SILENT SCREAM (1979)
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1979 slasher flick finds pretty college student Scotty (The Boogens’ Rebecca Balding), renting a room in the house of the strange Mrs. Engels (Lily Munster herself, Yvonne DeCarlo) and her equally weird son Mason (Brad Rearden). She is there with three other students, Doris (Juli Andelman), Peter (John Widelock) and Jack (Steve Doubet). Soon her roommates start to be gruesomely murdered, one buy one and Scotty may be next. Is the mysterious person sequestered away in the Engels’ attic responsible…or is it someone else?
Flick is directed by Denny Harris with a script by Wallace E. Bennett, along with Ken and Jim Wheat. The film actually started filming a year before Halloween was released, but production woes and major rewrites and reshoots postponed it’s release until 1979. Coming out a year later, the film may have benefited from the success of Carpenter’s slasher hit and Silent Scream became a hit in it’s own right. The film follows a popular slasher plot-line whereas folks are staying in a spooky old house, with some strange owners and a hidden secret stalking the unsuspecting guests. The body count is rather small, as Friday the 13th was still a few months away and would soon make larger body counts part of the formula. The kills are bloody but simple and the pace is moderate, as with most slasher flicks of the early 80s. As per the traditional format, there are some fun, though not unexpected reveals in the last act and it does have some unsettling moments. It’s not very scary, but can be very atmospheric, especially with the old house setting and some effective villains in the Engels.
The cast range from good to simply adequate. Balding makes a solid heroine as Scotty and Steve Doubet makes for a satisfactory hero/love interest as Jack. Veteran Yvonne DeCarlo is creepy as Mrs. Engels, Brad Rearden is effective as her odd son Mason and the legendary Barbara Steele is also disturbing as Victoria, Engels’ demented daughter. Juli Andelman and John Widelock overact a bit as Doris and Peter, while Cameron Mitchell and Avery Schreiber are doing by-the-numbers work as a pair of cops investigating the deaths. Overall, the cast works well enough.
In conclusion, this is a decent enough slasher and one that benefits a lot now from nostalgia. It’s a fun watch and is a good example of the post Halloween, early 80s slashers in terms of body count, pacing and kills, before Friday the 13th came along and upped the ante. The cast work well enough, with Balding making a solid final girl and DeCarlo, Rearden and Steele making a spooky trio as the off-kilter Engels family. There are some amusing reveals and a couple of spooky and disturbing moments. A cult classic in most horror circles, and deservedly so, as a good example of the low budget slashers of this time period.
Rated 3 (out of 4) carving knives.