susan...until I realized I'd seen similar behavior at the local Wal-Mart on more than one occasion.

That odd behavior by the "normal" cast members is one of the more delightful things about Nightmare. Very few things happen in a way that they would happen in real life. People over-react to nothing, but are yet strangely unmoved by dead bodies. Children are taken to crime scenes and questioned in front of bloody corpses. There's rarely a clear sense of who any character is at any given time. The doctors never bothered to investigate whether George's traumatic dreams actually happened. Mom often just shrieks for no reason. There's an extended scene of a meeting with the real estate agent, and a C&W bar performance, and lots of local radio DJ chatter. It all just lurches along until a rather ludicrous (but fun!) ending.

The gore (by all accounts courtesy of Ed French and NOT Savini) was nice and grim and well done for the most part (not counting a few obvious prosthetics) - rarely these days does soft tissue trauma seem so gooshy. The gore wasn't as wall-to-wall as I'd built up in my head but I suppose there was enough.

If you're in the mood to revisit the early 80s via slasher films, you'll probably have a good time with Nightmare as long as you can handle the inherent strangeness of it all. It really is like a bleak little time capsule of an era long-gone.

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Regarding George Tatum's medications
baird-1215 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The medications prescribed to George are obviously important to him, as witness the two times he fumbles for and drops them during moments of stress. They are presumed, in all of the reviews I have read, to have been meant to cure his psychosis. Perhaps another view might be offered, one which takes into account the year in which the shoot took place (1980). This was shortly after the revelation in the United States that the CIA had, during previous decades, "tested" lysergic acid diethylamide (more commonly known by its acronym, LSD, or its nickname, "acid") and other chemical compounds reputed or designed to induce hallucinogenic states on unsuspecting individuals including mental patients. The question to which I played the role of George was, "Are his medications the cure for - or the cause of - his homicidal mania?" This ambiguity was suggested by Romano before the shooting even started, while he and I discussed the character as presented in the screenplay, and caught my imagination so powerfully that I tried very hard to embody it in my portrayal.

In my opinion, the ambiguity was reinforced by the desperation with which the doctor's apparent superior pushed him to "recover" George. Nowhere in the dialogue is the suggestion made that the cigar-smoking creep who called the doctor on the carpet had any connection with the hospital, much less that he was a medical person.

Just something to think about, since it would appear that the film developed its cult following whether or not the ambiguous nature of the chemicals was apparent.
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Filthy splatter flick laden with psychosexual undertones
drownnnsoda2 July 2014
The infamy of "Nightmare" no doubt largely centers on the fact that the film's distributor faced prison time for refusing to cut down one scene from the film for its release in the United Kingdom. I mean, after all, how many horror films have that under their belt? The plot follows a disturbed schizophrenic who escapes from his experimental psychiatric hospital in New York City and heads down the coast to Florida, where his wife and children reside, killing along the way before making an attempt at his final hometown hurrah.

With "Halloween" and "Maniac" being obvious influences here, "Nightmare" feels much more like a '70s picture than it does a product of the '80s, and its confluence of influences might be precisely why. The film's formula is fairly straightforward, although its subject matter is remarkably dark, insofar as it has to do with a man who can't help but want to slaughter his own children— it's a macabre affair all around, and the grindhouse aesthetic only bolsters the film's sinister tone. It's part slasher film and part psychosexual thriller, with leading man Baird Stafford playing the villain who's entire distorted existence seems to hinge on his childhood experience of witnessing his father's affair (and subsequently slaughtering both parties in their bed). The film does meander a bit between the realms of dramatic thriller and splatter epic, but it's an engaging watch none the less.

I'd be lying if I said that the real attraction here for most people is the remarkable gore effects, which were controversially credited as being the work of Tom Savini— turns out Savini was apparently just a friend of the effects director and didn't actually work on the film, but regardless, the film showcases a plethora of elaborate murders with some remarkably nasty special effects; throats are slashed, people are stabbed, and heads roll, and Romano Scavolini makes sure his audience has front row closeups to all the nitty gritty details. The special effects work, though dated in some regards, is still surprisingly effective.

Overall, "Nightmare" is a deserved cult classic that would appear to have come from the drive-in era of the late '70s; despite the fact that the film was made in the following decade, it retains a gritty exploitation feel in which violence is the central spectacle. Like I said, it's a dark movie— and a gratuitously violent one. It's the kind of thing you watch and then want to shower after. Like after a humid Florida evening, the film leaves you feeling slightly grimy, but that's what it sets out to do from the first reel. 7/10.
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Very, very, very grim grind-house slasher flick
Yoooooofffff6 November 2007
OK i'm a little rusty right now when it comes to reviews as I haven't written one in years.

