I donâ€™t know if any one movie can satisfy all of my horror needs. Sometimes I want scares, sometimes I want gore and sometimes I just desire a moderately creepy old dark house flick. 1980â€™s SILENT SCREAM falls into that last category, it wonâ€™t satiate anybodyâ€™s desire for bloodshed but its slinking, reluctant pace, haunting imagery and exceptional use of locale make it go-to horror comfort food for yours truly. Iâ€™d probably love it a little bit more if somebodyâ€™s head was chopped off but you canâ€™t have everything. SILENT SCREAM is like the last gasp of traditional old school horror right before the great age of slashers really got under way. You can almost sense the genre as a whole transforming before your eyes, kicking off classic cobwebs and lunging for the sharpest butcher knife in the drawer.
REBECCA â€œBOOGENS baitâ€ BALDING plays Scotty Parker (add that name to the gender-neutral â€œfinal girlâ€ moniker list) a gal with a Twiki meets Tootie mushroom-do who is looking for college lodging. Lucky for me she selects the most foreboding place she can find overlooking the sea and moves right in. As if the house were not off putting enough, her landlady is YVONNE DeCARLO who is the mother of a blatantly nerdy (i.e. potential psycho) son. Scotty is joined by some other young room renters including a potential beau, a brassy gal pal and a wealthy douche, all of who appear put on this planet in order to die before she. To all my friends out there hiding horrible family secrets within their home, please take my simple advice and never rent rooms to anybody. I donâ€™t care how much you need the money; itâ€™s just not worth the risk!
Now Iâ€™m going to give away a major plot point because it is also a major selling point as well! Do not read further if you have not had time in the past thirty years to watch this movie! The big secret in the creaky old spooky house is that mom and son are hiding someone special in the walls and that mystery guest is the one and only BARBARA STEELE! For me, this is the best news ever! I canâ€™t think of anybody Iâ€™d rather find hiding in my house except CHRISTINA RICCI or maybe MORRISSEY! This is when the movie gets really good because BABS plays a tragic, lost-in-time figure and those are my peeps! I think itâ€™s nifty that sheâ€™s just as much a fly caught in amber as the film itself! Who cares if she is a murderer? She has the most beautiful eyes. I love this character because she plays the same song over and over again on a red record player and has placed an old picture of herself in her mirror so that she doesnâ€™t have to worry about aging. I think thatâ€™s a fine idea. Her situation is very sad and Iâ€™m so jealous!
One of the reasons I really dug TI WESTâ€™s HOUSE OF THE DEVIL is because it so reminded me of SILENT SCREAM. Both movies have a nearly identical structure and a â€œkeep your shirt onâ€ pace. Maybe some viewers have something better to do, I sure as hell donâ€™t. I guess my biggest complaint about SILENT is that there is a slightly snorey side story which involves the police investigation and that is something I donâ€™t care about even if the officers are THE TOOLBOX MURDERâ€™s CAMERON MITCHELL and Dorito dude AVERY SCHRIEBER. Itâ€™s a small price to pay for the good stuff though.
Believe it or not SILENT SCREAM was a big hit back in its day landing just in time to reap the post HALLOWEEN benefits. I did not encounter it myself until the mid nineties when it jumped out at me at a used video shop. I wasnâ€™t expecting much but I thoroughly enjoyed it as a potent punch of nostalgia and a semi-soothing mood piece with a couple good chills. Part of the reason may be personal; my first year of college I rented a room in a big old house on the coast of Massachusetts and it really brings back strong memories for me. I never witnessed any gruesome murders but I did find a giant rat staring back at me from my closet. Who can say which is worse?
NOTE: SILENT SCREAM was filmed in a joint called “The Smith Estate” in Los Angeles. Strangely enough it is the exact same beautiful Victorian home youâ€™ll find in 1964â€™s SPIDER BABY (also available on Netflix streaming.) Stranger still, the two movies share almost the exact same shot of a character climbing up the front stairs, knocking on the front door and then checking out the window to the left! Wha!? ( I have not been this excited since I found out that Garth Manor from HELL NIGHT is the same pad as the mansion from FLEETWOOD MACâ€™s â€œBig Loveâ€ video!) It doesn’t look like much has changed at the Smith Estate between 1964 and 1980 (SILENT actually began filming in 1977!), it’s almost as if time has stood still. How appropriate is that?
I bought the DVD to this and listened to the interviews. Apparently only 15 minutes of the original concept appear in the finished product, all the rest was re-shot and re-written. I guess that accounts for why it’s so scatter-shot and meandering. I LOVE it solely for the locale, the dream-house it was shot in, Barbara Steele, and Yvonne Decarlo (I can’t get enough of her when she shows up in a horror movie). And the scene where Barbara Steele is doing her hair while looking at an old picture of herself (when she should be looking in a mirror) is haunting. As an added bonus I’m a sucker for horror movies where the most inappropriate people decide to rent out rooms to strangers (think SCREAM PRETTY PEGGY). Why dosn’t that concept get used more in horror? It’s the perfect set-up.
