Saturday, 16 February 2013

Screamtime (1983)

It's amazing what you end up revisiting in your adult life because of childhood memories. I remember somehow being allowed to watch Screamtime when my parents rented it out and I was entertained and thrilled by it. It had everything; fleeting nudity, bloodshed and tension. Of course, I was about seven or eight years old when I saw it and I didn't realise how bad the acting was and how hokey the whole framing sequence was.

Things start off in New York. Basically, there are one or two establishing shots and then we see two men robbing a video store to get themselves a few free movies for the evening. I'm not sure if such videotape "hit-and-run" robberies were commonplace in the early '80s, but I doubt it. The men then visit some woman in her flat (just after she's had a shower - gratuitous nudity about two and a half minutes into the movie = good sign) and then watch the movies. The movies all happen to be British, which means that the footage shot in America was probably filmed in the space of a few hours. The first concerns a Punch & Judy man (Robin Bailey) who is getting a very hard time from his wife and an even harder time from his stepson (played by Jonathon Morris, probably best known to most UK viewers of a certain age for his portrayal of Adrian Boswell in TV sitcom Bread). The second story is all about a couple who move into a lovely home, but it's all spoiled when the wife (Yvonne Nicholson) starts experiencing disturbing visions that start to fray her nerves. Last, but by no means least, we get a tale in which two old, twinkly-eyed ladies (Dora Bryan and Jean Anderson) hire a young man (David Van Day, best known in the '80s for being one half of Dollar and inflicting this song upon us all) to take care of their house and garden. The old ladies talk fondly about their gnomes and fairies at the bottom of the garden, but the young man takes no notice of this talk when he decides to rob the house. Silly boy.

This movie is just silly from start to finish. Thankfully, it's enjoyably silly and not silly in a way that will make you roll your eyes and go to sleep. Michael Armstrong wrote the script and he also co-directs with Stanley A. Long. Would you be unsurprised to hear that this was their last directorial feature (Long did direct a TV mini-series, but nothing else)? The acting is terrible from almost everyone involved, with the exception of Bryan and Anderson, the script is laughably bad at times and there isn't enough gore on display to make up for the low budget, bad editing and framing and strange penchant for showing people being killed by small men wearing pointy, red hats (you'll need to watch it to see what I mean). The soundtrack is also pretty bad, but if it was good it would be jarringly out of place so I don't hold that up as a major criticism.

Some people will be able to laugh at the performance from Jonathon Morris. Some people will be able to laugh at the performance from David Van Day. Some people will be interested to see the original tale that was remade and developed into the film Psychosis. Some people will enjoy seeing Kim Thomson in a small role long before she landed a plum, recurring role in Emmerdale. And then there will be the people like me, the people who either saw this movie in their youth and couldn't quite shake it out of their memory banks or have just heard about how dire it is and want to see it for themselves. Those are the people who will, hopefully, get the most enjoyment out of it. Just as I did.


Here it is for free on YouTube - - though it is marked as a 1983 release, I have had some trouble narrowing down the year. IMDb has it as 1986 but then has the US release date as 1984, many VHS copies are sold as 1985 and I've seen some others claim that it's from 1982. I think 1983 is correct or, at the very least, close enough. I'd LOVE to put a link here to purchase the movie on DVD so please let me know if it ever becomes available.

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