Review: Nightmare in a Damaged Brain

Something is really not right with George. His murderous antics in ‘Nightmare’ would possibly be all but forgotten some four decades later, had it not been for the films tremulous releases throughout the years. That said, Code Red, got the ball rolling with its original DVD in 2012 and now Severin have gone the full package presenting the movie in 4K, in what is advertised to be its most complete edition.

I think it’s ‘uncut’ unicorn status only helped preserve the mystic of this brutal, if somewhat amateur feeling slasher movie.

Taken as is ‘Nightmare’ certainly has its moments, however a lot of the movies content is nonsensical with parts and content that appear more crass than shocking, even for the 80s.

The story opens as a young boy decapitates his mother with an axe. Apparently failing to understand the context of his parents BDSM sex game, the boy attempts to ‘save’ his father from his mother’s rough behaviour. Naturally, this has caused him some issues growing up and in a somewhat jarring transition we see a now grown-up George in hospital on the verge of being released – his treatment being deemed a success by his doctors who claimed to have ‘reprogrammed’ his psychotic behaviours. Their confidence, however, appears misplaced. Upon release, George heads straight for the strip club, and sure enough, the sheer sight of a sexual act sends him spiralling into a breakdown.

Next stop… to murder his wife and kids.

Given the films slasher blueprint, none of the above should seem all that out of place, and for the most part this movie nails those early slasher vibes; and given the directors X-rated filmography, this one’s got a little sleaze thrown in for good measure.

The plot, however, only really makes any sense when the exposition comes at the end, and whilst I’ll accept, I’ve possibly let the cat out of the bag here, I think the fact that the family he stalks were his own was supposed to be a big reveal of sorts. The issue is, up to the very last scene the constant flitting between family, George and the occasional random killing made the whole ‘plot’ seem somewhat disjointed and at times you’d be hard pressed to even tell there is a narrative at all.

That said, whilst the overarching plotline might leave a lot to be desired, I would say that the films set pieces hold up well. There is no denying, it is violent, and whilst the more technical elements of the film seem something of an afterthought, the films slayings are meticulously crafted to be as gratuitous as can be; and that’s got to be a good thing, right?

Well yeah, I’ll bite!

I know this has been out for a while in an ‘uncut’ format, but up to Code Red’s release on its now OOP DVD a decent ‘hard’ cut of this film remained something of a unicorn for most people. When it finally did get released, it was a pleasant surprise to see that this infamous ‘video nasty’ was actually nasty.

Was it nasty enough to justify two people being sent to jail in the 80s just for distributing it? well no, but its violent, and its blood, gore, and overtly cruel intentions certainly come across; even more so now the transfers have gotten so good you can actually see what’s going on.

There’s stabbings, the aforementioned decapitations, garrotting and even some fairly gory gun shot actions. I will say this, whilst the films not exactly wall to wall with body count, it got enough to satiate, and it never leaves the audience wanting; and in the case of the kids being involved, I’d actually say it probably delivers more than it needed.

The blood and effects – reportedly overseen by maestro Tom Savini – are top notch, and there’s certainly no shortage of blood and body parts being sprayed and eviscerated around the place. Whether Savini was involved or not (his name appearing in the credits of some cuts, and not in others; he even claims he wasn’t there but there are several cast and crew members who say he was) the effects still hold up – and let’s be honest, it’s what fans of ‘Nightmare’ have come to watch.

Overall, despite the director claiming all sorts of Freudian symbolism and subtext all over this movie, what ‘Nightmares in a Damaged Brain’ delivers is a slasher movie with all the subtly of its title. It was never destined to be remembered as a classic but yet, as with many from the golden years, its infamous reputation alone has done enough to ensure it’s a slasher that’s persisted where others have been long forgotten. As for its fans, Severin’s release seems to be definitive.

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