Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Silent Scream (1980)

To say the 80's were the heyday of the slasher flick would be putting it lightly. While the likes of "Black Christmas" and "Halloween" were the start, it was "Friday the 13th" that got the ball rolling. After that, a new, gory, sleazy slasher movies was in theaters or on VHS on a regular basis. Some have gone on to be considered classics of the genre ("My Bloody Valentine", "The Burning" and "The Prowler" to name a few), while others were simply atrocious ("Don't Go in the Woods...Alone!", "Horror Honeymoon", "The Final Terror", etc.) Then of course, there were those underrated entries that tried to add something akin to atmosphere and scares as opposed to gore and creative kills. "The Silent Scream" is a part of that category.

The plot deals with a girl named Scotty Parker (Rebbecca Balding-such an unfortunate last name), who needs a place to live. Fortunately, she finds a place in Ms. Engels (Yvonne De Carlo, best known as Lilly Munster) mansion. There's others at the mansion, including a guy named Jack Towne (Steve Doubet), who she takes a liking to, and Engels creepy son Mason (Brad Rearden-yet another unfortunate last name.) As is in such movies, someone is starting to kill a few of the kids, and the police (well known character actors Cameron Mitchell and Avery Schreiber) are on the case. So who is killing the kids? Is it Mason? Ms. Engels? Or is it somebody else...

Owing more to "Psycho" and "Black Christmas" than the likes of it's gorier brethren, "The Silent Scream" did good box office upon it's theatrical debut, but went on to be largely forgotten. A shame really, as this is a little known gem. The film does have some blood, but it's hardly a gory movie. It instead relies more on a sense of unease and tension, and it milks said tension for all it's worth. It also helps that the acting is good as well. Mitchell dials it down, and gives a decent (but slight) performance, while Rearden has an seriously creepy turn as the disturbed Mason. To make matters better, Barbara Steele makes the most of her role in the movie, and does a great job even without uttering a word.

If there is a problem with the movie, it's the invertible family secrets sub-plot. While De Carlo and Rearden to commendable jobs with the material (especially Rearden,) the eventual revelations feel something like a cop-out. Maybe it's just me, but how many of these movies have dark family secrets? I know, it owes a heavy debt to "Psycho", but still...

Minor gripes aside, "The Silent Scream" is a rare gem that it worth a look for slasher fans looking for more suspense than gore. Is it a classic? Almost, but it's still pretty good. Too bad it was the only movie Denny Harris wrote and directed-it would have been nice to see what he could have done next. Knowing Hollywood though, it probably would have been "The Silent Scream II: Scream Louder."

Rating: 8/10

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