Thursday, 28 October 2021

Death Screams (1982)

A 1982 slasher movie that many probably thought was lost in the mists of time, Death Screams is a film that has recently been (re)discovered by horror movie fans who may have bought the new shiny disc version of it. It's not necessarily deserving of the treatment it has received though, but there's definitely some bizarre fun here for those who love this particular sub-genre.

There's a small town, there's a group of young people being played by actors who seem to already be in their mid-30s, and there's a red herring or two while unsuspecting victims are being stalked and slashed. It's quite standard stuff. Lily Carpenter (played by Susan Kiger) may or may not end up hooking up with the Coach, Neil (Martin Tucker), while Ramona (Jennifer Chase) may or may not end up hooking up with anyone that she wants to charm with her unsubtle seduction techniques. Meanwhile, Sheriff Avery (William T. Hicks) might start becoming more ready to discharge his firearm as the bodies begin to pile up.

Although this is the only feature film written by Paul C. Elliott, I was surprised to see that director David Nelson has a bit more contained in his filmography. Death Screams has all the hallmarks of a film made by people who only ever got to try this once. From the poor dialogue throughout to the wonderfully bizarre final reveal (a motivation for the killer that doesn't even feel like a proper motivation), the clumsily-executed death scenes, and the many potential plot threads that go absolutely nowhere, this is a film that feels more shambolic than anything else. It's certainly not tense or scary, not at any point.

There’s no memorable score, the camerawork is flat and murky, the lack of logic helps to make some scenes more comedic than intended, and it’s hard to think of any one thing that would make you care about the characters here, or the events unfolding. Yet it manages to do just enough to somehow stay above the worst slasher movies I have seen. There are a couple of decent images here and there, and you get a few of the characters managing to stand out, if sometimes for the wrong reasons (let’s not dissect the performance from Hanns Manship, playing someone who had their brain affected by a car accident some time in the past). 

Kiger and Chase are the highlights of the film, playing two very different characters, while Tucker is the main male character that the film chooses to focus on for most of the runtime, which allows him to be a bit more memorable than almost every other male onscreen. 

If you think I view this as a bit of a failure then you would be correct. Some of the kills are difficult to see, there’s a complete lack of things that make sense, and the interplay between the various characters is pointless and often dull. But if you think I won’t recommend it to fans of ‘80s horror then think again. It’s one of those bad movies that you may end up loving because it was made by people trying to do decent work with very limited resources. I can easily see myself rewatching this ahead of many other, slicker, movies.


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