One of the benefits of having a streaming service, like Shudder (again, not sponsored but I’m willing if you are Shudder), is that there’s horror films I’ve never even heard of. Take, for instance, Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker released in 1982. According to IMDb, it was originally released in 1981 under the title Night Warning.
In my opinion, neither title impresses me much. Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker makes me think that there was a rogue candlestick maker that was burning the wick at both ends and had a meltdown.
This film, which is older than I am, is about a nephew, Billy (played by Jimmy McNichol) who is about to graduate. His obsessive Aunt Cheryl (played by Susan Tyrrell) will go to murderous lengths to keep Billy all to herself.
I think they were trying to make a horror movie version of The Graduate. Cheers to them, I guess.
Since this film is four decades old, I don’t think I have to say, “Are you trying to seduce me with spoilers, Mrs. Robinson?”
No, it should be implied that I’m going to seduce you all with spoilers. So, buckle up.
The opening scene shows Billy as a young tyke with his parents leaving for a trip. His aunt is holding him and they’re waving goodbye. Automatically things go weird when the camera freeze frames on Aunt Cheryl and her penciled in eyebrows. Seriously lady… she had to have used a compass because those things are perfect little semi circles where her eyebrows should be.
Also, I forgot that they did the whole freeze frame thing back in the day. It’s a little unsettling… which is probably why they did it.
Turns out they went full-on Disney and killed off Billy’s parents in a comical (I’m sure they didn’t think it was comical while they were filming it) manner. Aunt Cheryl disabled the brakes (I’m assuming it was her due to the freeze frame moments earlier) and the parents suffered a tragic death. The father had his head popped by one of those tree logs being carried haphazardly by a truck. The mom died when the car flew off the cliff and landed upside down in a creek. If she managed to survive that, she didn’t survive the car exploding.
Time jumps 14 years later.
The scene shows the aunt asleep in her bed with the blankets pulled up around her. That’s not the weird thing though. There’s a lit candle right next to the bed on the dresser. And there’s flowers right by the lit candle. Aunt Cheryl needs to take a class in being smart.
There’s a radio playing stating that gas prices are finally lowering and that the average price of gas is $1.40. Ugh, I wish I was living in the ‘80s.
Dude… Bill Paxton is in this film. Wow.
While cooking dinner, Billy and his aunt have an argument regarding Billy’s future. He wants to move to college away from his aunt. She wants Billy to take a job located near their home and forget about higher education.
Cheryl tries to seduce the repairman. Billy arrives home while Cheryl is literally throwing herself at the TV repairman. The repairman angers Cheryl and for payment, she gives him a couple good stabs with the kitchen knife. Billy watches everything through the kitchen window.
Two of her friends stop by for Billy’s birthday dinner and find them in the kitchen with the bloody corpse. When the police come, Cheryl claims that the repairman tried to rape her and that’s why she stabbed the dude.
The detective (played by Bo Svenson) doesn’t believe that it was an attempted rape. The detective is going around Billy’s school and talks to Billy’s basketball coach. Turns out, the coach is secretly gay. With the guy that Cheryl stabbed to death.
When the detective figures out that the coach is gay, he tells him to resign or else “chances are you’re going to get yourself lynched.”
Yup, you read that right. Things were pretty different 40 years ago.
Cheryl and Billy argue about the detective. Cheryl screams at Billy asking if he knew that the coach was gay. “They’re very, very sick,” Cheryl screams. Wow again.
The detective questions Julie, Billy’s girlfriend. One of the things he asks her about is if Billy and Cheryl’s relationship is a bit weird.
Cheryl is gone on a vacation and Billy and Julie are home alone. Well, as you might have guessed, they “make it” as the kids back then said. While they’re “making it” Aunt Cheryl barges into Billy’s room effectively killing the mood just as she killed the TV repairman.
There’s an altar to some dude that Cheryl killed in the basement. Occasionally she goes down there and talks to the picture of the guy.
Later on, Billy is playing basketball with scouts in the audience. The drug that the aunt mixed into Billy’s milk looks like it’s finally taking effect. The aunt is trying to sabotage Billy’s chances at getting the scholarship and leaving to go to college.
Billy wakes up after tripping and hitting the gymnasium wall to find that the aunt is adamant with Billy staying home pretty much forever. She even goes as far as drugging the milk jug. Billy finds out that his aunt has been lying to him about the attempted rape.
Billy’s convinced that there’s something hidden in his aunt’s jewelry box, so he enlists Julie to distract Cheryl while he sneaks into her room. Things go about how you’d think. Cheryl uses a meat tenderizer to tenderize Julie’s skull.
Billy drinks the drugged moo juice and falls unconscious yet again. When he wakes up, he shows Cheryl the note from Billy’s father. Turns out, Cheryl is Billy’s mother.
Cheryl’s friend is still in the house, and it turns out that Julie is too! She’s somehow still alive after taking that blow to the head. The friend leaves the house but is soon killed by Cheryl by means of a machete. One of the detectives arrives at the house looking for Julie and gets macheted by Cheryl. It looks like it’s Julie’s turn, but Julie yeets some rope at Cheryl. She drops the machete and Julie takes the opportunity to pick it up and run. Cheryl takes off after her with a hatchet.
Billy, the lazy bones that he is, wakes up from his lactose drugged sleep.
Julie and Cheryl fight in a pond and Cheryl bashes a rock against Julie’s head again. She really takes some headshots in this film. Not the best way to get a head in life. She’s probably fine. She looked like a woman with a good head on her shoulders. Very head strong.
Billy tries calling for help but gets choked by Cheryl with the phone cord. They struggle for a bit and Billy stabs his psycho mom in the heart with a letter opener. I always knew Billy was a heartbreaker.
He takes the opportunity to call for help, but instead of calling the police he calls the coach. In the typical 80’s horror movie fashion, Cheryl isn’t dead yet and starts to attack Billy with the letter opener.
Billy gets slashed five or six times and that’s when he decides that’s about all he can stand. He grabs a fire poker and stabs it straight through Cheryl.
The detective, the one that would be cancelled in today’s society, arrives on the scene and makes his way to the house with his big revolver at the ready.
The next scene shows the coach closing Cheryl’s eyes and I tell you; I already know what’s going to happen.
The detective asks Billy and the coach which of them killed Cheryl just as one of the deputies enters with Julie… alive. I knew she was headstrong. Julie says that it was Cheryl that was the murderer. The detective doesn’t believe the girl and tells the deputy to leave. The deputy takes the girl and leaves. Before the detective can kill Billy, the coach uses the same fire poker and knocks the gun from the detective’s hand. The detective and the coach struggle while Billy take aim at them. Billy shoots the detective three times. I’m not exactly sure why. I mean, I get that the dude was a homophobic douche nozzle, but still.
The deputy reenters with Julie and tells Billy to drop the gun. Billy complies. Julie and Billy embrace, and it freeze frames.
Lines of text scroll up over the faces of the lovers. “Billy Lynch stood trial for the slaying of Lieutenant Carlson. The proceedings lasted only four days and the jury unanimously acquitted him on the grounds of temporary insanity.”
Then it says that Julie and Billy are attending the University of Denver.
So, this film was pretty weird. However, the best part of it was seeing the degrading sanity of Cheryl. I thought that Tyrrell was a perfect casting for Cheryl.
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