Nightmare

Discussion in 'High Def' started by rkellner, Nov 23, 2015.

  1. rkellner

    rkellner Active Member

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    [​IMG]


    [​IMG] Reviewer: rkellner
    Review Date: November 23, 2015

    Released by: Code Red
    Release date: 06/13/2014
    MSRP: N/A
    Region 0
    Progressive Scan
    Codec: AVC, 1080p
    Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
    1981

    It is hard to discuss Nightmare without first acknowledging the aura of controversy that surrounds its creation and release. Of the 72 films on the DPP banned list of “Video Nasties”, a veritable who’s who of films most horror genre aficionados should seek out, this was the only one where a distributor actually did jail time for distributing a film uncut. Along side a bloody UK marketing campaign that asked theater patrons to guess the weight of a brain floating in a jar, David Grant of World of Video 2000 ended up serving a year and a half in jail for the distribution of this film with the obscene elements intact (2 or 3 scenes come to mind). Then there is the question of who did the gory effects of this film. The director has gone on record saying that the bulk of gory effects came from none other than the gore maestro himself, Tom Savini. Production stills from this time show him on set with the cast filming the Savini-esque decapitation scene. In fact, much of the state-side distribution marketing had Tom Savini’s name front and center. However, Savini rebukes this claim and says that he was just there to advise and accuses the director for trying to cash in on his name for publicity. Theater owners had to cover up his name on the promotional material to avoid lawsuits. However, after viewing the finished product of the two pivotal axe murders, hands down the two best gore effects of the film, it looks like his handiwork to me! However, the question remains… does the movie itself merit all of this mouth watering genre hype?

    The Story

    inline Image Every morning George Tatum wakes up screaming in the mental hospital, haunted by vivid dreams of mass murder and mutilated body parts. According to his official 11 word write up at the psychiatric hospital, George suffers from “schizophrenia, mild amnesia, homicidal dream fixation, seizures.” However, through successful techniques which we never quite see, they have reprogrammed him, deemed him cured, and let him out upon the dingy streets of NYC for the a night of trolling peep shows and reminding us how cool 42nd street of Manhattan used to be before it was cleaned up in the mid 80’s. How many awesome kung fu movie marquees do you see in this? And of course the cornucopia of peep shows, porn, and adult clubs. It is here that we find out that a’ la A Clockwork Orange, George’s treatment leaves him with a negative physical response to his desires for sex and violence. Of course, this only seems to last a day (…heck, one scene) as he ends up in North Carolina (?) the next day to start a string of mass murders.

    inline Image It is at this point the film then takes a bit of a Halloween twist where George for reasons that are only halfway explained (or are they?), becomes obsessed with a family in Florida the next afternoon (the director doesn’t really have good grasp on US geography…this is a lot of driving for someone who spends time killing victims at night) and starts to stalk the kids, babysitter and single mom. George also seems to have carte blanche to wander around their house when no one is home.

    inline Image The challenge with the film is that it seems as if someone had a really great idea for act 1: To ride on the coattails William Lustig’s Maniac (also with amazing Tom Savini SFX), we follow this crazy guy who has these wildly gory dreams and flashbacks as he is released from a mental institution after some experimental treatment. On his first night out he wanders around the adult carnival of 42nd Street in NYC, wallows in the grittiness of the neon and sex shows, and takes in a couple peepshows which sets him off on his old ways. Toss in some pretty explicit content, some science fiction elements with the facility he has come from (the sentient computer system with ten words at a time on the screen is unintentionally hilarious) and have his old cigar chomping doctor start picking up his trail like Dr. Loomis in Halloween while spouting off choice dialog like, “You lose a dangerous psychotic patient from an experimental drug program, and all you can say is sorry?!?”

    Then they figured out the end: tie it all together with a good Halloween-esque final scene where George donning a mask stalks the family and kids, and then we get payoff on the flashbacks that we have seen all movie, a whole bunch of gooey violence gets unleashed, and we close it with some sort of twist ending and a wink-wink final shot.

    inline Image The challenge is that to get from point A to point F, the movie dramatically goes off course and throws all of this promise from the opening out the window as it spends the middle hour of the film in something that could be pasted from any run of the mill low budget PG-rated Lifetime horror movie. Be prepared to be thrilled with a couple off screen deaths, and a lot of focus on kids riding bikes, sibling rivalry, pranks from a young kid that make you hope that he gets offed in a bad way, and people laying around talking. Snooze… it isn’t until there are 15 minutes left that it gets back to its Video Nasty roots. You will know too because you are looking at your watch or fast forwarding wondering where the director of the first part of this movie went.

    inline Image
    Outside of the disjointed plot, there are many things to recommend about the film. First of all, our main protagonist played by Baird Stafford is very solid as a cracked psychopath and plays the film closer to the Michael Meyers side of the spectrum rather than the likes of Hannibal Lecter or Patrick Bateman. In fact, the film actually goes to some lengths to show that George feels very bad about his actions with a wordless scene where he goes to the beach to bury a victim. Also, it is worth noting that there is an interesting prevalence of children committing acts of extreme graphic violence. This is accompanied with some commentary on the genetic predisposition to mental disorders. Not your normal stalk and slash topics here.

    The movie was directed with some skill by Romano Scavolini, but it is in no means a high gloss production. Romano has a dozen films to his credit, most of which look like they never found an English audience, or an Italian one either. This was his only foray into the horror genre.

    Image Quality

    inline Image After years of false starts, the original Code Red DVD contained three (!!) versions of the film. A “bonus 2008 Hi-Def master” created from the two best 35mm prints of the film, a “full frame color corrected telecine (2005)”, and the “brand new 2011 telecine”. Obviously this shows the scars of a loving release that was years in the making. As a nod to Bill Olson’s sense of humor, the brand new 2011 telecine is made to look like a bootleg DVD-R. Of these varying prints, the 2011 is the best of the bunch with better color, more information on all sides, which pays off (depending on your state of mind) during the peepshow scene in the beginning. Flash forward to 2014 and 2014 with Code Red releasing a new Blu ray of the set. This time, they wisely just do an HD version of the 2011 telecine print.

    The blu ray is a bit soft at times, but has really vibrant colors and is a nice HD upgrade from the previous DVD, but is not exactly demo material. Reds and greens really come across and gel lighting effects are used to good colorful effect. The source material does show its age and lack of preservation with the presence of green vertical lines in first reel and occasionally throughout, as well as some instances of dirt and debris. But hey, who’s complaining. This is the full uncut version of the movie that looks as good at it is going to get barring a new scan by the likes of Arrow Films.

    Sound

    The DTS Mono audio track serves the movie just fine. The soundtrack to this one is actually pretty groovy and reminds me of its 70’s Italian horror roots. There is good atmosphere to the tracks, and it works well. Of course, to accompany the video scratches and rough edges, the audio has occasional ticks, pops, and static…but again this isn’t a new Michael Bay film. This is as good as it is going to get without a massive audio restoration.

    Supplemental Material

    inline Image I think it is fair to say that this is the final word on special features for this movie on its second Code Red release. The blu ray ports over all the extras from the DVD but adds a couple new ones as a nice added bonus. You get the Stafford/Hall/Chrisian/DeCoteau commentary from the previous dvd. This is a highly informative commentary with the star of the movie, the make up artist (who isn’t named Tom Savini). This is a lively track that talks about a lot of the behind the scene goings on, scenes that weren’t in the script, differences between the original version and the edited ones, etc. Definitely worth a listen if you are a fan of the film. Stafford and Hall return for a really good and concise making of featurette where they talk about the Savini controversy, the grueling shooting schedule, Staffords thoughts about being a gay actor in Hollywood, and anecdotes about working with the director. There is also an extended trailer, an Ed French featurette, and the previously released Scavolini interview. However, unlike the previous DVD, Code Red stepped up to the plate and actually gave his non-english interview subtitles (submitted by cult fave Damon Packard of all people!) The issue of subtitles on a lengthy discussion with an Italian director should have been a no-brainer on the last release, and it is nice to see it remedied for fans on the blu ray version.

    The new extras for the blu ray are non-essential but nice to round out the extras package. They are an 8-minute interview with producer Bill Milling, who played the bearded psychologist. He talks about what it is like to shoot for two weeks straight without breaks and working with Scavolini. Also included are an 11 minute interview with Mik Cribben who was the bandana love interest for the mom in the film in addition to being the unit production manager. He dives into the topics of the behind the scenes craziness, shooting in Florida, working with the director, and some of his less clothed scenes in the movie.

    Final Thoughts

    With the strength of its first and last acts and the really memorable gore scenes, this movie is a minor-cult classic. It is grimy, sleazy, gory, violent, colorful, shocking, …and yes dreadfully boring and head scratchingly puzzling at times. Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad…maybe that is part of the charm. All in all, a decent slice of early 80’s sleaze to track down, especially in its blu ray incarnation. Consider it to be a worthy part of the Video Nasty family.

    Rating

    [​IMG] Movie - B

    Image Quality - B+

    Sound - B

    Supplements - A-


    Technical Info.
    • Color
    • Unrated
    • 1 Disc
    • DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
    Supplements
    • Stafford/Hall/Chrisian/DeCoteau commentary
    • Making of featurette
    • Extended trailer
    • Ed French featurette
    • Scavolini interview
    • Bill Milling interview
    • Mik Cribben interview
     
    indrid13 likes this.
  2. Zombie Dude

    Zombie Dude Well-Known Member

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    Nice review :) Like you say, the beginning and end are definitely the highlights.

    Would be cool if screen grabs from 88Films new release could be added at some stage for comparison.
     
  3. Mok

    Mok Family is Forever

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    Watched this over the weekend. I agree that the movie strays too far off course in the beginning in some strange unnecessary obligation to establish certain plot points. And all that police computer screen reading was ridiculous. I get that they wanted Loomis/Bracket characters, but they were crowbarred in at the movie's expense. They should have just stuck with the family an left the killer's motives somewhat unknown. Great gore effects though. Man Savini's work is reason to watch alone.
     
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  4. rkellner

    rkellner Active Member

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    DVDExotica just did a nice comparison. Very interesting to see the wildly different color timings. I think I prefer the CodeRed release from what I am seeing. http://www.dvdexotica.com/2015/11/dueling-blus-nightmares-in-damaged.html
     
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  5. Zombie Dude

    Zombie Dude Well-Known Member

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    Cheers. Hmm, this is a hard decision. Code Red seems to have better colours but 88Flims has the complete version of the film which I'm pretty sure is the version I originally saw.
     
  6. russweiss

    russweiss Well-Known Member

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    My 88 Films blu-ray arrived today.
     
  7. Angelman

    Angelman OCD Blu Ray Collector

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    As did mine.
     
  8. Stige

    Stige Active Member

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    I prefered the 88 films version myself, there was something slightly more " hi def" about the image. As for extra features on the 88 don't expect too much.....the code red wins for features.
     
  9. Katatonia

    Katatonia Hellbound Heart

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    Got mine earlier, and the colors honestly look a lot better than I was expecting. It definitely has a higher bit-rate than the Code Red disc, which is not too surprising being a dual-layer disc. I guess it depends on if you want the film completely "uncut" or not. If so, then the 88 Films release is the one to get. If not, the Code Red release is more than adequate.

    The Code Red disc definitely wins in the features department.
     
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  10. gobad2003

    gobad2003 Active Member

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    Yeah I got the 88 one also but I still haven't received it yet. I will probably keep both though since the CR one has more features :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2015

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