Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Silent Scream & How It's Part Wendy's Pita

It's a slasher. It's from the '80s. It's called The Silent Scream.
That's my intro and I'm moving on.
Quick Plot: College student Scotty (Soap's Rebecca Balding, sporting a horrendously '70s mushroom do that makes Hayden Panettiere's Screfourem's hair look positively flattering) rents a room from awkward classmate Mason and his mysteriously grumpy mother. Also on hand is Scotty's suitor Jack, pal Doris, and rich roommate--so much so that he ties a sweater around his shoulders!--Peter. Before long, a few bodies are turning up bloody while the police (Avery Schreiber and sign of the movie apocalypse Cameron Mitchell) discuss the details over a blaring musical score.

The Silent Scream is a 1980 slasher, plain and simple. Like its genre companions, the film features a slightly tomboyish final girl with a gender ambiguous name, a secret identity of its somewhat (not really) myserious killer, and a few genuinely effective jumps. Unfortunately, none of that really adds up to anything remotely special.

Sure, it's nice seeing horror legend Barbara Steele (easily the best thing in the film) being creepy in a supporting role, but her character--much like the whole oddball family she belongs to--is never really introduced in any form that lets us know who they are or care why they're dysfunctional.

And as I say these things, I realize how poorly flowing this review is turning out. Perhaps it's the fact that The Silent Scream had a troubled production history, having been filmed and in an early Exorcist prequel move, re-filmed with nearly 80% new footage a few years after completion. Though the movie doesn't feel Night Train to Terror-levels incompetent, it does lack any solid through-line that lets us invest in the fates of our characters. Lead actress Balding is likable enough, but there's not one touch of individuality in Scotty to make us care about anything she undergoes. The final killer reveal isn't unoriginal, but for whatever reason, it's presented in an epic fashion that just doesn't fit the fact that we don't know these people well enough to even consider the significance of their deep and disturbing family secrets. It's strangely disjointed.

On the other hand, The Silent Scream does have its moments. The kills are executed well, and the playful use of a corpse is always appreciated (I mean that in the most well-adjusted way possible). The 1980s slasher subgenre produced far worse products. It's sort of a Wendy's pita (RIP) in a mixed buffet of McDonald's icky Filet O' Fishes and Arby's delicious roast beef sandwiches.
High Points
A flashback to an attempted hanging suicide is surprisingly disturbing

Low Points
Who are these people again? Why do I care?

Lessons Learned
The best way to seduce a sexy coed is to slowwwwwwwwwwwly take your shirt off and let her stare at your chest for approximately 45 seconds

When applying for housing, avoid dressing like a hippie slut
Rich friends are pretty awesome. Unless they’re dead

Eh. Hardcore slasher completists will certainly enjoy The Silent Scream as an early slice of nostalgia with some serious genre credentials (at least for Barbara Steele; Cameron Mitchell is actually in 61% of all horror films produced between 1970 and 1985 and 99% of the ones that are terrible). As an Instant Watch stream, it's not a bad way to spend 90 minutes, but in no way am I eager to revisit its mediocrity. Better than The Falling (most things are) but not on par with some of the true underrated '80s gems. Think of it as a cubic zirconia. Or a chicken caesar pita.

Why did Wendy's stop making these things again?


  1. Cameron "Santa God from Space Mutiny" Mitchell really has appeared in tons of films, like the ones where he appears in John Carradine-like insert roles, like in the truly wretched Demon Cop, or he appears in fully-fledged film roles in films that you'd least expect, like Raw Force, a Filipino kung fu-zombie-nazi-actionsploitation that breaches the lines of crazy and goes all the way to Jupiter! I think the man must have been either too humble to ever refuse a film role, or he was always hard up for cash!!

  2. He's in about 90% of the Mill Creek movies. I don't there's a single disc without one appearance! Maybe he had some sort of drug or faberge egg habit he had to work so hard to feed? And wow, I've never heard of Raw Force but I NEED IT NOW!

  3. haha funny review. i just watched on netflix instant recently. the mushroom hair / sunglasses combo was choice. as was steele's performance.

  4. Thanks MrJeffery! Mushroom hair, a fashion trend I'm ever so grateful to have not grown up during...

  5. I would disagree about Cameron Mitchell being in absolutely everything except for the fact that I just watched him in a porn called Dixie Ray, Hollywood Star (and no, he doesn't get to know Dixie, thankfully). Also, Silent Scream was one of the few slashers that didn't annoy me. I would liken it more to a Carl's Jr western bacon cheeseburger with a side of Schreiber. I did like Balding more in The Boogens though, toadstool-do and all.

  6. Tenebrous Kate's actually got a review for it up on her blog, that's how I first heard about it.

  7. I saw this within the last year, and kinda loved it in a "oh it's crappy but so what" kind of way. I can't argue your points, particularly regarding the flow of the flick, but I felt that set it apart from most of the '80s slashers I've seen...and was kind of a good thing. If nothing else, it's unique.

  8. wasn't aware Cameron Mitchell did porn! I imagine he leaves the lovemaking to the non Cameron Mitchells, but it's still amusing! And I can see that Carl's Jr. comparison, even though as a NYer, I've never eaten there. And Balding is quite charming, even if her hair is atrociously sad.

    Chris: That premise TOTALLY sounds like a TK flick! I'll have to track it down.

    Mike: It does have some different things going for it compared to a lot of other '80s slashers. It's just still very much an '80s slasher.

  9. I actually found this one to be pretty decent. I really dug the atmosphere, the beach setting, the generally weird vibe throughout, the kills, and the mere presence of Barbara Steele. Bonus points for Lily Munster as the mom! The lead chick's hair got on my fucking nerves, though. For what it's worth, it looks pretty amazing on DVD... I'm sure the Netflix streaming quality doesn't do it justice.

  10. I suppose the Netflix stream was a little messy, but it didn't bother me too much. And I didn't really dislike the film; I'm just not the biggest slasher appreciast (word coined by me) so while it's definitely VERY good for what it is, it still is what it is.

  11. I think Silent scream will remain silent on my screen.. Instead i'll fire up tobe hooper's funhouse or the burning to get my fix of mid tier slasher nectar.

  12. Funhouse gets better every time you watch it. Maybe it's the sleaziness, I can't be sure, but I definitely would rewatch it over revisiting SIlent Scream. Again, not awful, just not Funhouse!