I won't bother explaining the plot, courtesy of the IMDb plot profile and other users you should be able to get a rough idea about it yourself.

So lets get down to the nitty gritty. Nightmare(s) (in a damaged brain) is kind of like the horror film you watch through the eyes of a child. Remember when you were a kid and horrors weren't so much entertaining as they were (mildly) traumatising? That would give you sleepless nights for quite some time? Well nightmare is one of those films that can have that effect on you AS AN ADULT.

Imagine the original 'texas chain saw massacre' but a lot more psychological and involving children, and A lot more gore, and you get the rough idea of what this film is all about.

Now I'm a big fan of horror, I can sit through (almost) anything but I've seen this film one and a half times (the uncut version) and have had it for quite some time. And thats NOT because the film is bad, its cause its so frigging' creepy. First time was a curiosity as I'd heard so much about it and was desperate to see why it had been banned, the second (half) time was because I hadn't seen it in a while and fancied giving it a second go. I couldn't do it! It really is one of those type of horrors thats hard to sit through, its tone is so sinister and you feel almost perverted and sick and evil for just watching it, even though there are no real animal killings or anything like cannibal holocaust/ferox and it's only a movie and nothing more.

Anyways, if you like genuine, creepy, under the skin horror then this one is for you. If, however, your not a fan of the whole 'grind-house' scene, don't like films with low production values and risible acting and prefer your horror to be modern, over produced and polished, then avoid this one.

In either case its very underrated as being 'one of the scariest horror films of all time'.
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A pretty mean-spirited and sleazy slasher film
Red-Barracuda28 June 2011
This is one of the most prominent films on the legendary video nasty list. For those who do not know, this was a list of videos that were considered obscenely violent by the establishment in early 80's Britain. Nightmares in a Damaged Brain was one of the first to be tagged as problematic and it's distributor even served six months in prison for releasing the thing. The question now I suppose is how does it shape up today? Well, on the one hand, it isn't at all hard to understand how it made the list in the first place. On the other hand, it still works pretty well as a sleazy grind-house slasher movie.

The film in a nutshell is about a troubled man who is released from an asylum. Too early it seems, as he pretty much immediately starts committing brutal murders.

The film's primary notoriety I am guessing comes from the very mean-spirited violence. There isn't an awful lot of it but when it does happen it's very gory and brutal. Particularly nasty is a knife attack on a woman in her home, while the carnage inflicted by the little boy near the end is pretty intense. The film also has some scenes in New York where the psycho visits sex shows and starts to lose his fragile mind - these sequences resemble an exploitation version of Taxi Driver. So the film is essentially well served on the violence and sleaze fronts. The biggest problem is that it drags in the middle section. In this part the story relocates to follow the goings on of a family, one which our psychopath seems to be stalking for some reason. The pacing takes a dive here when we focus on these none too interesting characters. However, the aforementioned parts that bookend the family drama are certainly not boring.

Nightmares in a Damaged Brain is ultimately one of the better video nasties. Unlike many on the list it's actually pretty nasty at times. And that is kind of what you want really.
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Cool Psycho/Serial Killer Horror Film...
EVOL66621 December 2005
NIGHTMARE IN A DAMAGED BRAIN is a rare treat of early 80's American low-budget horror, as it has both a decent story/plot and a considerable amount of gore for the era...

George is a schizophrenic psychopath who escapes from the care of his physician. The "wonder drugs" that George takes to combat his spells of delirium and psychoses don't work too well, and soon he's on the loose and up to no-good. We find that George's problems are deep rooted within his family and have to do with an experience he witnessed involving his father and some random hooker-ish chick when George was a boy. George's psychiatrist is on the chase to track him down and all is revealed in the "shocking" conclusion.

NIGHTMARE IN A DAMAGED BRAIN is a very decent horror film. A little dated by today's standards but still has more gore and cool kill scenes than you average current U.S. theatrical release. An over-looked film that could use some more recognition. If you dig slashers/psychological horror then you'll probably feel this one. Recommended 8/10
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Outdated Maybe, But Still As Twisted And Gory!
george-844-38463319 November 2014
Nightmare may not be on anyone's list as 'one-to-watch' with the abundance of new Hollywood horrors that swamp our DVD shelves and VOD highlights, most of which are barely worth the rental, but for any fan of horror, more so that of real horror from the 80's when it was about being real, then Nightmare surely still holds up as one of the most gruesome pictures of its day, and still is!

