A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 583 – The Silent Scream

The Silent Scream – October 4th, 2011

When we started this project we knew there were a few things we’d be adding to the collection. For one, we were missing some movies we could have sworn we owned. For two, we knew that the collection was heavily influenced by Andy’s particular tastes since he’d purchased the vast majority of it, so we wanted to even it out a bit. For three, we knew there’d be things we’d think of or that hadn’t come out on DVD. And then there was everything else we’ve added. It’s an odd assortment, really. Things we’d never really considered owning until they were recommended by friends or that we’d decided we really wanted not just to watch, but to review. This is one of those last types. Because it was directed by Andy’s uncles.

Horror and slasher films aren’t really my thing. And while I can enjoy a suspenseful movie, suspense and horror together aren’t my favorite combination. I get tense and that tension takes a while to dissipate. So I admit, I wasn’t looking forward to this. I wanted to watch it, yes, but I wasn’t really looking forward to how I’d feel afterwards. Fortunately, it turned out to not really be what I was expecting, in a good way. There is suspense and there is some blood, but it’s not the sort of “oh god oh god something’s coming to get me” tone that I can’t deal with. It’s more of a “who will survive and how exactly will all of this play out” tone. That, I can deal with.

The story begins with college student Scotty Parker looking for a place to live after transferring to a new school. The actress playing Scotty, Rebecca Balding, reminds me so strongly of Elisabeth Sladen that I found it impossible not to imagine that Scotty was somehow a clone of Sarah Jane Smith. I imagine having Daleks or K-9 show up mid-movie would have run the whole thing right off the rails, but still. That’s how my brain works. Anyhow, Scotty ends up moving into a rather large house right by the ocean. Mrs. Engels and her son, Mason, have plenty of extra space so they’ve let out four rooms. The other residents are all students. There are Doris and Jack, who already live there, and then there’s Peter, who shows up when Scotty does. And all seems fine, until one of the four gets killed after a night out. And I think you can probably predict at least part of what happens next. I mean, this is a slasher movie. Of course someone else dies.

The interesting thing here is that there really aren’t that many bodies. It’s not a movie full of gore and death. It’s full of odd people and suspicious circumstances. I suppose most horror fans would be disappointed at the lack of blood, and most suspense fans would want more tension. And that’s fine. I understand that. But I like that the tension comes not from wondering what’s going to jump out at the main characters so much as from when they’ll be attacked and who it will be who attacks them.

If I was going to make a complaint about the movie it would be that the eventual reveal of the Engels family secret has so little to it. I mean, it’s a good one and all, and it’s clearly hinted that there’s something terrible in the house and once you know what it is and what’s happened it makes for good background. But it gets so little time because it’s the big secret. On the other hand, I know that there was more footage filmed that would have tied into the background (you can see Mason watching some of it at one point, as if it’s a movie he’s flipped to on television) and it got thrown out as unusable. In fact, a fairly large portion of this movie was reshot entirely and then edited together with what was usable from the original material. And I’ve got to hand it to everyone involved that I couldn’t spot the shots and bits and pieces that were from the older material in with the new. Fantastic editing there. But that those scenes were taken out says something. Either they were really poorly done and simply couldn’t be used in any form other than as a cameo on a tiny television screen, or they didn’t fit the narrative. Since they weren’t reshot, I’m going to have to go with the latter. And while both could be true, their absence in the movie as it stands definitely points to a problem in fitting them into the story. You don’t want to lessen the dramatic tension by giving away too much, but you also don’t want to bog down the climax with too many flashbacks at the end once the secret’s been revealed. Still, I couldn’t help but wish for more foreshadowing. Something to point back to and say “Oh! So that’s what that meant! That’s why that was there! That’s why that character said that!” Something to make it feel like more of a cohesive part of the story instead of just a twist.

