Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Silent Scream (1980)



It’s time for the new college term to begin, and in typical style accommodation on campus is minimal. When a group of students stumble upon the Engels house, set in a rural location by the beach, they think they have struck gold; it’s large, spacious, warm, and most importantly right by the beach. Everything seems perfect, but on the first night Peter (John Widelock) in a drunken state is brutally massacred on the beach. Things in the Engel’s house are weird Mason (Brad Reardon) locks himself in his room watching violent movies, and Mrs Engel’s (Yvonne De Carlo) just glares at her new tenants, meanwhile in a hidden area of the house, someone is trying to escape. 




The Silent Scream is a much praised, but much forgotten slasher movie very much in the same tone of Psycho. It’s fairly traditional of an early 80’s movie, but unlike many from the genre, it does have a rather unpleasant feel about it, and a reasonably starry cast to go along with it.

Originally shot back in 1977 director Denny Harris raised $450,000 of his own cash to make the movie, but when he handled it to the studios for releasing they all felt it to be not of the standard required to get any attention, it was too dark, and some of the performers were too wooden. In 1979 Denny turned to Ken and Jim Wheat, well known screenwriters to work on re-editing aspects of the story, instead the movie was pretty much remade with only 12 minutes of the original footage remaining, and three of the leading actors replaced with Addams Family actress Yvonne De Carlo, and horror movie legends Barbara Steele and Cameron Mitchell. 




Considering the movies horrendous journey in the making, the end result is quite good, with Barbara Steele effectively stealing the show from all the other actors despite her actually only being on screen for about 7 minutes in total. By the time the movie was made, Steele was pretty much regarded as a veteran actress, yet she never looked younger. It is said that Steele took the role as her character was “damaged” and says nothing through the movie, a far different end of the spectrum from her normal performances.

Denny Harris has done an excellent job of filling the movie with menace from the offset, there is a tremendous amount of tension in pretty much every scene, even scenes involving love, or more trivial issues have an underlying tension about them, this really is one of those films that if you watch it at night, it will keep you near the edge of your seat. 




Forgetting the three leading roles, the supporting actors which include Avery Schrieber (who could not remember his lines and runs around with a notepad), Steve Doubet, Juli  Andelman, and Rebecca Balding who plays Scotty the main lead, all were fairly ropey at times as performers, as a result empathy falls with the bad guys as apposed to the alleged heroes.

Sadly Denny Harris was obviously scarred by the whole experience, and the money he lost, and never worked in the industry again. He was ill for a while before his death in 2007, and as a result never got to enjoy the fact that DVD bought his movie a whole new generation of fans.






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