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Nigel The Psychopath (1994)

aka Playground Massacre
Directed by Jim Larsen
Cemetery Cinema VHS

When you’re a kid, everything is amplified. Every moment is a jumping-off point for something bigger. Life is an unending source of discovery and invincibility. It is a magical time, filled with victories, defeats, and sleepovers.

It is also filled with severed limbs.

Nigel The Psychopath is a shot-on-video horror movie from Virgina that was made by kids. Real kids. In fact, the oldest humanoid in this movie appears to be sixteen because that is how old you need to be to drive a Chrysler LeBaron. When kids have access to a camcorder without the supervision of adults, bad things can happen. Things like wearing a wig and bicycle shorts, setting up a camera on a tripod, and lip-synching to Faith No More’s “Epic” in its entirety. Complete with choreography. Luckily, director Jim Larsen had never heard of Faith No More when he made Nigel. Either that, or he was a lot more creative than I was at age thirteen.

Nigel is a maniacal killer who wears an army jacket and a gas mask. He resembles Shreck from Shreck, another teenage SOV opus, but without all that Nazi accouterment. Nigel attacks children and teenagers at random. A girl is swinging on a jungle-gym, so he removes her hands with a rake. A boy is sliding down a slide, so Nigel chops off one of the kid’s feet. The gore is ultra-cheap and ultra-hilarious. We find out that Nigel’s rage exists because his father died when he was six. Nigel didn’t understand death, so his brother, Chubby, explained that death is what happens when people go to heaven. And heaven “is a place where everyone is a lot happier.” So Nigel is simply making children happier by killing them.

It should be pointed out that Chubby wears a Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 t-shirt and large mom glasses throughout the movie. He also says, “You be ill-ING when you should be chillin’!” He is not fat.

A trio of “cops” hunt Nigel. One of them wears a blue clown wig. There are shoot-outs with plastic Lugers and Lone Ranger cap guns. Nigel steals a BMX bike and morphs from caucasian to black and back again. Lots of kids announce that they’ve gotta pee. There’s a dream sequence (with jarring Super 8 footage) and a very hesitant line-reading of “Sonuvabitch!” Eventually, someone has to stop Nigel. But what can you do when all of the cops are dead? Well, you can have Chubby impersonate his and Nigel’s mother in drag. And instantly become a dead ringer for Bill Haverchuck as The Bionic Woman in that Halloween episode of Freaks And Geeks.

Nigel might be repetitive and plotless, but it’s still more entertaining and realistic than Harmony Korine’s script for Kids. This is the real thing. It’s not as meticulous as teenage epics like Nathan Schiff’s Weasels Rip My Flesh or Webster Colcord’s Doctor DeathNigel has zero planning behind it. But it’s pure. And energetic. And ridiculous. This is white kids in the suburbs ON THE LOOSE, like a mutant Tex Avery cartoon that was hijacked by a juvenile Ogroff. Larson and pals make edits whenever they feel like it. Sometimes a scene lasts for five minutes, sometimes it lasts for three seconds. The soundtrack jumps from drum machine reggae to four-track arena rock and then somehow lands on acoustic guitar noodling through a flanger pedal. Kids onscreen are trying desperately not to lose their shit and bust out with laughter at all times. The tone is infectious. And unlike almost every other SOV horror movie from 1994, Larsen wasn’t aware enough to be self-aware. Nigel isn’t bogged down with Jason Vorhees references and in-jokes about the school principal’s lisp. These kids were caught up in their own after-school fantasy world and they don’t let anything infringe on that.

Most adults are idiots. But adults are nowhere to be found in Nigel The Psychopath. That’s part of the reason why it’s so enjoyable, despite the indecipherable dialogue and endlessly looping sound effects. Or maybe, watching two kids fight each other to the death with a broom just happens to be an unheralded pinnacle in film entertainment.