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Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker (Severin Films) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker (Severin Films) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: May 28th, 2024.
    Director: William Asher
    Cast: Jimmy McNichol, Susan Tyrell, Bo Svenson
    Year: 1981
    Purchase From Amazon

    Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker – Movie Review:

    Directed by William Asher and also known under the alternate title of Night Warning, 1981's Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker opens with a scene where two parents, Anna (Kay Kimler) and Bill Lynch (Gary Baxley), hand off their young three-year-old son, Billy, to Cheryl Roberts (Susan Tyrell) as they head off for a vacation together. Shortly after they leave, they realize the breaks aren't working and crash into a track carrying some logs. The man is decapitated and the woman, still in the car, goes over a cliff and dies.

    Fourteen years later and young Billy (Jimmy McNichol) is now a seventeen-year-old high school senior and a VIP on the school's basketball team. He's dating Julie Linden (Julia Duffy) and appears happy at home with his aunt Cheryl, who has raised him all these many years. Cheryl, however, has issues. She asks Billy to send over Phil Brody (Caskey Swaim), the local TV repairman, to look at their set and, once she's alone with him, tries quite aggressively to coerce him into having sex with her. When it doesn't go the way she wants it to, she stabs him to death… just as Billy comes home from school. She tells him he tried to rape her and just as Billy pulls the knife out of Phil's corpse, friends Margie (Marcia Lewis) and Frank (Cooper Neal), swing by for a visit. The cops are called and Detective Joe Carlson (Bo Svenson) knows right away that something is wrong with the story.

    When Carlson, with some help from Sergeant Cook (Britt Leach), finds out that Phil was gay and having a clandestine affair with Billy's coach, Steve Eastin (Tom Landers), he starts to wonder if Billy was gay too, unsure if he was the one who killed Phil or if he was covering for his aunt. Meanwhile, word gets out about Eastin, which leads Billy into getting into a fight with mouthy teammate Eddie (Bill Paxton). When Cheryl finds out that Billy might be getting a basketball scholarship and leaving town, her behavior becomes increasingly unhinged.

    Part horror picture and part over the top melodrama, Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker is a showcase for the insane acting abilities of the late Susan Tyrell. Here, as Cheryl, she chews through the scenery with reckless abandon and we're all better off for it. Whether it's one of the many moments where she creepily consoles or comforts Billy, her attempt to seduce Phil Brody or her twisted attempts to literally eliminate her problems in the latter half of the film, Tyrell just goes for it here and she's a blast to watch. Bo Svenson gives her a run for her money, with his portrayal of the blatantly homophobic cop in charge of the investigation, but as surly and dislikeable as his Detective Carlson may be, he still stands squarely in Tyrell's shadow.

    The rest of the cast do decent work here as well. Jimmy McNichol is likeable enough as the male lead here, playing his part well. He has decent enough chemistry with Julia Duffy, who is also quite likeable here. A young but instantly recognizable Bill Paxton plays the school bully pretty effectively and Tom Landers makes for a pretty sympathetic gay character. Maria Lewis and Cooper Neal are, intentionally or not, rather comedic here and it's fun to see Britt Leach from Silent Night, Deadly Night show up in the film.

    Production values are pretty solid. There are a few decent gore effects in the film and the main house where Cheryl and Billy live and where much of the movie takes place looks right. The cinematography is good and the score works quite well. Overall, this one is a bit of a gem.

    Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker – UHD Review:

    Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker arrives on UHD in an HEVC encoded 2160p presentation framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, the film’s original aspect ratio, in an HDR10 enhanced transfer taken from a 4k scan of the original 35mm negative. This is a nice step up from the previous Code Red Blu-ray, which looked quite good, with really nice detail letting you take in all of the tacky décor on display in the film and all of the texture evident in the wardrobe and drapery. The source material used was in excellent shape, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any dirt, debris or damage and the image is free of compression problems, noise reduction or edge enhancement issues. All in all, this looks really strong.

    The only audio option for the feature included on the disc is a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, in the film’s native English, with optional subtitles provided in English only. The audio is quite good, the levels are properly balanced and free of any hiss, distortion or sibilance. Dialogue is always easy to understand and to follow.