Slightly dated, but only in looks and acting, the tension and thrills behind Nightmare still stands strong complete with some infamous and disturbing FX scenes that hailed it as a video nasty back in the day, leading to its cuts by the BBFC and lack of distribution.

I'm surprised a remake hasn't already surfaced, but then again, possibly glad at the same time!

Nightmare is twisted, but with a good dose of realism to it based on certain links in the story, characters and outcome.

Well worth the watch, but most definitely not for the squeamish!
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Very dark and grim horror film.
HumanoidOfFlesh22 September 2003
Romano Scavolini's "Nightmare" is one of the grimmest horror movies ever made.Baird Stafford is extremely believable as George Tatum,a schizophrenic serial killer who murders uncontrollably.He has been supposedly cured of his psychological disorder due to a new magical medicine.In actuality the cure doesn't work very well,because Tatum starts killing people."Nightmare" isn't as good as "Maniac"-still there are some genuinely atmospheric and chilling moments.The opening scene is extremely creepy.The killings are cold-blooded and brutal.The gore is pretty strong-the climatic double axe murder scene is incredibly gory.To sum up,if you're a fan of early 80's extreme horror give this one a look.Highly recommended.
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make sure you see it uncut!
Judexdot112 December 2005
Caught this at an Arizona drive-in, back about 1983. It truly bothered some of my friends, but we all thought it was better than the co-feature, "Happy Birthday To Me". I hunted for quite a while looking for this, and finally found it at a Pawn shop in St. Paul, on VHS. Guess some folks have also been looking, and it is on DVD as "Nightmares In A Damaged Brain". But the disc runs about 94 minutes, and is missing some gory highlights, as well as a few touches of plot. the one you want was just "Nightmare", and runs about 98 minutes. the version you want came from 21st Century releasing, and is worth the hunt, if this is your sort of thriller. I wish everyone good luck, but I'm not giving mine up.
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American and European styles make an awkward but interesting mix
WaxBellaAmours4 December 2011
Trying to bring the Italian giallo genre into the then-popular American slasher genre, Nightmare is a half-clever attempt. Those two extremes don't seem like a good fit, with the typical slash-and-hack, one-by-one structure of the slasher genre mixing a bit awkwardly with the more flamboyant, open-ended and director-focused giallo film movement. "Nightmare" isn't particularly coherent and can feel a bit half-hearted at times, but it has enough startling moments and a truly twisted (and brutal) view of sexuality to at least be interesting beyond it's initial viewing.

Often considered a Grindhouse staple, it shares the qualities of many other films of that "genre": lousy dubbing, horrid acting, completely conspicious continuity blunders, a soundtrack and film print that makes the viewer feel like their head is being held under muddy water. It's also unusually bleak and morally ambiguous for an American film, a telling sign that this was directed by an European. There's also a sense of the American-slasher puritanism, as noticed by the Killer's view of promiscious adults around him, but it's not quite as black-and-white as many of the like-minded films at the time. Largely because we're asked to look at the film's largely unseen killer with a more subjective eye.

