Mar 26, 2018

Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1982)


Butcher, Baker Nightmare Maker (AKA Night Warning) - An orphaned teenager finds himself being dominated by his aunt who's hell-bent on keeping him with her...at all costs.



I was intrigued by this film for a handful of reasons:

(1) Every child of the seventies remembers Kristy McNichol and her brother.  They even recorded music together.  How weird that brother Jimmy would be starring in this sleazy horror movie!

(2) Very few films were willing to tackle the issues of homophobia and homosexuality this directly back then. So that should be interesting to see.

(3) One of Bill Paxton's earliest movie roles

(4) It's directed by William Asher, known for "I Love Lucy" and "Bewitched." Quite a departure.

(5) Finally, it's the film where Julia Duffy (the rich girl from "Newhart") shows her tits.  So, there's that.


Aunt Cheryl (Susan Tyrrell) agrees to babysit her nephew while his parents go on a trip.

That trips ends in horrific fashion as a truck hauling logs has one crash through the windshield of their car.  A pretty brutal and effectively captured scene.

Fast forward and Billy is now a teenager.  Aunt Cheryl has been taking care of him all these years... and as you can see, she's a very hands-on parent.

Bill Paxton plays Eddie.  He's on the basketball team with Billy, and the two don't get along.

Julia Duffy plays the school journalist, Julia.  We'll be seeing her boobs later.

Steve Eastin plays Coach Landers, a closet homosexual.

Billy doesn't understand why Eddie has it in for him.

Billy and Julia start to develop a relationship.

Cheryl hits on the TV repairman, Phil (Caskey Swaim).

But Phil is gay (and the partner of Coach Landers), so he's not buying what Cheryl is selling.

Finally, Phil gives in to Cheryl's demands, and offers to let her blow him.

Cheryl loses her shit and stabs him to death.

A powerful and disturbing scene to say the least.  Billy witnesses the stabbing through the kitchen window, but Cheryl tells him Phil was trying to rape her.

Would you believe this role was originally intended for Patty Duke?  I don't think my brain could have handled it.

This scene was used for a VHS cover.  Note that the film made the list of the infamous "Video Nasties" in Britain.

Just look at this image.  What an amazingly horrific picture this is.  Billy pulls the knife from Phil's chest, and is caught right as the neighbors arrive.

Jimmy McNichol sure has come a long way since his disco teeny-bopper days.

Bo Svenson is the wildly homophobic Detective Joe Carlson. His theory: the murder relates to a gay love triangle between Phil, Billy and Coach Landers.


Note that this picture was often used for promotional material, yet never actually occurs in the movie. I can see why they'd use it regardless - it's quite lurid and really draws your attention; I remember seeing a B&W still of this in Fangoria and becoming immediately curious about the film.
Carlson interviews Coach Landers and mistakenly believes he's getting clues supporting his theory.  I mean, gay love triangle seems so obvious, right?

Eddie insinuates that Billy is the coach's gay lover, so Billy dumps his drink on his head.  Don't you love how, in movies, the guys always just stand there and let the drink be poured on their head?

Carlson interviews Julia.  If his gay love triangle theory holds true, then Billy and Julia can't be together.  He asks her if her and Billy have consummated their relationship yet - and the answer is no.

Trivia: Daryl Hannah and Ally Sheedy both auditioned for the role of Julia.

While Cheryl is away, Billy and Julia have sex at his house.  This is the scene, fellas - the scene where Stephanie from Newhart shows us her boobs.

You remember her from Newhart, right?  She was the shallow rich girl who, for some reason, had to be the Newhart's maid.  It sounds stupid (and was), but was a really funny show.

Julia Duffy as Stephanie and her equally materialistic hubby played by Peter Scolari. 
 Anyway, back to her boobs...


Julia tells Billy about Detective Carlson's "probing" questions.

If you look fast you can see Julia Duffy isn't completely naked under those sheets, as you can catch a glimpse of blue panties.

Cheryl arrives home early and yells:
You get dressed and get that SLUT out of here!
One last look.

Cheryl drugs Billy's milk to ensure he'll under-perform at the basketball game and not get his scholarship.  She can't have her little boy go off to Colorado and leave her all alone.

Billy tells Julia that he's feeling a little dizzy.

I love crowd scenes in old movies.  Man, just look at that early '80s hair.

Just as Cheryl planned, Billy blows it.  He can't see straight and falls on his ass.

Julia confronts Cheryl... and Cheryl resolves the dispute by hitting her over the head with a meat tenderizer and locking her in the basement.

Julia wakes up to find a chamber of horrors, including Craig's pickled head.

Who's Craig, you ask?  Oh, did I forget to mention that Billy's parent's death wasn't an accident? Cheryl had them killed by fixing the breaks of that logging truck.  And here's another chestnut:  Billy is actually Cheryl's son!.... from when Cheryl had an affair with Craig.

I'd say Cheryl is looking a little unhinged.  She's already killed the neighbor and a police officer - now it's Julia's turn.


Cheryl chases Julia through the woods to a pond where she bashes her head with a rock.

Back at the house, Cheryl tries to kill Billy when he dials 9-1-1.  Billy subsequently stabs her in the chest.

But it's not over.  Like any good cinematic psychopath, just when you think she's dead, she rises to  kill again.

This time Billy ends it for good with a fire poker.

Detective Carlson arrives - and it looks pretty incriminating with Billy once again standing over a dead body with a murder weapon.

Billy straight up kills his ass.  But now, when the police arrive (with Julia), it looks even worse for him: he's in the room with two people he's killed "in self defense".

But it's all good.  The end credits tell us Billy was acquitted.  Whew!

Was it really necessary to tell us they are currently attending the University of Denver? THE END


At any rate, this is a surprisingly good film.  Susan Tyrell is frighteningly convincing as a deranged psychopath.  The film doesn't wince a bit at blood and horror, amounting to a disturbing yet entertaining film that doesn't get enough attention.  Not bad for the director of  "I Love Lucy" and "Bewitched."

★★★★☆

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