Celebrating 40 years since it’s initial release comes this exploitation flick from Director William Asher, can now be considered something of a forgotten gem, with some marked commentary on homosexuality, the oedipus complex, and twisting our expectations of the slasher genre.
It’s a curious tale that plays to the extreme and borderline incestious protection of an estranged mother figure towards a nephew. It is this relationship that borders on the strains of inappropriate behaviour.
The story is focused on Billy (Jimmy McNichol), a basketballer with promise of a future career in the sport is held back by his Aunt Cheryl (Susan Tyrell) in order to contribute to maintaining the house; a guide for fuelling her sexual desires.
Things turn sour when Cheryl invites local repairman, Phil to fix their tv set, she ramps up her lustful needs by forcing herself upon him. When this is not received in kind, Cheryl turns to rage, murdering Phil in cold blood. This is witnessed by Billy, so Cheryl tries to convince him that it was self defence as Phil was trying to tape her.
The story doesn’t wash up however when it’s revealed that Phil is gay, leading chief detective, Joe Carlson to believe that their is a love triangle involved between Phil, Billy and the basketball coach, Tom. This throws Billy into suspicion as a possible suspect, which isn’t helped by Joe’s narrowmindedness.
In the reversal of damsel in distress horror tropes, Billy is on the receiving end of evil pursuit and his only ally at this stage appears to be his girlfriend Julia. This relationship itself puts Julia into the firing line from Cheryl’s jealousy and amps up the complexities of the interweaving narratives towards a bloodied and crazed conclusion.
There is a heck of a lot of social commentary on display here disguised as an exploitation horror flick, which is why the film probably deserves more attention and love that it received. Yes if alls into shlocky territory, but the entertainment and intellifence that is on display is well worth your time.
- Saul Muerte
Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker is currently screening on Shudder.