Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Nice Double Feature: Silent Scream (1980) and Pranks (1982)

Some people have crack addictions, some people are addictive shoppers or compulsive drunken gamblers... My drug of choice in this case, is slasher movies!! I have a great love for these bloody, gory, boob-filled slaughter-fests, and I am not ashamed to admit it. There are many times when I feel like watching not one, but TWO slasher movies in a row. Hey, it cheers me up! Don't judge me!!! Anyways, I've sat through many a double feature, which includes such pair-ups such as "Terror Train" and "Prom Night"(both with Jamie Lee Curtis), "Splatter University," and "Final Exam"(both set at colleges), "Slaughter High" and "April Fool's Day"(both set on April Fool's Day), and "Student Bodies" and "Cutting Class"(both of which are pretty hilarious). See a pattern here?

So we enter into this little segment called "A Nice Double Feature," where I review two related horror films. In this case, I delve into two vastly underrated Slasher gems: "Silent Scream" (1980) and "Pranks" (1982)

"Silent Scream" (1980)

In the wake of the success of 1978's "Halloween" dozens of Slasher flicks were subsequently made, regardless of quality, and made a nice amount of bank at the box office. "Silent Scream" was different, in that it had some name actors and was stylistically made. Co-written and directed by Denny Harris, the film was also written by Jim and Ken Wheat, who both later went on to co-write "A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4" and "Pitch Black," amongst others. The film's plot concerned our young college coed heroine Scotty who is looking for a room to rent for school. She eventually finds an isolated house next to a beach that is owned by the mysterious Mrs. Engels (played by Yvonne DeCarlo). She moves into the house with three other college roommates, and that is basically where the fit hits the shan... People start dying, detectives are baffled, and a dreaded family secret is revealed. All in all, it's a pretty solid flick. There was a fair amount of suspense and style and a nice sense of dread as well. People who hate creepy houses and attics and cramped spaces will be rightly creeped out by this flick. Not much in terms of gore, but hey, I can dig a great story with great characters without the wet stuff. I'm flexible... Another great part of the film was its acting. Veterans like DeCarlo and Cameron Mitchell ("The Toolbox Murders") added some class to the flick. Not to mention that the lead Rebecca Balding was quite a memorable, spunky, cute-as-hell heroine. She was almost like Mary Ann from "Gilligan's Island," if Mary Ann liked having sex and showing her totties. No virgins here, folks. Anyone could bite it in this flick! The most memorable performance here, though, is legendary horror actress Barbara Steele's brilliant performance as a creepy "houseguest." See this film and you'll know what I mean. Usually "brilliant performance" and "Slasher movie" don't go hand-in-hand, but trust me.

As far as ratings go, I use the 5-star system. I'm usually pretty lax in terms of rating movies. I give out a lot of fives. For example, "Citizen Kane" and "Pieces" are both 5-star movies, and really, if I was faced with a decision to watch either "Citizen Kane" or "Pieces," I'd go with "Pieces." Yeah, I said it. What?

Anyway, "Silent Scream" gets 4 out of 5 stars (****)

5 Stars (*****) = Classic
4 Stars (****) = Very Good
3 Stars (***) = Good
2 Stars (**) = Okay
1 Star (*) = Suckitude

It's a very good film, it had great characters, was slickly made, and had an interesting plotline. It lacked gore and your usual slasher campiness, but it had style... and nudity...

"Pranks" (1982) (also known as "The Dorm That Dripped Blood")

This fun little slasher is set during Christmastime, however, it is not emphasized and there's no snow in the flick at all!! But that plot point didn't get in the way too much (it could have been set in California). Anyways, this flick concerns a quartet of college students who are put in charge of preparing an old dorm building to be torn down after Winter break. Weird occurences go on concerning the mysterious hermit who lives nearby, and all sorts of mayhem and murder happens, much to my delight... People get ran over, strangled, drilled, steamed, and, my personal favorite, get a spiked baseball bat to the face!! The killer in this flick is pretty interesting to me. He was also kind of "punk" as he was wearing Converse during one particular death sequence (with said baseball bat). I like my killers in Converse. That is just coolage... The body count in this flick is spread wider in this flick as opposed to "Silent Scream," as 10 people bite it in this flick! That's a nice round number. There's also some nice bits of gore as well. Not much nudity, but they can't all be winners... This film is mostly known as Daphne Zuniga's first film, in which she went on to better 80s flicks like "Spaceballs" and "The Sure Thing," and eventually to "Melrose Place" in the 90s. There's also a little "twist" at the end of the film which would most likely divide viewers, but it's indeed interesting. Overall, it's a well-paced little shocker, has a nice body count, and is most definitely worth seeking out.

"Pranks" gets a nice 3/5 stars (***)
It's fast-paced, violent, entertaining, and slightly creepy, but the title really gets to me, as the flick doesn't have much to do with "Pranks." I am patiently waiting for the DVD release of "The Dorm That Dripped Blood." It's a better title by far, and it will most likely have a better transfer than my copy. I will indeed bump it up to 4 once I get my hands on "The Dorm"...

I picked these two as my "Double Feature" because they both concern college students, and they don't get as much appreciation as their ilk. They are both also very well-paced, as they are both under 80 minutes long! I implore you all to enjoy these two quick and dirty "slices" of Slasher mayhem!!!

The trailers:


  1. I vaguely remember Silent Scream. Gonna search for both and add them to Netflix right now, thanks for the reviews!

  2. An interesting sidenote: Silent Scream started shooting in 1977 before Halloween. They spent 2.5 years reshooting the film and re-editing it.

    As for Pranks, that was the original title of the film when it played in theaters. Media changed it to The Dorm That Dripped Blood for it's VHS release. I like Dorm better too, but Pranks is relevent since the characters are always playing pranks on one another. Is the murders in the film the ultimate prank, hence the title.