"Nightmare" may be poorly made, although a few cat-and-mouse sequences are well-staged and engaging enough, but it's far from useless. It's cross between American DIY ethos and lavish, fetishitistic European flavoring is uneven and sloppy but always weird and alluring enough to keep you watching. The film's modest cult following is understandable.
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Forgotten cult classics #8
DJ Inferno25 November 2001
"Nightmare (in a damaged brain)" is a dark and sinister mixture between William Lustig´s "Maniac" (1980) and John McNaughton´s "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" (1986). The nightmarish atmosphere of Scavolini´s film is combined with some creepy and bizarre flashbacks - the most memorable one is the scene when young madman George Tatum beheads a prostitute and splits the head of his father with an axe..! Gore galore!! Main actor Baird Stafford is almost as great as the legendary Michael Rooker, supporting actor Mik Cribben filmed some years later the Troma-shot "Beware! Children at play"... "Nightmare" is one of the most disturbing, but also fascinating movies about psycho-killers that deserves much more praise and attention than it actually gets!!
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Gruesome, violent, AMAZING
MADMANMARZ14 October 2000
One of the most gruesome slasher films, I remember from the 80's that played in theaters was NIGHTMARE. A nicely woven little tale of a dangerous individual released from a mental ward under the impression that he is cured. The nightmare of the title is that of George Tatum's mind. One of the violent murder of a man and a woman having a session of S&M by a young boy. This nightmare is slowly revealed in the film untill we finally witness this sequence which just happens to be one of the most gruesome and powerful murder scenes in cinematic history(in my opinion). The scene really has to be seen to be appreciated, totally mind shattering. Not all of this film is great though. Very slow at parts and a couple of horrible supporting parts weigh the film down a bit. Still the lead role of George Tatum(Brian Stfford) is excellently portrayed, the highlight murder sequence is slowly disclosed and repeated quite effectively, and overall NIGHTMARE is memorable and really delivers the gore(if you like that kind of stuff) and will possibly scar your mind!!!
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The Fine Art of the Spoiler
Squonkamatic12 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Guys, guys GUYS! People get a grip, please. There's a thing called The Spoiler, whereby commentators on films will spoil the fun of getting to see the movie for other people by carelessly revealing a pivotal development, revelation, or secret held by a movie. The fun for viewers is to get to encounter that revelation on their own without having the moment ruined by knowing about it in advance.

"Nightmares" has such a revelation and it only comes in the very last minute of the film. The payoff was fantastic, and thank goodness I had not sought out reviews of the film beforehand or the fun would have been ruined. Almost every review, post, or synopsis of the movie contains that revelation which viewers should have to earn after sitting through the rest of it. By knowing in advance the potency of the scenes which lead up to it is diluted and there were some very potent scenes here which would have suffered from advance knowledge of the revelation.

Best way to sum up the story is to say that a patient from a secret drug treatment program for the criminally insane is released prematurely, goes off his personality modifying meds, and embarks on a journey through the seedy side of America's east coast during which he commits several gruesome killings. That's the extent of what should be revealed. Anything more would spoil the mind- screw of that last minute, and reduce the meaning of the film to a checklist of slasher movie components pieced together by an oblique story which will only serve to distract genre viewers from the horror of it all.

And hence the film's current status: Regarded as a classic by some but dismissed by many more as boring & derivative. Because without coming upon that revelation on your own it is sort of a 2nd rate overly arty if competently made slasher-type horror movie rating just about 5 out of 10: Covers the bases, constructed with skill but not really having anything too spectacular with a comparatively modest body count (I believe it is eight, if you count the big flashback scene). The gore effects may or may not have been "supervised" by Tom Savini, it doesn't really matter, they serve the film well enough. The extra notoriety the controversy generated only means more opportunities for reviewers to spill the beans for audience members who could care less.

I'm glad I ignored it all. With that spoiler intact I give the film a 7 out of ten, with very tight plotting that is only revealed as being more thorough than usual once that revelation takes place. The film is very well made from a technical standpoint with an interesting use of film speeds and droll, non-sensational music. But who watches slasher movies for their plotting, technical work or soundtracks? They are traditionally a series of gruesome set pieces connected by some sort of story which may or may not hold up to the light of day when evaluated separate from the gore. This one does and that alone is somewhat remarkable. Just don't read any more reviews until after watching it or you too may be tempted to dismiss the results for being something different than the usual brainless mayhem.
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shaun700016 January 2014
Firstly make sure you see the UNCUT version. There are clearly to many reviews on here from people who have been watching the cut version without realising it, then giving the film a bad review because all the shock gore is missing.

Because the cut version removes most of the shocking scenes and bloody effects it really has damaged the reputation of the uncut original.

I have watched almost ever horror film worth effort from the 1980's, and I can safely say that Nightmare ranks close to the top of the list.

Atmospheric, quality performances, original script, nicely shot and the scenes of horror are at the top of there game and brutal. There are so many horror films from the 1980's that people talk about because they were the most mainstream, but real fans of horror will know about films like nightmare.

Its an all round quality production and its no nonsense horror, unlike many films from the 80's where you laugh because of the bad dialogue, shoddy acting, poor effects or talentless script. Nightmare really delivers horror in a way other movies fail to do.

Parts of the movie can seem a little slow, but if you hang in there you get the rewards. Unlike other horror of that period it has aged well in comparison. After watching I sat back satisfied and thought to myself "that's what a real horror movie should look like"
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Disjointed and Incoherent, But Still Fun
gavin694227 October 2014
A mental patient (Baird Stafford), who is troubled with horrible nightmares, has escaped from his hospital. Now on the streets he cannot help killing innocent people. But there is one family he is more than interested in and when he tries to kill them, he finds that it is not that easy.

First of all, to properly enjoy this film, you need to see a good copy of it. Although I have not seen it, the Code Red DVD is apparently the best and as clear as could be wanted. The version I watched was pretty awful, grainy and discolored. This took nothing away from the fun, but made it seem even cheaper than it needed to be.

The plot is a bit disjointed, incoherent, and the editing is not flawless. Maybe Code Red fixed this, but it is most likely just a part of the film. The plot still makes sense, but trying to figure out who all the characters are and why they matter might take a bit of work even if you pay close attention. A second viewing (or third) could not hurt.

The best thing about the film is either the gore (which is great whether or not it was done by Tom Savini) or the kid (C. J. Cooke) who plays CJ. When he faces off against the "bad guy", the whole scene is priceless and well worth the build up.

Although Romano Scavolini has been directing since the 1960s, this is his best-known title and he has never really made himself a big star from his work. Baird Stafford has only one other credit, appearing in Scavolini's war film "Dog Tags" (1985). C. J. Cooke never acted again... a real shame.
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Trashy slasher rubbish with some nice gore
The_Void10 May 2006
Despite the lurid title, "Nightmare in a Damaged Brain", this infamous Video Nasty is a rather unappealing experience. The film is poorly produced and largely unoriginal, thus meaning that the only reason left to bother watching it is that it was a part of the DPP horror fan's shopping list back in the eighties. Unlike a lot of films on the list, however, this one is actually quite gory; and while the plot often finds itself lost in tedium, at least Nightmares in a Damaged Brain has several gory sequences to fall back on. The plot comes together from a range of different sources; most notably the barrage of serial killer flicks released before this one, but the 'days' approach that was used to great effect in Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" and the classic story of 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' feature also. The plot follows a man on an experiment drugs program that is released from an asylum. He visits a few strip shows, and it's not long before he gets back to his murderous ways, and when his attentions become fixated on a certain family, they all find themselves in danger...

Probably the first noticeable thing about this Video Nasty is the appalling state of the acting. There's a scene in which a young boy pretends to have been stabbed, and the reactions of the cast look so fake that it actually is painful. You can't expect good acting from a film like this, but here it's even worse than normal. The way that the plot comes together isn't very good either, as first we follow the mental patient and then the film skips over to the family he's going to stalk without any explanation of exactly what's going on; this makes the film difficult as we're left wondering why we've moved over to different characters. The gore scenes are too few and far between to please most fans of this sort of stuff, but when they do feature; they're certainly bloody enough. The ending, which depicts a murder scene that has been hinted at in flashbacks throughout the film, is massively over the top, but the blood flows freely and even though the effects are clearly fake, it's still a nice gory scene. On the whole, I won't recommend this movie as its rubbish, but fans of gory, poorly made slashers are likely to find something to like.
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Florida Gore: Cryin' Wolf
Tromafreak8 February 2009
Now, that's what I'm talking' about!! I've been searching for this one for a while and most recently tracked it down, and it's every bit as terrifying as I've always heard. Although Nightmare In A Damaged Brain is fairly gory, horror is the name of the game. Come to think of it, this just might be the finest example of pure, unpolished horror that I've come across. Hot damn, someone finally got it right.

Also known as Blood Splash, this Floridian frightmare begins in NYC (Basket Case country) where a tormented mental patient is released prematurely from an asylum, by an inept Doctor. Plunged into the real world of Times Square. George Tatum soon becomes bored with all the strippers and the rest of sleazy New York, and does what any sensible lunatic would do, he heads down to sunny Florida.

Unfortunately, a much nicer environment is no cure for insanity. George is constantly plagued by dreams, hallucinations, and memories of the night he slaughtered his father and a hooker when he was a child. Reliving the trauma, in his mind, over, and over. George begins stalking a family. A neglectful, single mother, and her kids, one of whom takes pleasure in nothing but scaring the hell out of people. Is George thinking of slaughtering this random family, or is there something else going on?

Baird Stafford does a phenomenal job portraying someone who's completely lost their mind. The gore scenes are few and far between, but they are there, and they're certainly nothing to sneeze at. What really makes this black diamond of horror so effective is how all of this madness is presented.

Obviously inspired (slightly) by the extremely unscary, dull, mainstream, pseudo-horror that is Halloween, but this one is ten, or hell, even eleven times better. Plus, it has gore. I swear, I'll never understand why so many love that Nightmare on Elm Street/Friday the 13th garbage (safe Horror) of the 80's, when stuff like this is out there, still waiting to be discovered.

For more in unsafe 80's slashers, check out Silent Night, Deadly Night, and for more in Florida Gore from the 80's, check out Killing Spree. As for this one, don't be afraid, it's just a harmless little B-Horror, right? 9/10
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Gory video nasty, which has slowly generated a cult status........
LuisitoJoaquinGonzalez8 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
During the eighties slasher boom, there were two different styles that launched successfully from the initial template. Whilst the multitude of genre entries would focus on an undeveloped identity for their bogeymen and base the plot structure on the characterisation of their victims, there were a few that took the opposite cinematic approach. The potential flaws were obvious. It's incredibly difficult to establish a favourable personality for a homicidal maniac; especially when he must carry the entire feature as the protagonist. The key strength that made the synopsis for Halloween so successful was the lack of clarity for Michael Myers' identity and motives. Just why did he want to kill Laurie Strode? Why did he get up after being shot six times by Sam Loomis? We never got to find out, and that was an ingenious touch from Carpenter. The guessing game is an addictive one and it attracts much interest and lengthy post-movie debates amongst audiences.

Despite the potential banana skins, numerous features experimented with the concept of giving the bogeyman the lead role, which delivered mixed results. Whilst William Lustig's Maniac can be credited as a genre classic, the rancid Murderlust barely scrapes the barrel of mediocrity. That's why I was thoroughly inspired to watch Nightmare, which after years of repression as a video nasty has garnered itself a gruesome reputation.

In the opening few scenes, we learn that George Tatum was recently released from his asylum due to the fact that his doctors have discovered a breakthrough cure for his violent spells of delirium and psychosis. The combination of drugs had completely cured the patient of his psychopathic hallucinations and his physician believed that with time and measured access to society, Tatum would be fit to fully resume a normal standard of life. However it doesn't take long for us to realise that his doctor's hypothesis was drastically erroneous. This is evidently demonstrated when Tatum drops to the floor foaming from the mouth whilst watching a patently lackadaisical pornographic peep show.

Soon after, the clearly psychotic loner heads across the country on a personnel vendetta to confront the inner demons of his consistent nightmares. His doctors panic when they realise that they have made a deadly mistake, and it's a race against time to see if they can catch Tatum before he murders again...

Nightmare succeeds in being an unsettling, brutal and straight laced horror movie experience. It's the kind of movie that does what it says on the tin. The Daily Mail-inspired campaign that launched the video nasty phase of the early eighties was unnecessary; simply because as human beings we have a choice. If you don't want to be offended by a film that was created directly to shock, then don't watch Nightmare. In 1984 David Grant, a former UK porn producer that had moved towards the direction of horror, was jailed for 18 months (later reduced to 12) for releasing a version of Nightmare that waived the 62 seconds of cuts slapped upon it by the BBFC. This was a harsh statement of intent to further enforce the video nasty ban and it was a ridiculously un-democratic way of informing us that Big Brother was watching and the establishment reigns ever supreme.

The movie itself however is a successfully conveyed mix of unthinkable brutality and razor sharp direction. Director Romano Scavolini makes no effort to hide his inspirations and the film references various genre maestros without ever directly stealing from them. In places, he impressively manages to mimic Carpenters skill of emanating terror from the foreground. By now you should know how it works: The camera is fixed on a focal point for a sustained time, but as it begins to pan you become aware that something menacing is looming in the foreground. It's moments like this that can make or break a decent horror film, and Nightmare does boast its fair share of such moments.

Now it's not unusual for a slasher movie to have a cast that disappears down the long road to film obscurity almost immediately after release. The genre has never been credited for its emphasis on dramatics. However it seems somewhat harsh on the actors from Nightmare as the majority of them did a good enough job. Baird Stafford was brilliant in an extremely complicated part and it's hard to pick any bones from his psychotic depiction. He delivers a gnashing, foaming portrayal of dementia, which rarely touches on the OTT. Without a doubt the film's reputation derives from its copious amounts of gore; and in its uncut print the feature doesn't disappoint. Tom Savini was credited as the make-up artist, although he latter sued the producers, claiming that he had only worked as a consultant. In reality the effects were supplied by soon-to-be Oscar nominee Ed French and he did an excellent job. The gory final sequence, which involves a messy decapitation and an axe through the head has become the stuff of slasher folklore.

