NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN. 1981. WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY ROMANO SCAVOLINI. MUSIC BY JACK ERIC WILLIAMS. STARRING BAIRD STAFFORD, SHARON SMITH AND C.J. COOKE. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This film is one of six in a box-set of previously banned video-nasties which I recently received as a present. (I love my friends, haha, they really know me!)The other films are THE EVIL DEAD, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS, DRILLER KILLER and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. What a lovely collection of celluloid gems, heh-heh-heh.
This BOX OF THE BANNED, which could also have been marketed as the BOX OF THE DAMNED, is now one of my most prized film-related possessions. It makes me want to watch every video-nasty ever made, purely for the purposes of studying ’em for the betterment of society, you understand. Not for any sick voyeuristic reasons, naturally. Me not pervert. As if…
NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN does exactly what it says on the tin. The ‘damaged brain’ in question belongs to George Tatum, an escaped mental patient who is making his way back to his family in Florida by way of various lurid live-sex shows and a couple of brutal murders thrown in for good measure.
George has the nightmares because, when he was a wee lad, he committed an horrific crime with his trusty axe after seeing something to which no nipper should be subjected. He’s kind of the male Lizzie Borden, you might say. I won’t describe the crime here, but let’s just say it brought back vivid memories for me of an ex I had who liked to do the same kind of thing as the dad in the film, with me in the role of the girlfriend. Say no more…
Meanwhile, George’s family, whom he abandoned after the birth of his youngest son C.J., is going about their business-as-usual, unaware of the horrors soon to be unleashed on their unsuspecting heads.
George’s children are bringing themselves up, for the most part, while their mother has sex with her lover on his boat and tries to forget that she even has a family. She’s not a good mother. She might even be one of the worst screen mums I’ve ever come across. Her hairy lover is a better mum to her kids than she is, quite frankly.
The kids’ babysitter Kathy is not much better. She gets high and buck-nekkid and has sex with her stoner boyfriend, then has post-coital showers and walks around the house in the nip, and all while she’s supposed to be minding the Temper kids. I feel sorry for those poor neglected rugrats.
The little golden-headed son C.J. in particular is seriously disturbed. Of all the kids, he’s probably his wacko father’s son more than any of them. He plays nasty tricks on his family, his friends and the babysitter, and he just seems to be a messed-up kid in urgent need of parental supervision. But he’s a latchkey kid like the rest of his siblings, and he’s left to run wild while while his mum lazes in bed or rides the arse off her hairy boyfriend. The kid’s a powder-keg just waiting to go off…
Stand-out scenes include, of course, the recurring nightmare, which is shown in full at the end. What happens in the old abandoned house is something you won’t forget in a hurry, either. The scenes there are creepy to the max. Ditto the final scenes when George finally makes his illegal presence in the Temper house known. The consequences are devastating but, oddly enough, not in the way you might imagine. The use of that really bright murder-red colour for the furnishings throughout the Temper house is a stroke of artistic genius, by the way.
This was an especially controversial film, apparently. I read on Wikipedia that Tom Savini vehemently denied doing the special effects for the movie, either because he genuinely didn’t do ’em or because he did ’em and didn’t want to be associated with ’em. Who knows? Oh, and the director garnered himself a jail sentence for refusing to edit violent scenes in the film. This is the kind of stuff that legends are made of, haha.
Anyway, this grim, grisly film is a fantastic example of the video-nasty genre. It’s probably all the nastier and grimmer because of the involvement of minors and the way that these minors are integral to the yuckiest parts of the plot. It’s never pleasant to see kids in a film like this.
One would have to wonder about the effects that acting in a film like this at such a tender age would have on a kiddywinks. Can you really remain untouched and unscathed by the adult themes and adult bullshit to which you’ve been exposed, or do you just grow into a seriously f***ed-up adult like the rest of us? Ah well. Ours is not to reason why, I suppose…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY