Nightmare in a Damaged Brain (1981)
AKA: Nightmare (Original Release Title)
AKA: Blood Splash (VHS Title)
AKA: Flucht aus gnadenloser H÷lle (West German title)
AKA: Koszmar (Polish title)
AKA: Painajainen (Finnish title)
AKA: Schizo (Australian video title)

(Release Date: October 23, 1981)


Damaged Goods... splashed with Blood!

J.C. Mašek III... 

Video Nasty Critic!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!!!

One of the more iconic scenes from The Godfather surrounds a man waking up to soaked sheets, then pulling aside said sheets to find the head of his prized horse carefully placed under the comforter, staining the whole Stearns & Foster red. As Nightmare in a Damaged Brain (originally titled, simply, Nightmare) begins, we see a man waking up from a nightmare, then pulling aside the wet sheets to see a human head... and it's talking to him, man!
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Well, at least there was nudity, am I right!?
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Maybe he asked one too many people to give him some -

NO! No, that joke is too easy and repugnant even for me... Make up your own.

Regardless, this is only the first of a good number of decapitation-esque scenes and scenes of nightmare scenarios that follow us through the length of Nightmare in a Damaged Brain. On the bright side, it also has a large amount of nudity. On the down side it contains quite a lot of sexualized violence, much of which was likely instrumental in this film's banning as a Video Nasty, but more importantly it ruins the nudity (which is great while it lasts).

It's all part of the road trip that our featured lead George Tatum (Baird Stafford) has planned as he takes his long day's journey into his ex-wife's house. George is crazy, you see, and is involved in an experimental drug trial in the hopes of returning to normalcy. At this point George could be bounded in a nutshell, and count himself a king of infinite space, were it not that he has bad dreams. Violent dreams of George (or some childhood doppelganger) doing unspeakable things to people while they engage in unspeakable things.

The coagulant really hits the fan when George decides to calm himself by heading out to the strip show for a look at some naked ladies. Okay, yeah, very smart. Show of hands... Male, Female, Gay, Straight or Bi, is there a single person out there who would imagine in their wildest, most impulsive thoughts that they could hit an erotic show of any kind and walk out of it more calm than when they went in?

Clearly not, seeing as how ol' Tatum-Pole starts his David Banner/ Hal Jordan-esque walk-about down to Florida to visit his family. Most central to his family is his whack-job son C.J. Temper (C.J. Cooke) whose temper really cooks every time he gets a baby sitter. (It's a bit of Like-Father-Like-Son action going on, as we soon discover). Unfortunately for Terrible Tatum, his hot wife Susan (Sharon Smith) has indeed moved on and spends most of her time pleasantly naked with new Beau Bob (Mik Cribben) instead of taking care of the kids. No wonder the kiddo is acting up, he's horkin' neglected, man. Hence the "Long Suffering" status given to Kathy the Babysitter (Danny Ronan)!

Nightmare (written and directed by Romano Scavolini) really isn't that bad of a film, considering its subgenre. This is a psycho-killer flick with the emphasis on "Psycho", exploring (with at least some depth) the insanity behind this slasher's motivations. That's not to say that they are excused in any way, but they are explored. Further, the rising mysteries in this film (though certainly not Mensa-worthy) are enough to keep this film interesting, at least. While there are some acting flubs and obvious gore effects, the film's main crime is that some of its more interesting moments are stolen from other films. Once ol' George "I Hate 'Em" Tatum puts on an expressionless rubber mask and starts to stalk the babysitter and her boyfriend while an equally crazy little kid is running around wreaking havoc, one has to believe that Romano was one of the early purchasers of Halloween on Betamax.

Most of the comedy comes not from ineptitude on the part of the film makers but from the ridiculously dense point of view of Tatum's psychologist who believes that Tatum's murderous fantasies are "harmless", even though they correspond exactly to real events in police reports of a Florida double-murder. Even when the cops spell all of this out for him, he is still convinced that Georgie-boy is completely innocent because he "knows" the man. Were I Scavolini, I think I'd milk that a bit longer and make a farce out of it. I sort of picture the Shrink maintaining Tatum's innocence while Tatum shows him Red Dragon-like slideshows as he's strapped to an antique wheelchair.

Yeah, actually, that wouldn't be funny. For the most part, Nightmare isn't funny at all either, not that it should be considering the subject matter, but it's almost refreshing to see a slasher film (albeit a derivative slasher film) taking itself seriously and not making a corn-ball tongue-in-cheek joke about it. Nightmare is serious and seriously bloody with no main victim-type, meaning no one is safe either. The extreme violence seeps into every part of Nightmare, meaning that the violence can often be sexualized, from an attack on a masturbating stripper to a decapitated couple engaged in coupling... the list goes on and on. That list more than accounts for Nightmare in a Damaged Brain's inclusion on the Video Nasty List.

All told, Nightmare in a Damaged Brain isn't a terrible film, nor is it a waste of time. However, at no point does this become a great film and the flaws here (particularly those surrounding borrowed scenes from better movies) outweigh the successful elements enough to reduce Nightmare to Two Stars out of Five. Regardless, I would like to thank both Danielle Galiana and Tara Alexander for their early-on revealing roles during the "Show World" sequence, both of which helped to make this film watchable from the beginning. Sharon Smith's picking up the slack later on is likewise greatly appreciated. Her closing exclamation also successfully prevents anybody from asking "Who was that Masked Man?" My answer would be... "The guy who re-defined 'Bed Head'!"

See you, if not him, in the next reel!

Man, my dad's last visit went a lot smoother than this.
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Nightmare in a Damaged Brain (1981) reviewed by J.C. Mašek III
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