Directed by: Tony Lo Bianco
Written by: Neal Barbera and Glenn Leopold
Starring: Mike Connors, Anne Archer, Leon Isaac Kennedy and Ian McShane
Reviewed by: Josh G.
“He is refined, a gentleman with the ladies...even if he is white.”
The year is 1985 — and by 1985, I really mean 1982, but left on the shelf for three years. Crime thrillers mixed with slasher antics are a rarity at the time. Hell, they still are. One wonders why anybody would think that they would be a good pairing? But whatever, because here we have a tough but soft at heart (?) cop named Alex, whose played by that Mike Connors guy from violent detective television show Mannix. And here comes his partner in crime-stopping, Kate, played by Anne Archer of Fatal Attraction. Yay. However, I think it is a disservice to exclude Carrie Nye, that cake-headed-lady from Creepshow. Even if her part is a bit of a...bit. Oh, who am I kidding? Too Scared to Scream is not too much to write home about, and some may even call it ‘Too Bored to Care’. I know I did the first time I watched it. Three years later, after dusting off my old Vestron video box, and reviewing its contents again, I must admit, I had an easier ride. Much. And this is why.
Opening with a vicious (though bloodless) murder of a tenant at a New York complex, the cops swerve in for a look at what possible motives can be derived from the slaying. After ruling out some suspects, another older woman is also attacked in her room; her body later mentioned to be dismembered. Realizing that the night shift doorman, Mr. Vincent Hardwick (Ian McShane) was working and talking to the victims moments before their untimely demise, cops Alex and Kate look into his past, only to find his paralysed mother and acting career as a background at first. Soon, the killer strikes again, knife in hand and bodies dumped in the strangest placed, leaving the residents too scared to leave their rooms. Going undercover, Kate moves into a room, keeping an eye on Vincent, only to find herself portraying a mouse as she comes face to face with the concluding villain. Is it charming Vincent? Or somebody else?
Unlike a lot of mixtures, Too Scared to Scream truly is a slasher film, even without the presence of rowdy teens and excessive gory highlights. Sadly, instead of standing out from the crowd with its class and thriller roots, it becomes a picture that is neither well directed or visually entertaining, at least not until the exceptional chase finale. Though acting is average, you couldn’t really care less about any of the detectives, or even our mystifying doorman for that matter. Again, at least not until the end. A story too long left in the dark to be a good thriller, and not enough terror to be a decent horror. Yet, it complements itself with at least some spacing between murders, and accuracy in detail. Too bad it might fall under sleep-inducing.
I think that perhaps I am coming off a bit harsh towards this show though. Beg my pardon, but there is still enough to warrant for those salivating a good slasher. If you’re a fan of slower gialli, though it is far from one, or have sat through dozens of tired entries in the sub-genre, this one is for you. Spunky black maid who finds the first victim in a dryer (My Bloody Valentine?) is a bundle of laughs a minute, and the creepy relationship that poetry-spouting Vincent has with his crippled mother is always interesting as you’re not sure if the two resent, fear, hate or sickly cherish each other. It’s a brighter moment amongst all of the cop scenes and unpolished character drama (or little of it) spread thinly here and there. At least Alex and Kate bring an intelligent side to everything, with Alex’s buddy-to-buddy humor slapping around, especially when it’s with non-buddies. Merciless lieutenant, straight ahead!
Thankfully, the few death scenes we do receive (don’t worry my friends, there is a healthy amount of corpses) are set in place with events, one in particular, with a nervous wreck of a lady sneaking out of her room for a second to dump out a bottle. The door closes on her in the shadows, and you think that it may be the killer, and you fret! In that sense, the suspense builds up in those moments where it truly matters. You just have to handle the well-intended yet uninspiring bridges. Minimal blood, Too Scared to Scream brings out some cheese and sleaze anyhow, with the sugar daddies, breasts and rather silly end. Leaving us with shockingly stylish Psycho-similar pieces in an exciting two part stalking adventure (part 1 in the complex; part 2 in the Hardwick house just minutes later), at least this forgotten Vestron VHS title tried. Whichever way you want to look at it, whether not gaining enough ‘crazy’ on whole, or satisfying your killer needs with the handful of things that ARE done correctly, it’s a viewer be forewarned tale of love it or hate it. For being different, and altogether fun when not dog paddling in the shallow end, I reward this rarity with a Rent it!
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