June 11, 2009
Our 'unjustly forgotten horror movies' series continues -- only now as a weekly feature. I just could not write one of these things each and every day. This week's title: "Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker."
Released on VHS, never on DVD, "Night Warning," or "Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker" or "Nightmare Maker", is a highly entertaining piece of '80s cheese that deserves at least some kind of release today. Alas, it's too politically incorrect to ever get one.
"Night Warning" enjoyed a VHS release from Thorn EMI before drifting out of print and never getting a proper release on DVD. Code Red announced it for a 2008 release, althought there's no sign of it hitting stores yet.
Opening with an awesome freak accident -- a pair of parents on a road trip die horrifically when their brakes give out -- "Night Warning" gets off to a roaring start.
The parent's 4 year old son Billy is adopted by his aunt (Susan Tyrell) who saw his parents off on their roadtrip before giving them a sinister look. Flash forward 14 years. The boy is now 17 (and now played by Jimmmy McNicol, the brother of actress Kristi McNichol) and ready to leave home on a scholarship. His domineering aunt, however, wants him to stay to help cover expenses at their place.
On his 17th birthday, Billy learns he's likely going to qualify for a scholarship that will take him away from his town -- and his aunt, whom we shortly learn is completely psychotic. When she makes a pathetic pass at a local handyman and he rebuffs her advances, she takes a knife to him -- just as her nephew is coming home from school. A false accusation of rape appears to get her off the hook, until the local right-wing homicide detective learns the victim was gay. Obsessed with the idea that Billy is gay after learning that his basketball coach is, the cop begins supspecting the boy of committing the murder -- and his aunt of trying to take the rap for it.
"The victim was a fag. The coach is a fag. And the kid is a fag," the cop explains to one of his lieutenants. "He grew up without a father, with only women around. It's a classic case."
At first more a cheesy crime drama than horror movie, the film morphs into all-out horror toward the end as Billy's aunt goes totally psycho and the body count mounts, leaving pretty much every character in a body bag except a few. "Night Warning" is filled with enough anti-gay themes to guarantee that it stays out of print for all time. But it's one hell of an interesting time capsule from the bygone Reagan era.
The real star of the production is Tyrell who goes over the top in her performance as the craziest psychotic aunt in, possibly, all of film history. The film also went by the names "Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker" and, simply, "Nightmare Maker."
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