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Is ‘Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker’ Too Problematic for 2022?

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The underrated 80s slasher Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1981) may seem out of touch in 2022 at first glance. It features a homophobic cop, problematic portrayals of women’s mental illness, and incest. Yet, as I watched this film, I was taken aback by its brutal honesty and surprisingly progressive take. The poorly timed, slightly ridiculous jump scares don’t even take away from what’s really frightening about this horror film—The deeply unsettling fact that each of us could lose any semblance of control we think we have over our life at any moment.

Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker’s (BBNM) protagonist is Billy (Jimmy McNichol), a kindhearted seventeen-year-old kid who’s growing up—he has a new girlfriend (Julia Duffy) and he’s a budding basketball star. His aunt Cheryl (Susan Tyrrell) adopted him when he was a toddler after his parents died in a suspicious car accident.

It doesn’t take long to notice that Cheryl has a strange obsession with Billy. The first interaction we see between the two of them is while Billy is asleep, and Cheryl wakes him up by stroking his bare back and leaning in close to purr and mew in his ear. Clearly, there are some boundary issues going on from the get-go.

Susan Tyrrell’s performance is truly exquisite, as she does a fantastic job portraying the realities of emotional and sexual abuse. Frankly, her performance carries the entire movie. Cheryl is relatively kind to Billy at the beginning, but once he announces his chance of getting a full-ride basketball scholarship to a university far from home, she begins a devious plot to make him stay. And by a devious plot, I mean extreme manipulation, the force-feeding of drugged milk, and—of course—murder.

Cheryl’s character falls into sexist tropes such as the fact that she was driven to insanity because her ex-boyfriend left her. At the same time, Tyrrell’s portrayal of Cheryl’s descent into madness coupled with her exponential ramp-up of psychological abuse in order to make Billy stay is direct, honest, and real.

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What shocked me the most about BBNM is its progressive take on homosexuality. The story is a blunt and accurate depiction of American society’s general attitude towards gay people in the ‘80s. Detective Joe Carlson (Bo Svenson) is investigating a murder connected to Billy and his aunt when he discovers that the male murder victim had a boyfriend. He then proceeds to be extremely homophobic: he outs the high school basketball coach and tells him to quit or else, he calls many people—including children—a f*g, and he asks Billy’s girlfriend how often they have sex because he believes Billy killed a man over a gay lovers’ quarrel.

You’re probably thinking, “well, that movie sounds god-awful and extremely problematic.” The thing is, BBNM makes it clear that Detective Carlson is no hero. In some ways, he is the ultimate villain of the story. His character reminds viewers that people who are supposed to help us when we’re in trouble may actually be sinister. The movie is firmly on the side of Billy, the hero of the story, who is very close to the gay basketball coach, even after the coach is outed. Homophobia is depicted as a terrifying threat, which I believe is a fantastic message to carry into 2022.

Ultimately, BBNM is concerned with the concept of agency, and that is why this movie is a fantastic fixture in the Horror genre. Aunt Cheryl tries to strip Billy of his agency when he decides he wants to move away and start his adult life without her. The abuse and manipulation she uses on Billy are designed to strip him of his power and make him feel like he has no choice but to obey.

When the police appeared in the story, I sat up on my couch and nodded at the T.V. screen. “Ah, ok,” I said to myself, “now someone will help Billy get out of this horrible situation!” Oh, boy was I wrong. Instead of depicting the police as a source of hope, the film uses the primary detective to further add to the viewer’s dread and contribute to the dwindling hope that accelerates as the story progresses.

I don’t want to spoil it, but the ending is what sold me on BBNM. I’ll say this: it’s full of surprising twists and I truly had no clue who would be the victor until the very end. In my opinion, the ending is empowering and presents agency in a new light. It encourages us to embrace our individual power while we simultaneously support those we love. It may not appear so at first, but this movie is still fantastic in 2022 because of its raw portrayal of society’s ills, its deeply unsettling—yet ultimately hopeful—themes, and (of course) Susan Tyrrell’s outstanding performance.

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You can stream ‘Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker’ on Shudder.

 

Hey! I’m Maya, a snarky, queer freelance writer, horror enthusiast, and history nerd. My hope is that my writing both entertains my readers and provides educational commentary on human behavior & society. In my spare time, I love to eat food, hang out with my girlfriend, and needle felt little monster sculptures.

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It Came From Shudder: December Edition

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It’s the first Friday of December! You know what that means, it’s time to share a small selection of movies that we’ve watched, or are looking forward to watching on Shudder. Look, we get it, Shudder serves up tons of content and it’s constantly adding new stuff to its catalog. So we’re here to help you with a handful of recommendations.

What to watch on Shudder this Month

A Wounded Fawn
This trailer caught my eye from the start. From what I gather, it’s about a woman who goes on a weekend getaway with a man she’s been seeing who happens to be a serial killer. Starring Sarah Lind and Josh Ruben, this movie looks very suspenseful… and weird? I can’t wait to watch this and get to the bottom of all the weird visuals sprinkled into the trailer.

 

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Christmas Bloody Christmas
Directed by Joe Begos, this movie takes place on Christmas Eve and pits a record store owner against a violent homicidal robot Santa Claus. Yes, I know how that sounds, and yes, I’m sure it’s going to be awesome. The trailer looks so colorful, and it immediately transported me to my second most favorite time of the year, Christmas. Robo-Santa Plus looks brutal and over the top, two things I love in my horror. Christmas Bloody Christmas is available to stream on Shudder starting December 9th.

 

Scare Package 2: Rad Chad’s Revenge
If you’re a fan of horror anthologies like we, then you’re going to love Scare Package 2: Rad Chad’s Revenge. The highly anticipated sequel to fan favorite Scare Package follows Rad Chad’s funeral, where attendees must survive death traps based on Chad’s favorite movies.

A Nightmare on Elm Street
Shudder outdid themselves this time. Bringing us not just A Nightmare on Elm Street, but the entire collection! Do yourself a favor and rewatch these movies immediately, because I can guarantee you it’s been too long since the last time you did. As a bonus make sure to give Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street a watch. Seeing Nightmare on Elm Street 2 actor Mark Patton’s perspective and experience as a gay actor makes for some of the most touching, compelling TV in recent memory.

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Joe Bob’s Goultide Get-Together
Live streaming Friday, December 16th at 9 PM Eastern on Shudder TV. This holiday-themed episode will surely be filled with fun facts, awesome interviews, and a double feature that will have us all tweeting in excitement. As of now, we have no idea which movies will play and that’s half the fun! The other half? Guessing Darcy’s cosplays for the night. If you have never participated in a Joe Bob live stream, make sure you tune in on time and have Twitter ready to engage! It’s a good time. If you happen to miss the live stream, no worries! The episode will be available to stream later on in the weekend.

Next time you’re looking for something to watch on Shudder, make sure to stream these titles!

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There’s News Down in Newville: ‘The Mean One’ (Horror-Parody of ‘The Grinch’) Trailer Has Arrived

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As the release of The Grinch horror parody draws near, The Mean One trailer is finally here!

David Howard Thornton, who has recently skyrocketed in popularity due to his fantastic performance as Art the Clown in the Terrifier films, plays the titular “Mean One.” Given his previous success with making a monster that can be as entertaining as terrifying, he is a perfect match for the role of the antagonist in this Christmas horror comedy.

Directed by Steven Lamorte, the film follows a grown-up Cindy You-Know-Who (Krystle Martin) who witnessed her mother be murdered by the Christmas-hating green monster years prior. As the trailer shows Cindy arming herself with weapons, Krystle Martin’s character promises to make for a badass female lead.

One marked difference between this film and its source material is that it gives us a monster amongst humans rather than a creature amongst other creatures. Judging by the trailer, that will be far from the only difference offered by the horror parody of the Dr. Seuss Christmas favorite.

He may not stop Christmas from coming, but he will make it his own.

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Check out The Mean One in theaters on December 9th!

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