DVD/Blu Ray

Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker (18) |Home Ents Review

Dir. William Asher, US, 1981, 93 mins

Cast: Susan Tyrell, Jimmy McNichol, Bo Svenson, Marcia Lewis

Review by Colin Dibben

Susan Tyrell’s off-planet performance is the only reason to watch this former UK video nasty. Even then, you may find yourself hiding your face behind a cushion. Excessive, wrong, repulsive are the words that come to mind in relation to her performance. The nastiness and tedium of the rest of the film fades into the background.

Disturbing Aunt Cheryl (Tyrell) has looked after college age Billy (McNichol) since his parents died. Her love for him allows for no others, so when Billy starts dating Margie (Lewis), all hell breaks out and the bodies soon start piling up. A bullying, homophobic cop (Svenson) investigates, convinced that Billy is a murderer.

There isn’t that much gore here, although Ms Tyrell’s naked breasts get splashed with blood early on. The youngsters act like they’re sedated (they actually are for a large part of the story) and all the grown ups wear their perverse natures on their sleeves and shout about their bigotries and hatreds from the rooftops. It’s the opposite of virtue signalling: vice signalling?

Scenery chewing usually gets my vote, but something isn’t working here. Perhaps the domestic backgrounds are just too normal to cultivate the outrageous characters, their views and the acting? Perhaps Tyrell’s off-key, de-centred, unfocused performance would work better if everyone else was playing it straight; Svenson’s extreme bombast makes you read her acting as overacting in turn, when a more nuanced movie would probably take her performance into Cassavetes territory.

There’s a dispiriting extra that sees an obviously ailing Susan Tyrell have zero recollection of the film. She is appalled when shown excerpts.

Watch Fat City and her great turn there instead.

Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker is out on Blu-ray and 4K UHD on 13 May 2024.