Silent scream reminds me of Scream Pretty Peggy too! The early set up is so similar! Man I really have to get the Silent Scream DVD for all of the extras but it’s just so hard for me to spend the $ while it’s free on NS!
I read that JAWS star Susan Backlinie starred in that earlier 1977 version. It’s too bad they were not able to include that on the DVD . That would have been fascinating to see.
I get why some people find this one a bit timid for their tastes but it just has so many elements that I love & I really could not ask for a better payoff in a movie than Barbara Steele. Her face is the ultimate special effect!
I feel the same way about this movie. I saw it for the first time about a year ago and it immed. gave me cozy feeling memories whenever I thought about it. The house and the setting and the mile-long hidden stairway to the hidden room (ack – am I revealing too much). My fav part is before we ever see Barbara’s face – but when we first find out that someone is behind the walls. Freaky!
I also get the same feeling from House of the Devil – except I really think they could have gone a lot further with using Mary Woronov’s creepy old lady face. I know there are other’s – but I can’t think of them right now – but Black Xmas and Silent Night, Bloody night strike me as having a similar feel.
I get the Black Xmas & SNBN connection too. The whole “hider in the house” thing is irresistible to me & I love how these movies delve into old structures & interiors to such a degree. The house in SNBN is just amazing and you can’t duplicate the feeling that a real house with real history brings to a film. I love that so much time is spent quietly exploring the house in HOTD because I find that creepier than anything else.
I actually remember when I rented that room in college exploring the rest of the house when nobody was home. They even had a storage room filed with old furniture that was just a couple cobwebs short of looking like something out of The Changeling. The house was right off the water too, it was incredible. I don’t think I could ever live in a new modern home. They make me uncomfortable.
Ps I love that scene of the hands busting through the wall you mentioned. It’s done so well. It’s featured prominently in the TV spot too.
I love this TV ad for being so simple. It’s just a quick scare and then it splits. It tells you almost nothing and it leaves such an impression….
I also should add that THE UNSEEN deserves club membership too!
Wow – The Unseen looks cool. I noticed I actually have it in my queue – but sadly it has been relegated to the saved list dungeon.
I’m gonna think on this a bit cause I swear a few months ago I had one of those moments of longing where I was thinking about watching Silent Scream and how much I loved the feel of it and then in my brain said “it’s had the same feel as something, and blah blah, and something else, etc” and my brain isn’t cooperating right now.
I did see Scream, Pretty Peggy though and totally dug that.
My sister and I wound up squatting (not my usual modus operandi) in a huge old house on Staten Island a long time ago, that was party demolished and partly falling down (the landlord had stopped fixing things so the tenants stopped paying rent and most moved out) and there was junk and bare slatted walls in all of the hallways all the way up the stairs in the 3 story apt house and people would always sneak in and hang out on the 3rd floor and we could hear them walking around. I never explored up there cause it scared the crap out of me but my sister told me that, after I moved out, her shower stopped working so she would have to climb the creepy stairs in the dark every morning to take a shower in one of the empty apts on the 3rd floor. Man I would have joined the Y and taken showers there. I don’t know how she did it. But yeah, modern houses aren’t my thing either.
Barbara Steele is the main attraction of this movie for me as well. I mean, I DO love that the murders are “Psycho”-esque (not many slashers actually set them up that way, so kudos to the filmmakers) but Barbara is just SUCH an amazing presence that she really carries the movie for me even though she isn’t seen until the end. They really could not have picked a better person for the role. Rebecca Balding is an appealing heroine as well.
Professor VW and I watched this one on Netflix streaming not long ago. We both enjoyed it. I am so happy you also recognized the Doritos dude! I dig the final girl’s Toni Tennille do!
Can’t wait to watch this one… it’s got that witch from Piranha in it hehe
I get a kick out of The Unseen, so I’m sure this will be just as fun.
Yvonne Decarlo is also a treat.
I never even heard of this movie til I started my website and people constantly popped up asking me what the title was or -the people who KNEW what the title was-would ask me where they could get a copy. Then one girl I had “met” online scored a dubbed copy at a Horror convention and made me a copy and sent me it. (yeah, we know bootlegiing is wrong, but when a movie is THAT hard to come by we both agreed this was the only way we’d ever see it…or so we thought at that moment…). Ive only watched it once and the main thing is Barbara Steeles eyes…which should win some sort of award all their own. She can do more with just her eyes than most actors do with their whole bodies. I also am a fan of Yvonne DeCarlo, who it seems never turned down a Horror movie opportunity. Some people see stuff like SATANS CHEERLEADERS and say “Geez, she musta needed the money”, but I like to think she so hugely embraced her Horror Icon-ness that she relished chances to be in them. Come to think of it, Barbara Steele seemed to love the fact she was a Horror Queen too. So just having them in the movie instantly gives it Street Cred!
From those two i would choose Silent Scream, it’s better for me, what do you think which one is better??