Nightmare Revew – Rue Morgue Cinemacabre at the Toronto Underground Cinema (Kirk Haviland)

Nightmare – aka Nightmare in a Damaged Brain (1981)

Starring Baird Stafford, Sharon Smith and C.J. Cooke

Written and Directed by Romano Scavolini

Toronto Underground Cinema

Rue Morgue Magazine

UPDATE: Rue Morgue has announced that May’s Cinemacabre will be the amazing The Loved Ones on May 17th at the Underground. If you have not seen this movie, you owe it to yourself to go. I will be there, wearing a drill proof hat for protection!

Hello All,

I’ve been meaning to write about the great series of films presented each month by Rue Morgue Magazine at the theatrical gem of Chinatown that is the Underground for quite sometime now. Nightmare from 1981 finally gives me the perfect opportunity.

As I walk in the theatre, I find Alex and Nigel, two of the owners of the Underground, at the box office warmly greeting me to the evening’s festivities as they usually do. I proceed down the stairs, yes the Underground is actually UNDERGROUND, to be greeted by Rue Morgue editor Dave Alexander and ticket taker, and friend, Harvey Lalonde. As usual the Rue Morgue table is buzzin with people checking out the wares available for purchase. I proceed to the concession stand where owner number three, Charlie, is behind the counter with Brendan, part-time popcorn schiller for the Underground. Hanging out with the boys is Rudy, actor and another former Blockbuster refugee, and as usual a more casual vibe exudes from the theater as conversation fills the air before the show. I take my treats to my seat and prepare for the film. Dave hops on the mic and provides his intro for the film and preps the crowds with some trivia and prizes. Unfortunately, the usual classic trailers reel was missing in action this time around, so we went directly to the feature.

Nightmare is a classic of the slasher genre that gained its reputation as one of the most notorious of the “video nasties” in the UK, a list of films that were banned for decades due to their graphic context. In fact the producer of Nightmare was sentenced to 18 months in prison for refusing to make cuts to the film.  The film is the story of the George Tatum (Baird), a man who is constantly hounded with the nightmare of a child wielding an ax against a woman involved with sexual intercourse with his father. This bloody visage has tormented George for years to where he is institutionalized and constantly medicated to keep him docile. Under constant psychiatric supervision, George appears, over time ,to have become more adjusted and possibly able to rejoin society. After a evening stroll through the seedy streets of New York in the 80’s and a particularly funny sequence in a peep show, George decides to hop in a car and drive. Along the way the deranged George carves a bloody path from New York to his ultimate destination in Florida. We are introduced along the way to the Temper family, Susan (Smith) and boyfriend Bob who spend many an afternoon tryst on Bob’s boat. C.J. (Cooke) the precocious pre-teen who, ever the prankster, is the proverbial “Boy who cried wolf”, and his two sisters, Tammy and Kim, who usually bear the brunt of his pranks. Susan is having issues with the macabre nature of C.J.’s pranks and feels constantly overrun by his antics. Bob tries to intervene and help as he can, but when a incident occurs with a friend, C.J.’s doubt prevails. And that is just the start of the problems for the Tempers.

Unfortunately Nightmare doesn’t hold up as well as I would have hoped it to. Baird’s performance is over 60% random screaming, which actually starts to become grating. Smith’s performance as the mother is very bland and downright wooden at times. Cooke as C.J. is what manages to keep the film together, he puts in some solid work here, even if his character lacked originality. Then again back in 1982 perhaps C. J.’s character was more of an original concept. The effects work is decent enough for the time, Tom Savini famously denies working on the film, and I can clearly tell he did not. His level of make-up mastery could have elevated some of the rougher spots.

After the screening the discussions continued , until it eventually moved to the pub for the remainder of the evening; another successful Rue Morgue night in the books. Rue Morgue has yet to announce their next Cinemacabre showing, but keep an eye on to see when the announcement is made. Dave promises it to be ghoulish fun.

Overall I highly recommend checking out a Cinemacabre, if not at least paying the boys at the Underground a visit. I guarantee you be in good hands.

Til Next Time

Movie Junkie TO

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