Release Date: October 22, 1981 (USA)
Run time: 97 minutes
I am a bit of a history buff. I love to read anything about the Nixon Administration or the Salem Witch Trials. I enjoy looking at old newspaper advertisements from the Sixties and Seventies. And I am fascinated by the era of the Video Nasty, when the United Kingdom banned over 200 horror movies on the grounds of obscenity and possibly warping the minds of the youth of the nation. That’s a lot of widespread censorship and unfounded fear.
I’ve made it a personal goal to watch all of the Video Nasties. If you are on a similar quest: welcome, fellow Voyager! You and I are the only people who should ever watch Nightmare in a Damaged Brain, and that is just so we can mark it off our master list. Everyone else can politely step around it, like a dead bird on a suburban sidewalk.
George Tatum is in therapy for his bad dreams. His sleep is invaded by visions of a pile of bloody body parts with a woman’s head on top, like a cherry, except the head’s eyes open and blink. Sometimes, George dreams of the murder of a woman in white lingerie, blood whizzing around the room while someone else in the room screams. A doctor gives George experimental drugs, and they are so effective in repressing George’s dreams that the military is notified, for reasons never made entirely clear. George is released on his own recognizance. The clinic has set him with a job and a room at a halfway house. He’s ready to rejoin society.
George leaves the clinic and walks straight through Times Square. It’s important to note that this is the dirty 1981 Times Square, not the cleaned-up Today Show or “live MTV spot” Times Square of recent fame. Hookers, dancers, live nude girls, porn theaters, wank stalls and sex toys surround him. He wanders into a couple of places, finally settling into a phone booth. The wall slides up and he is confronted by a woman with a phone in one hand and a giant steel dildo in the other. He listens to her spiel and watches her spin that toy around like Sexcalibur until he collapses on the floor in a seizure, foaming at the mouth, barely able to breathe.
The next morning, as if nothing happened, he’s on the ferry away from New York. And in what seems like about an hour and half of time within the movie, George has made it from Staten Island to North Myrtle Beach. When the doctors realize that George is missing, they gear up to hunt him down because even though the drugs worked so wonderfully, he’s a dangerous man. And somewhere in Daytona Beach, the world’s most obnoxious family has a terrible surprise heading their way.
To say the family is “obnoxious” is putting it mildly. The mother screams at the kids continuously over the smallest things.
Child: “I want a hamburger.”
Mom: “Why don’t you shut up, all of you, just shut up, shut up and go to your rooms, all of you, I hate you and I hate this house!”
Settle down, Ma.
The oldest kid, C.J. (C.J. Cooke), likes to play practical jokes on the family, like staggering into the house with a shirt covered in ketchup, screaming, “Don’t touch me! It hurts!” Okay. I’d probably yell at him too.
You just know that George and this family are going to have some kind of dramatic meeting but when? Why? What does it all have to do with George’s dreams?
Let’s squeeze this Nightmare through the Factor and see what comes out the other end.
G: General Entertainment – Nightmare in a Damaged Brain is engaging for all the wrong reasons. Our antagonist cries more than Ichi the Killer and has a car that can fold space and time. Our protagonist is ten years old and needs a good spanking. This movie is an amateurishly made hodgepodge with gore at the beginning, gore at the end and nothing but confusion and unintentional laughs in the middle. 2/10
A: Actuality – Nothing in this movie echoes anything even close to real life, except the fact that there are human beings in it who live in houses. Everything else is some kind of weird horror fantasy where people make ridiculous choices, run the wrong way, go against every function of their job while performing it and wear trenchcoats on Daytona Beach. 1/10
S: Story – There are a lot of missed opportunities in this film, and by missed opportunities, I mean “plotholes you could icefish through.” Was George Tatum some kind of military experiment gone wrong? Where did the midget doctor with the coat on his shoulders come from? Why couldn’t I figure out that one girl was the babysitter until the movie was almost over? Was this movie actually written or did someone pee it into a snowdrift? 2/10
P: Presentation – Nightmare is poorly lit, badly edited and seems to have been directed by a twelve year old who just got a camera for Christmas. Having said that, it’s status as a Video Nasty is well deserved. Not only do we get a literal pile of gore in the first ten minutes, the final fifteen minutes consist of a bloody ax murder that should make any blood-luster a happy camper. The movie gets points for that, but not much else. 4/10
TOTAL SCORE: 2.25/10
Towards the beginning as George is wandering about Times Square, he walks by the marquees of movie theaters showing legitimate movies. Charlie Chan and the Dragon Queen. Fade to Black. Five Deadly Venoms. And I thought, “I would rather be watching any of those movies right now.” I am, however, a completist, so I sat through Nightmare in a Damaged Brain. If you aren’t intending to watch all the Video Nasties, there’s no reason for you to give this movie a glance. It really is that bad.