Jul 15, 2013

Posted in 1980s, Cult, James, Reviewers

Nightmare (1981) AKA Nightmare in a Damaged Brain

Nightmare (1981) AKA Nightmare in a Damaged Brain

Directed by Romano Scavolini, “Nightmare” is one of my all-time favorite slasher flicks. Originally banned and labeled a “Video Nasty” this film has pretty much got most things that I look for in a slasher: Gore, nudity, gore and a bit of bad acting. It is low-budget and sleazy.

axe in head

George Tatum (Baird Stafford), a mental patient suffering from schizophrenia, homicidal tendencies, seizures and dream fixation on experimental medication is considered under control and released to a half-way house. He dreams of a bloody murder and this prompts violent acts he cannot control.

The film opens on George having one of his dreams only to find himself in a strait-jacket screaming himself awake. After being released his doctor starts to get worried when George starts missing his mandated appointments. Soon the episodes begin to be more powerful than the drugs and he cannot help but start killing people while on his way to Florida where there is a particular family he is interested in.

slit throat

The family is his ex-wife Susan Temper and his son and daughters. As he stalks them strange things start happening but all is dismissed as C.J.’s (his son) little pranks. C.J. is portrayed as the boy who cried wolf. We visually hop around between George’s dream in an incomplete form, his family in Florida and his trip from New York to Florida.

boy with axe

Probably my favorite thing about this movie is that it kind of humanizes the villain. He literally cannot help it. In one scene he slits a woman’s throat and then straddles her like the woman in his dream does to a man we yet do not know. He stabs her in the belly in and out (possibly referencing a sexual act?), begins crying and says “I’m sorry.”


After stalking them for a couple of days he finally makes his move. With Susan and her boyfriend away he enters the house donning a creepy mask and an icepick. First he murders the babysitter, her boyfriend and goes after the rest. C.J finds a gun and shoots Tatum multiple times.

As he lay dying we get the whole dream which turns out to be a memory. A little boy (Tatum) comes home to find his father with his lover, hacks her up with an axe and then murders his father.

This ending seems to be where most of the cutting is found.


For a while I could only find the PAL region 2 version titled “Nightmare in a Damaged Brain.” I believe this was the only version available and it is also cut. Then somebody released a “bootlegged” copy of the uncut version. Which has more gore particularly during the finale.

The version I am reviewing is the (FINALY) released 30th Anniversary Limited Uncut version from CODE RED. There are some great things about this release but it is not perfect. First, it is two discs. Disc 1 has two versions of the film (When I say versions I mean quality, they are all uncut). The first version is called a “Bonus 2008 Hi-Def Master 1.78:1 (16×9) created from the two best 35mm prints.” The second is a “Full frame color corrected telecine (2005) approved by Romano Scavolini.” There is an audio commentary with Cleve Hall (make-up artist) and Baird Stafford. “A “Making of a Nightmare” interview with Baird Stafford, Cleve Hall and ex-distributor Tom Ward” and “New York Nightmare”-an interview with Edward French, the special effects make-up artist for the New York scenes.

Disc 2 has a “Brand new 2011 telecine 1.78:1 (16×9) from recently discovered slightly better 35mm print,” “2 different NIGHTMARE trailers,” and CODE RED trailers. One of the best and worst things about this release is that the second disc contains an “Uncensored 95 min Italian interview” with the director. This would be fabulous except it is in Italian WITHOUT! Subtitles. Unfortunately for me and probably a lot of people, I do not speak Italian.

You will also note that on some of the prints, at least the 2005 one has Tom Savini’s name listed as Special Effects man. This however is not true. There is at least one photo of Tom Savini on set but he did not do the special effects. If I recall this was a ploy by the director to get more people in seats. If you watch the 2011 telecine his name is not on it.

no head2

The film ends with C.J. in a car and in the last frame he winks at the camera.

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Rating: 3.0/5 (2 votes cast)
Nightmare (1981) AKA Nightmare in a Damaged Brain, 3.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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