Sunday, July 31, 2011

Romano Scavolini's Nightmare

Romano Scavolini's Nightmare (aka 'Nightmares in a Damaged Brain'), now out on DVD via Code Red, has been an enduring favorite of mine. Over the decades, I've consulted it whenever I needed a shot of bleak, and it's always provided the charge I was craving.

The more I watch it, the more it reminds me of another favorite, the superior Clean Shaven ('93), Lodge Kerrigan's amazing odyssey of a schizophrenic man searching for his daughter. Both films are set in muted coastal regions (Nightmares in Florida, Clean Shaven in Long Island, NY), and take full advantage of their regional isolation, and sense of industrial decay. Downbeat and introspective, they'd make quite a double feature, something to slash your wrists by.

Grouped a little too lazily into the 'Slasher' category, Nightmare is a film about a man hunting humans, but it's also a film about his pain and the failure of the establishment to contain him.  As you do, he focuses his murderous desires on a family, and forms a strange type of relationship with a young boy, the family prankster. As this is a horror film, family members end up dead and dismembered, and director Scavolini (working with Tom Savini and Ed French) delivers the gore without restraint.

It's not a perfect film. It's slow in parts (particularly the middle) and the killer's decisions are not clear. Why does he pick this particular family to stalk? Did he once live in their house? Perhaps. Baird Stafford, who plays the killer, does a good job embodying the man with a damaged brain, a brain damaged further harmed by experimental, psychotic drugs. Although the marketing point of this film is graphic violence, it lifts itself out of the slasher ghetto inhabited by swill such as Final Exam, Savage Weekend, Chopping Mall and Prom Night by creating a truly disturbing aura around the killer and providing a sleazy, uneasy atmosphere of hopelessness. And, as noted, the violence is very graphic and features some underage mayhem.

The Code Red DVD features three versions of the movie. The version on the second disk in the best. An unbelievable misstep on the part of the distributor is the inclusion of a 95 minute Italian language interview with the director that is not subtitled (!) Yes, they didn't bother to get subtitles done. A rumor circulating is that somebody who was supposed to do the subs didn't come through with the goods. Come on, how hard would it have been to find someone who spoke Italian? Jesus! With street dates approaching and no subtitles done, wouldn't it have been wise to find someone else to do the job? Or am I too logical?

Gripes aside, it's great to see Nightmare out and about at last.


  1. jervaise brooke hamsterAugust 1, 2011 at 3:42 AM

    "Nightmares in a Damaged Brain", arguably the most disturbing, loathsome, and hideous title of any movie in the entire history of cinema.

  2. Loved clean shaven. It was marketed as sort of a thriller, but I found it sad. It is possibly the best and truest portrayal of schizophrenia out there. A lot of doctors will tell you schizophrenia is worse than cancer or aids or anything.

  3. Mac -- it's a very sad film. Very moving. I concur that schizophrenia is one of the most horrendous "diseases"/conditions someone can suffer from. I've been quite close to it via a relationship, so I've had some first hand experience.

  4. I hate to give any business to Code Red, not that their releases are crap (tho an unsubbed interview? wtf?) but because the fella that handpicks the stuff they distribute has generally awful taste that shouldn't be encouraged. Still, I really would like to see this baby cleaned up. However, there are so many versions of this with alternate dialogue and scenes I'm not sure how they can call this uncut. I guess it's got all the gore intact.

    Anyhoo, I thought Savini had always disavowed working on this?

    EDIT: My authentication word is "gropy." How appropriate.

  5. d -- Savini once claimed he didn't work on the film at all. This statement was nullified when stills of Savini working on the film appeared. Rumors abounded that Savini was not meant to be out of state at the time due to child custody restrictions. Just a rumor, as I said.

    Gropy is most appropriate.