    The first disc in this two disc set, the UHD, starts off its selection of extra features with an audio commentary, carried over from the Code Red edition, with actor Jimmy McNichol moderated by Jeff McKay and Bill Olsen as well as a second track featuring producer/writer Steven Breimer and co-writer Alan Jay Glueckman moderated by Nathanial Thompson, also carried over from that earlier release. These are both worth listening to if you haven't already, with the McNichol track discussing what it was like acting in the film at a young age, working with the cast and crew and thoughts on Tyrell specifically. The second track is a bit more focused on the behind-the-scenes aspects, the casting, the marketing of the film and how it all came together.

    A third audio commentary gets Co-Producer and Unit Production Manager Eugene Mazzola together, morderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures. They go over how Mazzola got into filmmaking along with his background and training, how he came to work on this movie, the different behind the scenes roles he's had over the years, important connections that he made in his early days, the different family members he has in the film business, the importance of Roger Corman's work, how budgetary restraints affected the movie, the effects work in the film, thoughts on the performances in the movie and how the relate to what was in the script and plenty more details regarding his experiences working on the movie and his career in general.

    A trailer for the feature is also included.

    Disc two, a Blu-ray disc, ports over all of the extras from the UHD and also includes Extreme Prejudice, an interview with Actor Bo Svenson running ten minutes. He talks about how much fun he had playing "faucets of me" in various situations, allowing him to basically play himself in the movie. He goes on to talk about what it was like on set, arriving without having to paid much attention to the script, getting along with Tyrell (who he describes as "super weird" and "very cool") and the other cast members, the challenges he ran into playing a homophobic character, thoughts on Director William Asher, memories of shooting the scene where he gets shot and the importance of being authentic.

    Point And Shoot is an interview with Director Of Photography Robbie Greenberg. This fifteen minute piece covers how he came to work on the movie after learning that the Director and Cinematographer originally slated on the film left after a week, his interest in still photography and how it led to his getting work in the film industry, getting along with the very professional Asher, shooting at the various locations used in the movie, memories of shooting specific sequences for the project, the film's low budget, thoughts on the cast with an emphasis on Tyrell, the difficulties involved in shooting scenes with squibs and how he feels about the movie and the work he did on it decades after the fact.

    Editor Ted Nicolaou is up next in a piece called Family Dynamics, a seventeen minute featurette that goes over the themes that the film deals with, how the movie is a weird genre hybrid unlike anything else from the era, his background and training, how he got into editing, his work recording sond on Texas Chain Saw Massacre, moving to Los Angeles and working on Roar, landing the job on Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker, cutting the car scene that opens the film, staying on even when the Director and Cinematographer changed, thoughts on the cast and their performances, why the movie works as a "story of characters" and why the movie still resonates today.

    On top of that, the disc includes a few archival interviews ported over from the Code Red release. Jimmy McNichol spends eight-minutes talking about his career, how he got cast and what it was like working on the film, it covers some of the same ground as the commentary track. The eleven minute interview with Susan Tyrell is fairly insane as she's clearly playing a character here and having a lot of fun doing it. She doesn't offer up much in the way of memories from the shoot but it is amusing to see her reacting to the film, which she claims she'd never seen before. Actor Steven Eastin speaks for ten minutes about how he landed the part on the movie, thoughts on his character and working with the rest of the cast, Tyrell in particular. Makeup Artist Allan A. Apone gets a quick five-minute piece where he talks about some of the effects work in the film, what it was like on set, and how Bo Svenson wound up in some hot water with a hairdresser. Producer Steve Brimer gets twelve-minutes on camera to talk about the film's marketing campaign, how it wound up being such an obscure title for as long as it was and how he feels about the movie overall.

    We finish up the disc with a trailer, a TV spot, menus and chapter selection options.

    Severin packages this release with some reversible cover sleeve art and, if you buy it from their webstore, you can get yourself a limited edition slipcover.

    Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker - The Final Word:

    Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker is worth seeing for Tyrell's delightfully unhinged performance alone! Overall, it's a really entertaining mix of over-the-top histrionics, melodrama and horror movie tropes that results in something pretty unique in genre cinema. The UHD/Blu-ray combo edition from Severin Films gives this cult classic an excellent 4k facelift and is loaded with extra. Highly recommended!



    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized screen caps from the included Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker Blu-ray (which are used only to illustrate the movie, not the transfer quality of this UHD release).

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