BUTCHER, BAKER, NIGHTMARE MAKER (1981). Review by Steve Kirkham

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BUTCHER, BAKER, NIGHTMARE MAKER (1981)

4 stars
Severin Films. Special Edition 4K/Blu ray Box set. UK release 13th May

Also known variously as THE EVIL PROTEGE and NIGHT WARNING, this is one of those notorious titles that got swept up in the UK’s video nasties debacle. I hadn’t seen it since those VHS days, when I was working in a video rental shop (fun times) – honestly, if it hadn’t been ‘on the list’, as it were, would it be remembered today? Who knows, but it’s not without merit and I enjoyed revisiting it.

Little Billy is left with his rather creepy Aunt Cheryl (Susan Tyrell), as his parent’s are heading off on a vacation. Unfortunately for the youngster, his mom and pop are killed in a car accident, when their brakes fail in a well staged FINAL DESTINATION style incident – brilliantly done considering this is a low budget production.

This means batty Aunt Cheryl has to bring up Billy – some years later he has grown into teenager Jimmy McNichol (who was a bit of heart-throb back in the day). He wants to start breaking away from the constraints of his home life – much to the chagrin of his controlling adoptive guardian, who is desperate to prevent him leaving the nest and even appears to have incestuous feelings towards him.

Tyrell is playing things to the hilt as the clearly cuckoo Cheryl – she even has a shrine to a former boyfriend in the basement. Billy witnesses her going mental at the TV repair man (when he rejects her advances) and she duly stabs him bloodily to death. When Detective Joe Carlson (Bo Svenson) investigates the killing, the teen covers for his manic Auntie – before long the cop is trying to pin the death on the boy.

This is Tyrell’s film – with her often histrionic and over the top performance, though she is matched by Svenson as the homophobic policeman.

The film was a somewhat unusual project for director William Asher – best known for his involvement in TV series like I LOVE LUCY, I DREAM OF JEANNIE and BEWITCHED (starring his then wife Elizabeth Montgomery). There are not many laughs here!

Putting aside the outdated attitudes towards homosexuality, this is more a psychological horror, than out and out slasher with Tyrell wonderfully cracked, crazed and more than handy with a machete. There is plentiful gore, especially in the blood soaked finale.

Edited by Ted Nicolaou, who made many a movie for Charles Band, this also had an uncredited Jan de Bont shooting some of the production. Scanned from the original negative in 4K this looks splendid.

Steve Kirkham

EXTRAS 3 stars
Interviews with Bo Svenson (9 mins), DoP Robbie Greenberg (15 mins), Editor Ted Nicolaou.

Archival interviews with Jimmy McNichol (8 mins), Susan Tyrell (10 mins), actor Steve Eastin (9 mins), Make Up FX artist Allan A. Apone (4 mins), Producer Steve Breimer (12 mins)

Trailer (as Night Warning) and TV spot