Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker 1982
Night Warning (original title)
R | 1h 36min | Horror, Thriller | February 1982 (USA)
Since the death of his parents fourteen years ago, Billy Lynch has been raised by his over-protective aunt Cheryl. But once he turns seventeen, he is soon set on planning his life…without her. He’s planing on going on to college and is dating local girl Julie. None of which sits well for his aunt, who’s lost everyone else in her life and now with her nephew ready to leave, ensures she starts on a campaign to keep him with her…forever.But as her plans misfire she becomes swept up in a cycle of psychosis and frenzied violence all being blamed on Billy by everyone else…including a homophobic detective, who’s anti-gay prejudice is steadily reaching its zenith…leading to an unforeseeable outcome.
I don’t remember what link originally took me to the listing for Night Warning, but it’s been a while. I lucked out and saw a showing at a local weird-film society last year; a couple of months ago I finally found a copy with a little green price tag on the box sitting on a shelf in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Whatever it takes. Whatever you have to do to get this on your VCR and mastered directly onto your brain. Let nothing stand between you and your own personal copy of Night Warning. Night Warning is as bent as it gets in mainstream filmmaking, and that special time from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties where a project like this could get funded and shot is gone forever.
The one big problem with the film is the director. William Asher isn’t up to the script and the cast. He’s strictly a TV director, so when the going gets weird, he gets pedestrian. It’s not laughably bad or even amusingly lame, but his direction is the only reason this thing isn’t showing today at midnight movies in every college town in the Western Hemisphere.
Here’s what you get for the price of your ticket: Bo Swenson being hateful beyond anything you’d ever imagined he was capable of. Julia Duffy’s delightful, unencumbered young paps. Jimmy McNichol-well, OK, Jimmy McNichol is at least credible as a goofy, messed-up 17-year-old. A mind-boggling script that’ll make you yell, `What were these people ON?’ at the screen till your date walks out on you. Did I mention Julia Duffy’s mammae?
And, man, do you get Susan Tyrrell, as Aunt Cheryl. You only think she went over the top in Forbidden Zone. Brudda, she wasn’t even limbering UP. In Night Warning, you get her horny. You get her maternal. You get her unctuous, you get her as tigress guarding the cub. And you get her flipping out, not once, but repeatedly and at regular intervals, each time in a new and creative fashion. Is there no justice in this life? Why is Susan Tyrrell going to pass her career in obscurities and cult movies, while ambulatory bubble-wrap like Florence Henderson gets a career doing big-money denture commercials and nostalgia shows behind one crappy role from the Ford presidency?
The payoff comes at around 1:17 into the movie, when Aunt Cheryl, doing ugly things in the underbrush, hears Julia Duffy breaking a window in the house. Ms. Tyrrell’s reaction is the single scariest move I’ve ever seen an actor make on film. It will make you hide under the bed for a week, praying that God will send flying bears with spears to find you and rip out your liver before He lets Susan Tyrrell get within two area codes of your hidey-hole. Genuine nightmare fuel.
Find it, learn it, live it.
Director: William Asher
Writers: Steve Breimer (screenplay) (as Stephen Breimer), Alan Jay Glueckman (screenplay)
Stars: Jimmy McNichol, Susan Tyrrell, Bo Svenson
Release Date: February 1982 (USA)
Also Known As: Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker