Silent Scream (1980)

“I’m not a violent person by nature, but if there’s a room here I’m ready to fight for it!”

Synopsis:
A group of college students (Rebecca Balding, John Widelock, Juli Andelman, and Steve Doubet) living in a seaside house owned by an elderly woman (Yvonne De Carlo) and her teenage son (Brad Rearden) find their lives at risk when one of them is suddenly murdered on the beach.

Genres:

Review:
Shot before the release of Halloween in 1978 (but not shown in theaters until 1980), this sole directorial effort by director Denny Harris remains a surprisingly effective early entry in the slasher genre. All the standard tropes of such a flick are on full display — including a nubile young romantic lead who has sex before putting herself in harm’s way (Balding is charismatic in the central role); an overtly annoying character who, naturally, is the first to bite the dust; several misleadingly creepy suspects; and all the false deaths and near misses you’d expect to see during the appropriately bloody denouement. Much of what takes place during the first hour of the film plays out in a strictly straightforward fashion — but it’s shot and acted with enough competence (i.e., there’s actually a modicum of “natural” rapport among the young college kids) to hold one’s interest with ease. Suddenly, however, things take a turn for the enjoyably weird, and only the most hardened of viewers won’t be at least a little bit startled by what transpires from this point on. Recently released on DVD with boatloads of extras, the film seems to be developing a neo-cult by viewers who are pleasantly surprised to (re)discover it — especially given the critical appearance of an iconic horror star during the final half hour. But the less said about that, the better.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A surprisingly effective slasher-thriller

Must See?
Yes, as an enjoyable early entry in this seminal cinematic genre.

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2 Responses to “Silent Scream (1980)”

  1. A must – but let me explain…

    ‘SS’ starts out very well, opening with police happening upon a major crime scene. What makes the scene doubly effective is that much of it is in slow motion and we slowly uncover some of the horror as they do. Great so far.

    Unfortunately we backtrack from there, to the events leading up to the bloodbath – and are, for about an hour, pretty much left to wade through the rather tedious elements that are the staples of slasher flicks. The biggest offender throughout this is the dialogue; from the second scene on, people start talking…and it’s largely inane. I was seriously tempted to throw my hands up at that point and leave the film for another day. But, no…I stayed in the game…remembering that, yes, the film does have a considerable fan base. I needed to know why.

    I found out just about an hour in. And, yes, the last 30 minutes are definitely worth the wait! How can I explain this without spoiling? Hmm… In a way, it’s as if the writers (brothers Ken and Jim Wheat – who, among other things, would go on to whip up the wonderful ‘Pitch Black’!) suddenly became inspired – seemingly by somehow throwing classic farce into the mix…on slasher flick terms. It’s that non-stop nutty.

    I’m not even sure I get all that’s unveiled as the breathless revelation unfolds. I’m not even sure I would want to get it all. Oh, sure, some of it is pretty clear – but I don’t think you’ll have all the answers you’ll feel you’ll need. And that’s probably a good thing.

    We’re not talking great acting among the teens – after all, they are the ones saddled with most of the mind-numbing dialogue, esp. early on. But the four main adult actors are solid. If only I could say more there, but I shouldn’t.

    Director Harris – it must be said – knew very well he had blood on his hands, as it were. And it’s to his credit largely that the film is as successful as it is. Even before the film’s final section, Harris looks for ways to deliver – and much of that is by way of building unusual tension at specific moments (as you’ll see).

    But the best is certainly saved for last – is it ever! – and here writers and director join forces for a slam dunk!

  2. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

    A solid little old dark house programmer made for the orignal slasher generation with good direction and performances. Yet another troubled production that had reshoots and other woes, but the end result is seamless.

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