Not much good can come from a mental patient on the lam. You’re either gonna hear about them standing in a busy intersection, swinging a samurai sword and getting subdued by pepper spray, or they’re putting themselves or someone else in some pretty big danger. You gotta feel bad for them, especially if it’s something that happened in their childhood that caused such emotional harm – and that’s exactly George Tatum’s problem in Romano Scavolini‘s 1981 film Nightmare (aka Nightmare in a Damaged Brain).
George Tatum is released from a mental hospital after he’s been given some experimental drugs that have helped get his schizophrenia and delusions under wraps, but they don’t seem to have kept his sleeping mind under control. George has dreams of seeing his father and his companion killed, and it urges him to kill. He’s supposed to check in with his doctor, but when he stops calling in, doc starts to get worried that George has stopped taking his medication.
George travels from New York City, all the way to Florida, where he makes prank calls on a unsuspecting family. Shortly after making those calls and hanging up on the recipients, he stalks and kills another victim. Meanwhile, the family in the house is a woman and her 3 kids – all of which are bratty as hell. When babysitters and friends of the kids start dropping one by one, they start to suspect that something isn’t right (I wonder what their first clue was).
I try not to summarize more than the basic plot of the movie when I write these reviews, and what I’m about to mention isn’t a spoiler by any means, but this guy George is a crazy killer – that’s obvious – but if I ran into this lady’s kids, I’d want to kill them too. They’re probably the brattiest kids ever portrayed in a movie. You’re supposed to feel sympathy for them because they’re essentially being hunted by this psychopath, but with all their screaming, yelling, carrying on and acting like all around douchers, I was egging on George to take care of business with these kids. The mom isn’t much better. The kids act like knuckleheads and the mom just screams “I CAN’T DEAL WITH THIS!” Now that’s some parenting right there. Let me put it this way… You’d expect to see this family during a “My Kids are Out of Control” episode of Maury.
As expected, there’s no character development for these people, except George and the boy C.J. – and C. J. is the biggest asshat of the group. These people are all cardboard cutouts that you really couldn’t care less if they lived or died. On top of that, they live such a miserable existence of jerkitude that they’re just pawns set up to see how gruesome one can die after the other. For the record, I don’t have a problem with any of this, but if you’re looking for some deep psychological thriller – Nightmare probably isn’t for you.
Nightmare is a gory affair. Between throats being slit, heads being chopped off and axes being buried into people’s foreheads, there’s a lot of blood to go around. This probably has to do with the involvement of Tom Savini, which the trailer (below) claims that he was the special effects director, but he’s simply credited with “special effects”, no director title involved. If the blood isn’t enough for you, the peep show scenes in that first half hour should fill your quota of boobs and implied sex acts for the film. You even get a glimpse of what was probably considered pretty high tech computer equipment in the psych ward when they try to determine just where in the hell George would end up.
Just when you think you’ve got this one figured out… SURPRISE, there’s a twist! It feels almost like an afterthought, because there’s only a brief clue thrown into the middle of the movie. The part that makes it feel really cheap is that there are characters that are smart enough *cough* the psychiatrists *cough* to figure out what the big twist is, and maybe clue in the audience as to what’s going on. They even use those highfalutin’ newfangled computer gizmos to try to figure it out, but it never crosses their mind as to why he’s actually going to Florida in the first place. If there was just a tiny bit more foreshadowing, the twist wouldn’t be a twist at all.
Nightmare satisfies the requirements for a bloody gorefest, but falls short just about everywhere else. It tries to get deep, but you’d be breaking your neck diving into this one. Nightmare is a solid 2 claw hammers to the chest out of 5.