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  NIGHT WARNING

Another cult favorite I donít get. If you have a yen to see actress Susan Tyrell go nuts than NIGHT WARNING will seem a classic, as in that area it satisfies, but itís essentially a glorified TV movie in all other respects.

The Package
     This film, titled BUTCHER, BAKER, NIGHTMARE MAKER but better known by its VHS moniker NIGHT WARNING, is beloved by many. It was voted the Best Horror Movie of 19892 by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, and regularly lands on cult movie loversí favorite film lists.
     The primary reason for its popularity seems to be the presence of Susan Tyrrell in the lead role of a smothering murderess. Tyrrell is an L.A. cult figure whoís made a career straddling the fringes of mainstream filmmaking. Films sheís graced include FAT CITY, I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN and FORBIDDEN ZONE. Always drawn to the offbeat and extreme, Tyrrell seems a natural choice to play a crazy woman.
     Other cult performers who appeared in the film include WALKING TALLíS Bo Svenson, GENERAL HOSPITALíS Jimmy McNichol, and, in a tiny part, a young Bill Paxton.

The Story
     Following the deaths of his parents in a horrific car crash, three-year-old Billy is sent to live with his aunt Cheryl. The story begins fourteen years later, when Billy is a teenager.
     Heís still living with his aunt, whose affections toward him are a mite unnatural. She dotes on him constantly, and completely freaks out when Billy announces he wants to leave for college--and nor is she too pleased when he brings home a pretty blonde girlfriend.
     Cherylís deteriorating mental state first manifests itself with a handyman she impulsively comes on to; when he rebuffs her advances Cheryl stabs the guy to death. This alerts a homophobic police lieutenant, who doesnít buy Cherylís story that the guy tried to rape her. He believes Billy killed the guy because the two were gay lovers!
     More gory murders follow, leading to an inevitable three-way showdown between Cheryl, Billy and the obsessed lieutenant--and the outcome ainít pretty!

The Direction
     Director William Asher is best known for directing a string of forgettable 1960s-era Beach Party pictures and lots of episodic television. That explains why NIGHT WARNING is such a pedestrian effort, pulled off with a bare minimum of energy and excitement.
     The sets are cheap and artificial, particularly in the none-too-suspenseful climax. In addition, the cinematography is poor; the intent may have been to create a dark look, but what comes off is that there just isnít enough light.
     Yes, Susan Tyrrell is fun to watch, but this is far from her best work. Acting-wise she essentially repeats the same note over and over, so by the end all she elicits is boredom. But at least she makes an impression, which none of the other actors ever do.
 

Vital Statistics

NIGHT WARNING (a.k.a. BUTCHER, BAKER, NIGHTMARE MAKER)
Comworld Pictures/Thorn Emi Video

Director: William Asher
Producer: Stephen Breimer
Screenplay: Stephen Breimer, Alan Jay Glueckman, Boom Collins
Cinematography: Robbie Greenberg
Editing: Ted Nicolaou
Cast: Susan Tyrrell, Bo Svenson, Jimmy McNichol, Marcia Lewis, Julia Duffy, Britt Leach, Steve Eastin, Caskey Swaim, Cooper Neal, Bill Paxton

     

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