Directed by: Denny Harris
Written by: Denny Harris and Wallace C. Bennett
Starring: Rebecca Balding, Cameron Mitchell, Avery Schreiber, Barbara Steele and Yvonne De Carlo
Reviewed by: Josh G.
Terror so sudden thereís no time to scream.
I love this film! Whether itís the Psycho inspired stabbings or the fresh air of teen spirit given by the four lead students, Silent Scream is an adorable addition to slasher cinema. True, the body count may not be that high, and it may have a wee bit predictable storytelling in the climax, but itís so good. The day I received my DVD of it, I watched it. Then, I watched it again. And a week later, I watched again! It has a special place in my heart, more than it deserves really. I suppose the remarkable thing about it is that it was shelved for a few years, rewritten, re-cast, and only contains about twenty minutes of the original version in this final product. If you were to tell me that a film with such a past could turn out to be anything beyond decent, Iíd call you a liar! But Iím getting ahead of myself. Hereís Silent Scream:
Scotty Parker (Balding; The Boogens) is searching the coast for a place to rent while attending class at college, thanks to missing out on residence. Driving along, she finds a cute old house atop a hill, right on a beach! How perfect! Owner Mrs. Engels (De Carlo; Lily Munster of ďThe MunstersĒ) and her son Mason (Brad Rearden) have already given rooms to three other students, Jack (Steve Doubet), Peter (John Widelock) and Doris (Juli Andelman of Blood Cult), so Scotty will never be alone. Especially when flirting with cutie Jack. But what is that strange music coming from the attic? Why does Mrs. Engels act so suspicious? And whose bloody hand is sticking out of the sand castle? When murder strikes one of the students, Lt. McGiver (Mitchell) and Sgt. Ruggin (comedian Schreiber) are the first to question the household. Too bad there is still blood left to spill, with the secret hidden away in the Engelsí attic...having escaped!
I canít believe that the beach and the house are actually miles away from each other in real life. They blend so well within this picture! The sandy shores and the old-style home add a lot of class to Silent Scream that would have otherwise been missing, even with fine acting from all involved. The story that is once fully revealed isnít quite the revelation of the decade, with a run-of-the-mill mystery to it, but the chemistry between Scotty and Jack keep the picture rolling. And of course, Barbara Steele gives her all like with every film, playing the older but still oddly beautiful nutcase upstairs. Mason is shown as a shy, dorky kid, which leads to a stronger and sensical character change in the final reel. The creepy cob-webbed narrow halls behind the walls leading up to the attic add a gothic tone to it all as well, even with the 70s hair and belly tops.
Again with Psycho, the murders donít show all of the tricks. A bit of blood here and camera angles there, and we have a couple highly violent and graphic slashings, without actually seeing blades go in. There is an art to this film that feels more thriller-led and aimed at the mystery instead of what the genre would become some eight to ten years later. Like I said, itís classier, but donít think for a second that Scotty can go all film without taking her top off for Mr. Jack. Gratuitously. A great scene is the mixture of Scotty and Jack reaching an orgasm just as one of their friends is being hacked up in the laundry room. As the victim is listening through the vents to the couple, the killer sneaks up from behind and does the nasty deed. Itís a sweet scene.
Iím giving Psycho too much credit. Forgive me, but the music is just another piece of what makes this film work so neatly. As if a piano melody added with the sharp attacks of that 1960 shower scene and horns, the beats hit the right parts every time; never a sloppy moment. Scotty is styling 1977 by the way. I always get a kick out of Scotty freaking out over a room being seventy-five bucks a month for rent. Itís cute. Just donít expect something like The Initiation or Happy Birthday to Me, and you should be taken in by it with ease.
Iím a sucker for happy teenagers in horror films, so when the shit hits the fan here, you really feel bad for the kids. I only wish that the killer and back story revealing scenes didnít feel so forced. There arenít too many hints given to the reason for all of these events, so itís just laid on you. Tied up and gagged, things are looking bad for Scotty kids. How will she get out of this one? I wish I could say more, but itís really just a fun, enjoyable sort-of-slasher that uses its simple plot and expands with talented directing. Steele having a mirror that is actually just a picture of her younger self is enough to show you that she is clearly unstable, as if the kills around the house didnít already tell you so.
Released on DVD by Scorpion Releasing, Silent Scream comes with an excellent vibrant transfer and clear surround sound. Telling interviews with writers, producers and Rebecca Balding herself on the original script, as well as what was newly shot, help paint a picture of how getting a film made and released from scraps is tough, and takes heart to accomplish. Audio commentary, tv spot and trailer round this out before the last vital extra: late director Denny Harrisí final audio interview. It by no means breaks any new ground, but being one of the highest grossing independent horror films of the time, it is a success. By film standards, just as much. It will go nicely with your collection between Eyes of Laura Mars and Final Exam. Buy it!
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