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Monday, September 26, 2011

Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker AKA Night Warning

     Wow.  I just stumbled across a copy of the weirdly named "Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker" from 1983, also known as "Night Warning".  And let me tell you- what a fucking trip. Like, seriously.  It's the story of poor Billy Lynch, who's been raised by his over-protective and slightly off-kilter Aunt Cheryl. Her over-affectionate attitude towards her 17 year-old nephew is off-putting and creepy from the get go, and it only gets more and more weird.  Billy has grown up with Aunt Cheryl since the death of his parents over 14 years ago.  Feeling slightly smothered, he's ready to be on his own when he turns seventeen.  He wants to start college, and is dating a nice girl named Julie (Julia Duffy from "Newhart"!).  But Aunt Cheryl seems to have other ideas about that.  In fact, Aunt Cheryl is two steps from the nuthouse, and has a warped plan to keep Billy at home.  She has concocted a plan to keep him home and with her forever, but her plan backfires, and soon erupts into bloody violence.

     Within the first 15 minutes, unbalanced and lonely Cheryl stabs to death a plumber who refuses her blatant sexual advances. She claims it was self-defense as he tried to rape her, which results in a police investigation.  Into this madness comes another weirdo- a blatantly homophobic detective who's seething anti-gay obsessions are reaching a zenith. The investigation reveals that the plumber was in a gay love affair with Billy's coach at school... and possibly Billy himself. The homophobe detective becomes obsessed with pinning the murder on Billy.  All the while, Aunt Cheryl spirals farther and farther into madness...

      It's a lost gem of a slasher that completely got sidetracked by the likes of big-business horror sequels like "Friday the 13th Part 2" and "Halloween 2".  Although those are great slashers, "Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker" stands out because of its refusal to play by the typical slasher 'rules'.  Nothing is quite what it seems in this movie- in fact, pretty much every character seems a bit off their rocker.  Although the great Susan Tyrell 150% steals the show here.  Her portrayal of Aunt Cheryl is something that needs to be seen to be believed.  She is truly amazing and deserves much more credit than this film gets.  Jimmy McNichol gives an honest portrayal of a young man who just wants his independence, and Bo Svenson is near brilliant as Detective Carlson,who suffers from a severe streak of shocking homophobia.

     This is one ballsy slasher.  Addressing such spicy subjects as homosexuality and incest, "Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker" is a b-movie with a tremendous amount of originality and depth.  It's relatively unknown, and that's kinda sad.  As much as I love slashers, let's be real here.  Most of them are sorry excuses to line up a bunch of unlikable people just to kill them off.  Basically the work of morons with cameras.  But a movie like this one comes along that's slightly more complex, gripping, and original, and just gets ignored.  "Curtains" is another prime example of a lost slasher.

     "Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker" is prime 80s schlock- it's absolutely delicious in every way possible.  Why this movie hasn't achieved major cult status by this point is beyond me.  Susan Tyrell's awe-inspiring performance elevates this movie to a higher plateau for sure- her transformation from over-protective Aunt to full-blown, shrieking madwoman truly needs to be experienced.  And the film itself dares to go where other slashers never dared to go.  It offers so much more than just blood and gore.  It can best be described as a demented soap opera that somehow thinks it's a slasher film.  It could honestly offend many people today- there's no way possible this movie would be made and released in this day and age.  It's way too politically incorrect.  Watching it, I kept feeling as if I should be offended, yet I couldn't tear my eyes away from it.  Bo Svensen's character is truly hateful and homophobic- yet I was having an absolute blast with this movie...  But I think the whole point of all this is to show just how low humans can go with their obsessions.

     There are more and more rumors of an official DVD release, and it should have been available years ago.  This is definitely a one-of-a-kind slasher, and  if you ever somehow stumble across a copy, by all means watch it!  It's shocking, twisted, and all around crazy.

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