Blu-ray Review: Video Nasty NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN – Not The Schlock You Think It Is

3 out of 5 stars

Famous – or should I say infamous for being one of the UK’s banned video nasties – Nightmares In A Damaged Brain (also known as Nightmare) saw its distributor, David Hamilton Grant jailed when he released the film uncut after it was censored by the British Board of Film Classification.

A dark thriller from Italian director Romano Scavolini, this psychological slasher isn’t as vile or as sleazy as its reputation would have you believe. In fact – dare I say it – it’s something of a thought-provoking genre piece.

After he’s released from a psychiatric institution, George Tatum (Baird Stafford) embarks on a killing spree as he makes his way from New York to ‘visit’ his ex-wife (Kim Patterson) and children in Florida. 

Yes, it’s loaded with sex and violence, but Nightmares In A Damaged Brain isn’t any worse than the plethora of other horror movies that littered the home video market in the early 1980s. There’s quite a bit of strong plotting and while some of the acting leaves a lot to be desired (not everyone was a professional actor), you can’t say that that Scavolini’s film is predictable. 

It’s a low-budget effort and somewhat on the rough and ready side of things, but there’s a dedication to the darkness and characterisation within Nightmares In A Damaged Brain’s.  There’s a complexity to the plotting that makes it feel that those who made it were invested in making something of substance – and not just a down-and-dirty exploitation flick. 

Special Features

Severin Films went to town (or at the very least travelled from New York to Florida) with the special features on this release of Nightmares In A Damaged Brain

The highlight is Damaged: The Very British Obscenity of David Hamilton-Grant – an excellent documentary by Sarah Appleton that delives into the life and lies of David Hamilton-Grant – Nightmares In A Damaged Brain‘s jailed UK distributor. This well-researched film also covers the rise and fall of the porn industry in London’s Soho, which was then ultimately folded into the burgeoning VHS era of the early 1980s. 

There are also commentaries from star Baird Stafford, special effects assistant Cleve Hall Moderated and producer William Paul, There are detailed pieces on the film’s production which feature input from people in every aspect of production, deleted scenes and an interview with make-up effects guru Tom Savini – who talks about his complicated history with the film. This is a great package that truly heightens the experience of this now legendary schlocker.