Nightmare is not without its negatives however and they stem from the confusing plot. The idea to break the runtime into segmented days ala The Shinning was impressive, but characters are randomly introduced without clarification, which creates a story that's awkward to follow. There's also a lack of cohesion in some of the promising ideas that are hinted but never followed through. The killer shares an interesting relationship with the child of the family that he stalks, but it never develops as it could and should have. The script hints that either the child or the stalker is a figment of his opposite number's imagination, however it is never seen through to a satisfying conclusion.

Some may say that Nightmare can be rather tedious in its long excursions into the depth of the protagonist's insanity, but I managed to thoroughly enjoy Scavolini's opus and I recommend it to be seen……
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Good for complete weirdos, disgusting trash for normal people
sucks-931 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I was in a pawn shop near my house with a bit of cash in my pocket and the want to buy a few cheap movies. I generally go straight to the DVDs because there tends to be pretty good stuff there, but on that day I decided that I might as well check the VHS section. In that section I found three horror films: "Bloody Birthday", "Night of the Zombies", and "Nightmare". When I got home, I immediately watched "Nightmare". There is a great mix of extreme sex and gory violence. There is also a great twist ending. But other than that, the film was only okay. But for anyone who liked it, I highly suggest the giallo film "Pieces". With much love and appreciations of cinema, Henry Krinkle.
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More disturbing than pure trash
Zombie7926 November 1999
Along with Maniac this is regarded as the nastiest of the Slasher cycle of the early 80s,due to some gore that seems purposefully allied with the pornographic.Banned in the UK,for me it exudes a deeply pessimistic nastiness,that makes it deserving of at least one watch.Its grubby,dimly lit,and poorly edited and shot but for a gorehound theres a great decapitation(though Tom Savini did not work on this film apparently)and a nasty throat slitting.And the ending is depressing!At least its made for adults and its questionable morals were more excusable back in the 80s,so its a timepiece of what was acceptable back then!
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They Don't Make Them Like This Anymore!
S.A.B.14 November 1999
The 1981 splatter film NIGHTMARE hearkens back to a long-passed time in American horror cinema when "slasher" flicks were not only excessively gory, but also deeply disturbing in their underlying themes. These films not only outraged elitist film critics and general audiences, but also worried many horror film enthusiasts who felt that such films had "gone too far" in their uncompromising brutality. While a few of these films, most notably William Lustig's masterful MANIAC (1980), have attained cult status and been rereleased to DVD and VHS, most of these films have fallen out of print and into obscurity. Unfortunately, this is the case with NIGHTMARE, one of the better examples of the visceral, uncompromising horror films of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Admittedly, this film does not start off very well. The first 30 minutes or so are pretty sloppy and hard to follow, largely because of choppy editing. However, once the film's story gets on track, what follows is a truly disturbing and horrific splatter film. Director Romano Scavolini, obviously working with a very low budget, nevertheless delivers some genuine suspense and adds touches of style (though he can't touch Dario Argento). The acting by the cast of unknowns is also surprisingly good. While the music during the opening and closing credits is pretty lousy, the score during the rest of the film is terrific, effectively creating an atmosphere of dread and fear. Of course, there's also the unforgettable gore effects by Tom Savini, displayed most spectacularly at the film's finale.

It goes without question that NIGHTMARE is definitely not for all tastes. Non-horror fans should stay far, far away. Additionally, I must note that more than any film I have ever seen, this film should not be viewed by children or impressionable young adults. However, hardcore fans of horror should definitely give this example of a bygone era a look. Watch this with some teeny-bopper flick like I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER and see which film leaves a longer lasting impression.

