Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1981)
May 23, 2021 6:23 PM - Subscribe

This psychological slasher and queer cult classic from 1982 tells the story of orphaned teen Billy (Jimmy McNichol) who becomes caught up in the twisted mind of his increasingly unhinged Aunt Cheryl (Susan Tyrrell, really going for it). It's driven by a surprisingly upfront queer subplot involving a bigoted detective who suspects Billy is part of a gay love triangle that ended in murder, and features a positive portrayal of a gay high school basketball coach along with some campy, gorey thrills. (It also lingers an awful lot on Jimmy McNichol's topless chest and butt, and includes a young Bill Paxton as a homophobic teammate.) Available on Shudder.

Some good discussion of the film's themes ("the 1980s' most twisted, bizarre cinematic vision of motherhood") and reception at Wikipedia

Possibly triggering: There are characters who use homophobic slurs in the film.

Later re-released as Night Warning.
posted by mediareport (4 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I didn't expect much from this period piece of a queer horror movie, but was surprised to find it holds up really well, mostly on the basis of Susan Tyrrell's portrait of a mother figure from hell who starts off believably creepy and then ramps up from there to a tense and bloody final act. Jimmy McNichol isn't a great actor (Bill Paxton was actually considered for the main role, if only) but he does ok as the camera lingers over his nipples a lot. There's some good campy gore (that car crash lol) and a relatively queer-positive vibe (despite the homophobic detective and teammate) that really surprised me for 1982.
posted by mediareport at 6:39 PM on May 23, 2021

Agreed - I just saw this recently and was pleasantly surprised! The homophobic detective is definitely a bad guy, as is Bill Paxton. The coach is just a normal guy, which is really a breath of fresh air for this time period. I also liked Billy and Julia telling homophobic detective to f*ck off when he was trying to determine whether they were having a sexual relationship.

And Susan Tyrell is at her Susan Tyrell-iest here.
posted by queensissy at 2:11 PM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

She's absolutely fantastic in this, and really commits to the darkness, especially after she cuts off her hair. And yeah, Our Hero just saying "I'm not gay"* instead of going "EW NO HOW DARE YOU!" is really ahead of its time, as is Julia's "whatever, fuck you" reaction to the cop who asks.

I really want to talk about the ending but will hold off for folks who haven't seen it. I'll just say it's very much not representative of that time period.

*although the mysterious after-practice hour-long discussion with Coach early on, and Julia's question as they're naked in bed, "Why haven't we had sex more often?" which Billy doesn't really answer, do at least leave some wiggle room for queer culture critics to postulate, theorize, and such.
posted by mediareport at 2:51 PM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Wow, I'm gonna have to rewatch this movie with adult eyes. I'm definitely intrigued. The presence of the late great Susan Tyrrell is an added bonus.
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:49 PM on May 25, 2021

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