Nightmare(s In a Damaged Brain): A New Challenger Appears!

88 Films' blu-ray of Nightmare(s In a Damaged Brain) has just landed, and I'm pretty excited! How does the new transfer compare to the previous US blu from Code Red? How are the extras different? Is it a different cut? Well, I've got them right here, so we're about to find out everything for sure. But just to give you a hint up front? I'm smilin'. 😃

Update 11/28/15 - 9/12/23: Bigger smile!  😁  Severin Films has just dropped their all new, 3-disc UHD/ BD special edition combo-pack.
The only reason I'm not even more excited than I am is that, frankly, I'm not a huge fan of this movie. It's got a stilted, semi-amateurish feel in places, with kind of a cheap look and a few really hammy performances. Plus, the story is kind of a mess, like maybe they had trouble getting 100% of the script on screen as written. But, I think our quasi-protagonist C.J. is great... he reminds me a lot of the kid in Trick Or Treats in all the best ways, and the showdown at the end of the film is terrific. And if you're looking for sleazy sex and violence along the way, Nightmare certainly delivers.
88 Films: the last frame in this shot
But let me stop beating around the bush and answer your #1 question: does 88's version feature the missing footage from the old Dutch VHS release, as detailed by movie-censorship? Yes! Mostly! That shot above is the infamous shot of the killer behind the kid in the house everyone was asking about, and that Code Red put up on their storefront. Here it is, in HD for the first time, looking great. And yes, the extra shots of the babysitter being stalked and the extra stuff at Gatsby's bar is all in here as well. The shot of the kid walking up to the house is also longer. It features absolutely everything in Code Red's cut, plus these long missing bits.

But having examined things a little closer with user Trampled on the forums, there is a bit of footage still missing. In the babysitter scene, some of the shots are restored as I described above, but there's also a bit where the kids come that is still missing. Then, the bar room stuff is 100% restored, but the last shot of the killer behind the kid seems to be missing some final frames... movie-censorship shows his hands on the kid's neck, whereas this one cuts out just as the killer's fingertips reach his neck. Of course, that shot is missing entirely from Code Red's blu, and almost all of it is restored on 88's. But there is still a smidgen missing.
Severin's deleted scene goes this much further
And now Severin's release?  We're told on the back of the case that theirs is "scanned from the internegative and various foreign print sources to create the most complete version ever assembled."  And, well... it's basically the 88 cut.  It's six seconds longer because they've added Tom Savini's credit back to the opening titles.  That's the only difference, though I suppose technically, that does make it the most complete version ever assembled.  It has all the footage that 88 restored, but it's still missing the babysitter bit and those last remaining frames of the killer's hand at the kid's neck.  Except, they have gone and recovered that footage and included it as two deleted scenes, with an explainer stating the footage was "cut from all 35mm pre-print and print elements we were able to track down around the world. It was likely excised from the film before release in most territories but somehow the video masters... contained an earlier cut."  The first scene is fairly substantial, but the killer's hand bit is down to a difference of just ten additional frames.  But here they are now, finally on disc, if only as VHS-sourced extras.
And the transfers are fairly different, too. Different but pretty equal in the case of the original two blus. It had been assumed for a long time that 88 Films was just going to use Code Red's transfer, which they created, to release in their market... until they announced they were making their own, which is visibly pretty different. And now that Severin's remastered the film in 4k, Nightmare's been given another fresh face.  Let's take a look.
1) 2014 Code Red BD; 2) 2015 88 Films BD;
3) 2023 Severin BD; 4) 2023 Severin UHD.

It's hard not to notice the differences in color timing, so let's start with that. In general, Code Red's transfer leans towards purple and 88's leans towards green. Which was better tended to vary depending on the shot, but Severin consistently finds the happy medium, with the most natural, balanced colors.  Framing-wise, both previous blus are full 1.78:1, which Severin finally mattes down to a proper 1.85:1.  But the differences don't stop there, as we find some substantial shifts within those frames (horizontally in the first set, vertically in the second). What's the title of the film the killer's walking past in the second set of shots? Only Code Red knows for sure. What's also interesting about that is 88 and Severin's framing matches Code Red's older DVD release, as Simon M. memorably posted on the AVManiacs forum. Which is truer to the director's vision? I don't know for sure, but Code Red's blu is the outlier, so I'm going to guess everybody else is basically right.
1) 2014 Code Red BD; 2) 2015 88 Films BD;
3) 2023 Severin BD; 4) 2023 Severin UHD.

And how about print damage? You may remember when 88 Films released the first screenshots of their new transfer as compared to Code Red's [see the original comparison I posted on Twitter on the right], their screenshot had cleaned up all the ugly green emulsion spots that had dirtied the film (or at least used a different source print that didn't have that damage on it). But since we got their complete transfer, we see it has some of its own.  Look at the shots above. Is the white spot to the left of the lamp really preferable to the green spot on the mom's shoulder?  Well now Severin has the least, but there are still flecks and plenty of flickering.  It very much still feels like old film.  And that's mostly a good thing anyway, especially when it comes to the more natural film grain and increased resolution of the new 4k.  Code Red's is the softest, with 88 and Severin hanging pretty close in terms of crispness and detail, especially when comparing the 1080p blus.

