Friday, October 14, 2016

Episode 25: Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1982)

“Perverts and sluts... They’re doing everything they can to take him away from us...”

At age 3, Billy Lynch (Jimmy McNichol, former teen idol and brother of Kristy) is left to the care of Aunt Cheryl (Susan Tyrell, in one of the most over-the-top, scenery-chomping roles of her extensive career) after his parents are killed in a horrific car wreck. Under Cheryl’s tutelage for more than fifteen years, it’s time for young Billy to start making plans for college.

But Aunt Cheryl isn’t ready to let Billy go.

When a brutal murder follows an “attempted rape,” Billy finds Aunt Cheryl covered in blood, the lifeless body of a television repairman sprawled on the kitchen floor. As Detective Joe Carlson (Bo Svenson) begins to peel away the crime’s many layers, he discovers that Cheryl’s alleged assailant was actually a homosexual, betrothed to Billy’s basketball coach, with whom Billy shared a close friendship.

As Detective Carlson continues his investigation, Billy, wrapped up in a nightmare whirlwind he never could’ve foreseen, begins to do some investigating of his own. In the process, he comes to find that Aunt Cheryl has a mountain of buried secrets and will do anything not only to keep them hidden, but also to keep Billy close by.

Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker, also released as Night Warning, is an odd little gem that explores some very uncomfortable subjects, including rape, implied incest, and...pickling. That’s right, I said pickling—and no, that isn’t a euphemism.

Rubber-faced Susan Tyrell was a woman of many strange expressions, a number of which are present during the final moments of the film. With a wide-eyed glare and an animalistic snarl, she quickly sheds the skin of a happy homemaker and transform into an uncontrollable monster—and man, is it a hoot and a half to witness.

For this commentary, I discuss my frustrations with Code Red for taking approximately four years to finally release the DVD they’d promised (Tyrell actually passed away by the time the disc was available), some behind-the-scenes dirt on the making of the supplemental materials, and some interesting comparisons between the screenplay and the novelization.

Note: During the opening episode’s opening, I reflect upon a comedy sketch involving a car-driving cat who always ends up careening its passengers over cliffs. What I neglected to mention was that this was actually a recurring Saturday Night Live sketch from the early ‘90s, so I wanted to include a little notation here to avoid any confusion.

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