Horror Movie Review: Nightmare (1981)

Nightmare (also known as Nightmare in a Damaged Brain) is a notorious horror slasher from the 1980s. It was written and directed by Romano Scavolini and sees a psychopath, who was subjected to experiments, leave the institute he has been incarcerated in to kill his ex-wife and children.

Starring Baird Stafford and Sharon Smith, its notoriety comes from the fact that it is one of the 72 films labelled as a video nasty in the United Kingdom. Nightmare was successfully prosecuted for violation of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 and banned completely in the UK.

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Even more amazing is that its distributor was sentenced to 18 months in prison for refusing to edit one second of violent footage.

Of course, times have changed and you can now watch Nightmare in all its uncut glory but like many of the movies on the video nasty list, it’s not worth it.

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George Tatum (Stafford) is our psychopath and has been locked up for years after he sexually assaulted, mutilated and killed a family. It’s during his time inside that George takes part in an experimental procedure that should ‘fix’ his brain, making him a model citizen.

It seems to work even though George is plagued by nightmares of his childhood. A violent incident occurred when he was a young boy but his memory is hazy. That is until he goes to a peep show (such a seedy scene) which triggers a flashback to his mother’s murder.

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This prompts George to get a car and head off to this ex-wives home where his children also live. Unfortunately for the family, the only gift that George is bringing is one bathed in blood.

The takeaway from Nightmare is that it is a gorefest, probably a bit tame by today’s standards but certainly one to grab the attention back in 1981. What makes it such a bloody show isn’t just the manner of the killings but rather how much is shown. Director Scavolini doesn’t shy away from getting up close and showing everything in detail. It’s grim and nasty but that is the film in a nutshell. A grim and nasty film that doesn’t shock or surprise as much as it might hope too.

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Its flaws are apparent almost immediately. The cast are forgettable and barely competent. The story is stretched thinly and for huge portions of the movie it’s really boring. It’s very standard slasher stuff and its big reveal at the end is in no way worth the wait.

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No, the only reason Nightmare hasn’t been consigned to the bin is purely because of the video nasty tag. What an idiotic event that was, making these nothing movies into sought after collector items.

The government is saying this movie is too depraved for anyone to see? Who isn’t going to want to see it now!?


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Nightmare (1981)
  • The Final Score - 4/10
User Review
6.3/10 (2 votes)