I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. It wasn’t quite what I expected and that’s a good thing. I expected it to be about as far from my preferred genres as possible and I expected it to leave me tense and/or disappointed and I wasn’t either by the time the credits rolled. It’s not a big budget horror masterpiece, obviously, but it’s still fun. And hearing the interviews with Rebecca Balding and Ken and Jim Wheat, I’m really pretty impressed with the process involved in making the movie, taking existing footage, editing down to what was still usable, bringing the cast back, reshooting, editing, etc. I’m not saying it doesn’t have flaws, just that I enjoyed it despite what flaws it has and I think it’s pretty damn cool that it holds up like it does.

October 4, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Silent Scream

October 4, 2011

The Silent Scream

The latest “Scream” movie came out today at my local Blockbuster today. Number two thousand I think. Amanda and I don’t own any Scream movies of course, but we do own this seventies slasher film, which has “Scream” in the title. Not because we wanted to own a seventies slasher film but because this movie marks the grand Hollywood debut of my famous film-maker uncles.

The history of this movie as I understand it is this: film-maker Denny Harris had an incomplete and not particularly good slasher film he had made, and he brought the Brothers Wheat in to do a re-write and shoot some pick up shots to complete the movie. So they got a couple of the actors who had been in the original project back and shot around the existing footage. At least that was the plan. What actually happened was that Ken and Jim pretty much made an entirely different movie that uses a little footage from Denny’s cut (and for a fraction of the budget.)

I had never watched this before tonight (since I was eight when it came out and far too young to see it then.) I’ve always had the impression that my uncles were a little embarrassed by this movie, though as I watch it tonight I couldn’t say why. It’s a perfectly good murder mystery and horror film – heavily influenced by such films as Psycho.

The movie starts out wit a bit of a teaser. A group of policemen and detectives are investigating an old house. It’s a gruesome crime scene with multiple corpses and blood coating the wall. The mystery lies in the identity of the bodies and how they came to be there.

To find out we have to follow a young college student named Scotty Parker who has just transferred to a new school in LA. (It’s not stated to be Occidental but it’s pretty easy to recognise it in shots that take place there.) There’s no student housing available so she ends up having to hunt down an inexpensive place to live off campus.

The house she ends up renting out a room in is a large place on a hill with a collection of other college students already living there. There’s an annoying preppy twerp who is rolling in his daddy’s money. There’s a handsome blond hunk. There’s a friendly girl who bonds with Scotty right away. Then there’s the creepy introverted teenaged son of the owner of the house who shows the kids their rooms and tells them the rules. Chief among the rules? Don’t disturb his mother Mrs. Engels, who lurks quietly in her attic.

This being the kind of movie it is kids eventually start getting stabbed to death. The question is, who is the killer? Is it the mild mannered Mason Engles? Is it his quiet an disapproving mother? And what’s up with the secret stairway leading up from the basement. Who is the mysterious figure behind the walls?

I will say that the dramatic plot twist (which probably came from my uncles and not from the original film because it involves actors who were only in their re-shoot footage) is almost ludicrously over the top. As I said earlier there is some Psycho influence here and I think that might be what they were going for. It’s not as weird as the famous twist at the end of Sleepaway Camp, but it’s up there. Maybe if there had been some hints earlier in the film to set it up it would have been less jarring, but I do understand the difficulty of getting footage to match between different productions three years later which would make it hard to add any subtle hints in. Still – when Mrs. Engles says “haven’t you guessed the truth about her… and yourself?” I felt there wasn’t any particular need at that point in the film for a twist like that. Not only had I not guessed, I had no idea that there was even a hidden truth there TO guess. I suppose it does let Mason go around the bend, and that’s fun to watch.

As I watched this for the first time tonight I played a kind of game with myself. I tried to figure out what bits were the original movie and what bits were written and shot by my uncles. Knowing that the movie is eighty-five percent “reshoot” it’s pretty seamless. I honestly don’t know where the original ends and the new begins. The end product, though, is a fairly good movie that deserves some recognition for at least being better than it might have been.

October 4, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment