You know you’re in for an interesting ride when the studio can’t decide what the title is.
The version I watched over on Shudder was titled Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker, which made maybe a little more sense than Night Warning, since I’m not really sure what the warning was in this movie. I mean, things happened at night, but they weren’t really warnings. They were murders. So maybe Night Stabbings would be more accurate?
So this movie starts off with Anonymous Mom and Dad leaving their toddler, Billy, with Aunt Cheryl (Susan Tyrell) while they go off to visit their parents. Billy is most definitely NOT happy about it, because he cries like someone is threatening to murder his puppy off-camera. Mom and Dad drive off and almost immediately are on a steep and winding road when the brakes go out. They run into the back of a lumber truck and a log crashes through the windshield, flattening Dad’s head and causing the car to fly off a cliff, with mom screaming all the way down until it lands in a creek.
At this point, I was in the middle of writing, “I’m a little disappointed that the car didn’t explode” when guess what? THE CAR EXPLODES. Even though it’s sitting in water. I immediately decided this movie was BRILLIANT.
Cut to 14 years later, and apparently Billy is still staying with Aunt Cheryl. BTW, Billy is played by Jimmy McNichol, Kristy’s younger brother who has apparently not quite mastered speaking like a human. Aunt Cheryl, on the other hand, thinks it’s totally normal to wake him up by draping herself over him and blowing sexily in his ear. And I guess if he’s been raised just by her, he wouldn’t know that was weird. Which begs the question: why does he seem so normal, with his perfectly feathered hair and all?
Then we see Billy playing basketball at school (it’s shirts vs. skins, woohoo!) and it’s made clear that Billy’s an awesome player even though teammate Bill Paxton doesn’t like him. I kind of wish Bill Paxton had more to do in this movie, but sadly, he doesn’t even get murdered. So while they’re playing, my screen started to freeze every few seconds, and I thought it was a glitchy stream but NOPE it was just the film’s way of showing us that the someone’s taking a lot of terrible action shots of the game. Enter Julie, school photographer, and HOLY SMOKES it’s Julia Duffy from Newhart! Who else is in this movie???
So Billy and Julie are jazzed because not only is it Billy’s birthday, but a basketball scout is coming to The Big Game and the coach thinks Billy may win a scholarship, which is great because Aunt Cheryl has made it really clear that she does NOT support Billy’s going to college and leaving her. Meanwhile, a Nosy Neighbor Lady asks Cheryl if she’d like to be set up with some new single dude in town. Cheryl firmly says no…but then makes a really awkward pass at the handyman just a few hours later. He is totally not into her so she stabs him to death, which Billy sees because it’s suddenly nighttime and he’s home now.
The dude dies and Billy removes the knife from his neck as Aunt Cheryl screams that he was trying to rape her and then she throws herself, bloody exposed chest and all, at Billy. So now they’re BOTH covered in blood and in walk Mr. and Mrs. Nosy Neighbor for Billy’s big birthday dinner. OOPS! It’s like a Three’s Company episode gone off the rails, especially because this couple is very Roper-ish. “We said ‘COME AND KNOCK ON OUR DOOR,’ not ‘WALK RIGHT INTO OUR MURDER KITCHEN!'”
So then the cops come and Aunt Cheryl is sticking with her story. But unfortunately, Bo Svenson is playing the detective in charge and he’s like a cross between Dennis Leary and Joe Don Baker, only SUPER HOMOPHOBIC. Like, way over the top, even for a cop in 1982. It becomes clear pretty quickly that he wants to pin this all on Billy, not for any reason that makes sense but because he just doesn’t like Billy.
So naturally, Detective Bo gets super excited when he finds out that the handyman was gay because that would mean his instincts were right that the handyman didn’t try to rape Aunt Cheryl. But not for crime-fighting reasons; it just would mean that Billy was a QUEER, which he really wants to believe because of REASONS.
But the corker is, here’s how he KNOWS the handyman was gay: because he was wearing a ring engraved, with love, from the basketball coach. Not because his name is there, but because of the INITIALS on the ring.
Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but sharing initials isn’t exactly evidence, amirite? I mean, just because the basketball coach has the same initials as whoever gave the handyman a ring doesn’t mean that (a) that person is the basketball coach or (b) that the ring-gifter was in a sexual or even a romantic relationship with the handyman. Right?
But when confronted in the sleaziest way possible about this by Detective Bo, Coach just kind of smiles and shrugs. REALLY??? So despite clearly not wanting to be outed (because it’s 1982), Coach just admits to a clearly homophobic cop that yes, he was in love with the handyman and gave him a ring. But he really wants Detective Bo to understand that Billy had nothing to do with this. And of course, this just makes Bo want to pin this on Billy even more, because he’s an awful human being first and a cop second.
Meanwhile, Billy and Julie finally have sex (does Peter Scolari know about this, Julia?) and Aunt Cheryl catches them and kicks Julie out. The Good Cop–you know, the one that’s not Detective Bo–steps out of the bushes and tells her, hey, if you guys had sex, that’s GREAT because that would mean Billy’s not gay and somehow this will prove he didn’t murder the gay handyman. Right??? Again, I still am not following the logic.
Around this point, we realize that Cheryl’s been hiding the remains of her ex-boyfriend (no, it’s never been mentioned before, so don’t worry if you’re confused) in the cellar for years, but I guess Billy hasn’t even tried to go down there because the body’s not even hidden — he’s just laid out there on a cot beside a little altar she has where she talks to his picture and tells him about how she needs to keep Billy there with them.
Things come to a head when Aunt Cheryl starts drugging Billy so he’ll pass out at his big game and lose his scholarship chances. But Billy’s been suspicious and wants to snoop around in her keepsake box. So even though Aunt Cheryl’s been having a ton of angry outbursts and he even SAW her murder the handyman, he asks Julie–the one person Aunt Cheryl detests more than anyone–to distract Aunt Cheryl while he looks through her things.
Julie does, but Billy doesn’t hear Julie being attacked with a meat mallet while he’s in the next room, I guess? He comes out and Julie’s nowhere to be seen, but he notices that Aunt Cheryl has given herself a Pandemic Haircut a few decades too early. (Actually, it doesn’t look half-bad. Brad Mondo probably would have given her a “good try!”)
But Nosy Neighbor Lady pops in just as Billy’s passing out from drinking drugged milk. Nosy overhears Cheryl tell Billy that she’s his real mom, and Dead Cellar Boyfriend is (was) his real dad. That couple from the beginning in the exploding car? They’re just Cheryl’s….something. Brother or sister. It’s not real clear.
This all seems SO MUCH MORE COMPLICATED than it needs to be. It also doesn’t explain why she wants to bang her nephew/son. If anything, this makes it even weirder somehow! Okay, so Nosy has overheard this and knows something weird is happening, so she goes to hide but finds Julie’s camera and handbag. I guess she knows they are Julie’s because they have nametags on them? IDK.
This movie does not stop bringing the crazy at any point. There are several showdowns between Aunt Cheryl and basically everyone. It’s okay though, because somehow Julie survives after several head wounds and Billy’s finally killed Aunt Mom. Detective Bo shows up and even though some other cop tells him that Cheryl was the killer, Bo still wants to just kill Billy. Aunt Mom comes back to life just long enough to distract Bo so Billy can shoot him and somehow, the other cops just know Bo had it comin’ and don’t have a problem with it. Instead, they let Julie run to his arms, and then the film pulls an Animal House where-are-they-now thing and the titles tells us that Billy was found not guilty in the cop shooting due to temporary insanity (said no one ever). It also tells us that Billy and Julie are both at college together. Thanks for the update, movie!
This movie is just banana after banana-level bananas. Seriously. The plot and actions make zero sense, but in its favor, you have a really fun cast doing the best they can with a shit script and apparently, five dollars. Susan Tyrell is pretty freaking awesome as Cheryl, especially when she starts unravelling post-haircut. Check it out if you’ve got Shudder, but please don’t pay more than three dollars to rent this thing.