A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

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.

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October 4, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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