Both of the older discs had solid LPCM mono tracks.  Severin switches it up to DTS-HD, and also adds a 5.1 remix (in DTS-HD as well).  But the best news here is that they've finally added English subtitles, which all previous editions lacked.
And when it comes to extras, it's all good news. Code Red's is really loaded with an audio commentary by star Baird Stafford and the make-up artist Cleve Hall, on-camera interviews with Stafford, Hall, distributor Tom Ward, producer Bill Milling, effects artist Ed French, and co-star Mik Cribbon. It also has the full 96 minute(!) interview with director Romano Scavolini subtitled (the same interview that was on Code Red's previous DVD, but spoken in Italian with no English subtitles). And there's two different Nightmare trailers.

88 Films doesn't have quite as much, but what it has is virtually all new... especially rewarding for those of us who double-dipped. Their stand-out extra is an all new audio commentary by producer Bill Paul. He's wonderfully free about his opinions and has great, specific memories - you definitely don't want to miss this commentary. They've also got a segment on 42nd St. When I originally heard 88 was including a featurette on the locations of Nightmare, I was imaging them finding all those wild Florida spots, but instead this just feels like deleted scenes from Calum Waddell's 42nd Street Memories. At least the killer did go to 42nd St in the movie for a couple of minutes, so it kinda syncs up, and I'd rather have this than not. 88 also has a booklet including text interviews with Scavolini and Stafford, one trailer, some bonus trailers for other 88 releases and reversible artwork, so it's a very nice package. Oh, and I said "virtually all new," because they also include a two minute interview with Tom Ward, which is actually just a clip taken from Code Red's feature.
And now Severin?  They've got the best extras package of all.  First, they've retained both legacy commentaries: Code Red's and 88's.  And they've added all new interviews with Romano Scavolini (72 minutes long!  And why yes, he does delve into the childhood origins of the 19th century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard), a 40 minute 'making of' documentary with interviews with 21st Century Distribution's Arthur Schweitzer, Mik Cribben, production supervisor Simon Nuchtern, Bill Milling and editor Jim Markovic.  Plus it includes excerpts from Code Red's interviews with Baird Stafford, Ed French and Cleve Hall.  They also have separate on-camera interviews with Tom Savini (to definitively clear up the mystery of his involvement) and makeup artist Robin Stevens.  There's a new locations tour video with host Michael Gingold, an open matte version of the peep show scene (yes, for the reason you're guessing), an art gallery, the aforementioned deleted scenes and both Nightmare trailers.
Escape To Entebbe
And that's before we even get to disc 3!  This one's starts us off with the feature-length documentary Damaged: The Very British Obscenity of David Hamilton-Grant.  Now, you might be looking back at the film's credits trying to remember who David Hamilton-Grant is... was he a co-producer or something?  No, he's a British distributor who went to jail for releasing Nightmare uncut on VHS during the "video nasty" days.  This doc tells his whole story, and yes, Nightmare is featured in it prominently.  Then, we also get four vintage short films Hamilton made: three roughly hour-long softcore sex flicks and a short (racist?) parody of General Idi Amin Dada: a Self Portrait.  I can't say I was terribly interested in the sex flicks, and we've wondered pretty far afield of Nightmare by now, but the little Dada short is worth the watch.  And I appreciate the preservation effort.

Anyway, Severin's release also includes an 8-page booklet with notes by Nathanial Thompson, reversible artwork and an embossed slipcover if you order it directly from the label.  Or you could splurge for their fancier package, which also includes an all-new novelization of the film by Gingold and a Severin t-shirt.
So, it was a bit of a weird, frustrating choice between the two blu-rays.  Code Red had more and better extras, but 88 Film's cut had the extra footage. And the transfers were pretty much a tie.  So it was a real hard call trying to pick one or the other, and hardcore fans were left wanting both.  But Severin has cleaned up the mess, now definitively offering the best edition of the longest cut with the best extras, and even on a higher gen format.  Super duper hardcore fans may still want the previous blus for the exclusive remaining extras, but honestly, I wouldn't bother.  All the important stuff has either been ported over, or replaced with better HD interviews.  And unless somebody discovers lost negatives with those deleted scenes in a warehouse someday, I'd say this is the last, best edition we're ever going to get of Nightmare.  It almost justifies the outrageous price Severin is charging for it.  😛


  1. 88films version was done by VinegarSyndrome.

    1. I'm beginning to think VinegarSyndrome will be doing a new release since they released the other Romano Scavolini flick Dog Tags, which was originally going to be on a double feature bluray with Nightmare from Massacre Video, but now Vinegar Syndrome has released Dog Tags on it's own. Probably better than way since I'm not a big fan of double feature discs, but will buy them when I have to just to get more movies on bluray and in HD.