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  Nightmares in a Damaged Brain Dream ScreamBuy this film here.
Year: 1981
Director: Romano Scavolini
Stars: Baird Stafford, Sharon Smith, C.J. Cooke, Mik Cribben, Danny Ronan, John L. Watkins, Bill Milling, Scott Praetorius, William Kirksey, Christina Keefe, Tammy Patterson, Kim Patterson, Kathleen Ferguson, William Paul, Tommy Bouvier
Genre: Horror, Trash
Rating:  3 (from 2 votes)
Review: George Tatum (Baird Stafford) is a mental patient incarcerated in this top secret asylum where the doctors hope to try and cure his acute schizophrenia with homicidal tendencies using a newly developed medication along with the most high tech computer hardware that they have access to. The only issue may be that George is not reacting well to this thanks to his dreadful nightmares that plague him every time he sleeps, and are often centred around waking up in bed to see severed body parts piled at the foot of the mattress with him, but what is the cause of these terrors? He also has flashbacks to his early years and a specific incident where he stumbled across his father in bed with a prostitute...

Nightmares in a Damaged Brain was originally called simply Nightmare, but earned its later title, the one it is perhaps best known by, when it was distributed in Britain during the nineteen-eighties. This only made it notorious there as a video nasty successfully prosecuted to jail said distributors for releasing obscene material; they might not have helped their case by ramping up the sensational aspects in their publicity campaign, but the thought of sending someone to prison for bringing out a horror movie that contained nothing illegal in itself, that was no actual cruelty to animals or children or anything like that since all the violence was staged, seems positively draconian these days.

But that's where the moral panic lay back then, blaming horror flicks for the evils of the world was a lot easier than tackling the real thing, and so scapegoating by the press, politicians and self-appointed moral guardians continued. All of which would make it fitting if this film had been an unsung masterpiece, or at least containing points of interest other than its notoriety, but on watching it you'd find an easily distracted plod through an all-too-typical mental illness scare story where being unbalanced in your mind effectively meant a death sentence for anyone unfortunate to cross your path. Certainly some so afflicted have violent reactions, but not as many as films like this would have depicted.

So if the thought of brushing with someone who had gone off the rails made you believe you were dicing with death rather than meeting a poor soul who had lost control of their faculties, then Nightmares in a Damaged Brain might work some kind of grim effect on you, but if you took a more level-headed approach you'd see it for the opportunistic trudge through would-be sensational material it was. Nobody involved had much good to say about it, having been taken over early on by shady deals that had the funds on a shoestring and the cast mostly amateurs, but the person who railed against it the most was makeup effects expert Tom Savini, who demanded his name be removed from the advertising.

There is some controversy about exactly how much involvement Savini had with the film, he averred he had merely a glancing knowledge of the production but others claimed he was more hands on, and certainly the gore we see did have that hallmark of his efforts if noticeably cheaper in its results than he would have been associated with. Otherwise, this tale of one of the sweatiest screen psycho killers ever was set in Florida where George is headed for reasons that don’t become obvious till the last minute, but he is fixated on a particular family there when he’s not murdering innocent people and feeling very anguished and tormented that he cannot help himself. The high tech business intruded with the scientists predicting with their computer what he would do next, fat lot of good when they cannot prevent his spree with this information, and there was some blatant padding when the crew filmed their lead wandering around New York's Times Square (even then this drags on too long). Strictly for the hardcore grindhouse fanatics, unless you were interested from a sociological perspective. Music by Jack Eric Williams.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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