**1/2 out of ****
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A disturbing,underrated horror movie
postmaster-17427 March 2006
A schizophrenic man is haunted by nightmares from a childhood trauma. Straightforward plot.So what makes this any different to other horrors? I first saw this movie back in the early 80's before it was targeted and ultimately banned under the infamous Video Nasties Bill (along with many others).Having recently watched it again I found Scavolini's dark, brooding movie still has the power to shock.Enhanced by an effective and atmospheric score by Jack Eric Williams and a good lead performance from Baird Stafford as the tormented schizophrenic George Tatum,the film is a very unsettling and disturbing exercise in extreme horror. The reason for Tatum's madness is slowly revealed through a staggered narrative,which,combined with imaginative locations help to give the movie an eerie ambiance that ultimately builds into one of the most gruesome and shocking finales ever filmed.It is not for all tastes and some may find it questionable,but I believe "Nightmares In A Damaged Brain" is one of the best,underrated horror movies of it's era.
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Strange and sick film, for fans of this genre
mkw-530 January 2006
The pill-popping' main character (who's face reminds a little of Aleister Crowley's) is a real comedy character, or so he seems in the beginning. (In the beginning) the film seems like it would be (quite black) a comedy. There is also other really strange and funny characters: For example the personnel of the mental institution. One guy has a woman's voice, the pale-white doctor looks like he's dead. From this film you see that the technical things are not the most important when making movie, or any other art for that matter: This film is really badly made. It seems that the director and photographer would have no aesthetic eye what so ever. Also the editing is worst I've EVER seen in a "real" movie. But it doesn't matter, because the film is made with a feeling and a vision, and it manages to deliver those visions to the viewer. And the directing and the actors are good, even the non-actor children.

There is some beautiful on-location photography (on the street, in some porno joint, in some bar), and still the movie has a really strange, dream-like atmosphere and "flow". Here I'm talking 'bout the beginning of the film: In some point it starts to get really ugly and not-so-pleasant to watch. The main character, his actions and his condition, might be the most disgusting thing I've ever watched on the screen. The movie makes you think of some contemporary problems in the society: In many countries/cities we haven't got enough hospital places or treatment for people who are sick; So the "crazies" walk the streets everywhere. The film also tries to be some kind of psychological: Blaming parents and childhood memories and all those clichés. Anyway, nice try, personal style and everything. Better than an average gore-horror-crazy-killer flick. In spite of these interesting elements, the movie was so boring I didn't care to watch it till the end. Anyway friends of this kinda movies very probably like it.
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A gory video nasty
theundertaker18022 October 2001
A former sex offender with brain damage is released from a mental asylum only to be triggered off again after visiting a sex shop and a peep show. Remembering how he killed his father and mother with an axe after finding them engaged in a bondage session, he subsequently goes on to menace his son, ex-wife and her new flame. There's also some spectacular gore scenes which were supervised by SFX wizard Tom Savini. See the uncut Dutch print because the pre-cert version on WOV 2000 was cut by over 10 mins. The last 10 mins are goresome
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Good start. Great ending. Shame about the rest.
BA_Harrison11 February 2008
George Tatum (Baird Stafford) is a murderous nut-job who, having been treated with revolutionary new drugs, is declared sane by his doctor and released back into the community. Of course, despite what his shrinks think, George is still as mad as a bag of badgers, and it's not long before he's off proving his psycho-killer credentials, eventually choosing to torment a young boy named C.J. and his dysfunctional family.

Released in the UK as 'Nightmares in a Damaged Brain' (a much better title than just 'Nightmare', don'tcha think?), this mean-spirited shocker got itself into trouble with the DPP thanks to a couple of particularly gruesome scenes of extreme gore. Matters were not helped by the fact that the distributors of the film decided to promote its release with a tasteless 'guess the weight of the brain' competition. Needless to say, the film soon found itself on the notorious Video Nasties list.

Director Romano Scavolini opens his film with a nifty dream sequence in which George discovers a severed head at the foot of his bed, and ends it with a superb double murder which features a cool decapitation and an axe in the face. Between these standout moments, we get a bit of strip joint action and a pretty good throat slashing, but also have to suffer through tons of tedious guff in which our frothy-mouthed loony makes threatening phone calls to C.J.'s house, whilst officials try to locate him with the use of a powerful (ha!) computer.

From the first 30 minutes or so, it is easy to be fooled into thinking that this film is going to be a real treat: it certainly has the grindhouse vibe and manages to be quite sleazy at times, occasionally reminding me of William Lustig's excellent movie Maniac. However, after the introduction of C.J. and his family, it becomes apparent that the film Scavolini is really trying to emulate is Halloween—it's just that he isn't doing it very well. The family scenes are clumsily handled and are tedious in the extreme, C.J. is such an irritating brat that one actually longs for him to suffer a painful death, and Tatum's ability to shrug off numerous bullet wounds (ala Michael Myers) is laughable.

However, if, like me, you are a purist and loathe to use the fast-forward button, no matter how dull the action, I can say that it is just about worth hanging in there for the gruesome finalé, which is a real humdinger.
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