George Tatum is nuts. Actually he used to be nuts, according to his doctors. But he's been cured. They've given him pills and therapy and let him know that even though he still has bad dreams, real bad dreams, he's free to live and work among the citizens of New York City.
The dreams themselves are always the same: A young boy watches two adults engage in some light S&M before he pounces on them with an axe. The dream is what got George locked up in the first place. His attempt to re-enact it ended up committing a psycho-sexual murder in Brooklyn.
But George is cured now. The doctor's have released him, found him a job, and told him to check in every once in a while. Needless to say, things don't go quite as planned.
George immediately skips town, heads to Florida and begins stalking a preteen boy named C.J. (What is it with lunatics and Florida, anyway?) C.J. is a mischievous little prankster, the kind of boy who likes to fake his own death and otherwise torment his babysitter. Ah, youth.
C.J. notices George hanging around wherever he goes, but when he tries to tell his mother, she scoffs. C.J.'s constant tall tales and gruesome jokes have ruined his credibility. And when C.J.'s best friend ends up dead at the hands of George everyone assumes C.J. is the culprit.
All the while, George busies himself murdering women, though he seems conflicted about it. He tearfully apologizes while slitting their throats, but still pauses to lick the blood from his fingers. The murders are violent and bloody, and entirely phony looking. And they're all inter-cut with flashes from the dream that haunts him.
Meanwhile, the MDs have finally figured out the significance of the nightmare tormenting George. (Maybe something they should have done before letting him loose.) As it turns out, it's no dream at all. When George was a boy, he discovered Dad getting it on with a slightly kinky girlfriend. Dad was tied up, the woman straddling him and blissfully slapping his face. None too happy about what he witnessed, George grabbed an axe and chopped the two to bits. How the doctors did not know this is beyond me.
This all leads to the final showdown between George and C.J. Interestingly, nine-year-old C.J. is much better armed than George, who doesn't fare too well. As George lies mortally wounded, the nightmare that began it all, his original murder, finally plays out in his mind. We see blow by blow how little George and his big axe did them in.
There follows one surprising twist and we're left to wonder what exactly will become of C.J.
Directed by Romano Scavolini • R • 1981 • 97 minutes