Sunday, June 20, 2010

SILENT SCREAM (1980) - one of the more esteemed shameless ripoffs of Psycho in the derivitive canon

Barbara Steele likes to keep things both quiet and insane, and rational discourse violates both of these rules of thumb

Rather than watch some extraneous schnook get smoked in the intro, thereby dropping a hint in the audience’s head that future carnage is imminent, we get what looks to be the ending of the movie. However, this bloody aftermath is presented in frame by frame slo-mo, all fuzzy and bleached out. I guess it's trying to prod our imaginations while not spoiling the resolution. It also saves them the trouble of shooting another scene, but I'm sure that wasn't a real factor in the artistic process.

Our heroine Scottie (Rebecca Balding in a wonderful performance) is a late college transfer attempting to register. Apparently, her dorm options are fucked, so the bitchy registration lady hands her a list of local shitty rental opportunities, a murderer’s row of shady rooms owned by crazy old ladies. She finally settles on some big creepy house that’s straight out of Psycho, which sits on a cliff over a beach. She meets the landlord and a tenant, some nerd on a bike that looks like the retard from I Spit On Your Grave, only with a nerd mullet tacked on to the back of his skull. This hairstyle shows us that he’s “business in front” (inputing code on an Apple IIe) and “party in the back” (masturbating to reruns of Bewitched). Some asshole driving a Porsche also shows up, and he’s wearing a pink shirt and a sweater over his shoulder (do gay preppies exist?). Scottie and the preppie douche both procure a room and move in, and a little later we meet Jack, the fake Bon Jovi tenant.

Scottie learns that the room she’s renting once belonged to the nerd’s sister, which I guess would make the old lady landlord the mom. Things start to get ominous when the douchebag gets drunk on the beach and is (thankfully) murdered. Even more ominously, some dude with a Gene Shalit moustache teams up with Cameron Mitchell to investigate. Cameron shows up at the house to asks questions and jot down answers in a big ass yellow legal pad. The nerd pulls a Norman Bates, saying his mother is not well, and shouldn't be interviewed. He also admits that his sister Victoria moved out and is now "back east". Thanks…that really narrows it down asshole.

Well, having a roommate murdered sure is stressful, so the other dude convinces Scottie that they should go swimming at the beach where their (sorta) friend was killed the night before, in order to de-pressurize from the trauma resulting from their friend being killed on the beach. This includes making sexy time, while someone on the soundtrack makes sweet aural love with their saxophone. Meanwhile, Cameron has a "hunch" about the family being involved with the murder and, through shrewd detective work and heavy smoking, finds out that sister Victoria once tried to stab someone at a party in high school. At this point his “gut” is raging with suspicion (I hope it’s not an ulcer).

While the nerd is watching some girl getting raped on TV, the preppie stud puts further moves on Scottie as she’s about to start studying, successfully getting that sax blowing again. The other girl is stuck doing laundry in the dark, creepy basement, undeterred by the moans wafting through the air ducts. However, she is interrupted by a 4-way Psycho homage, which amounts to:

A. shrieking violins
B. stabbing by butcher knife
C. smacking into the overhead light bulb
D. pulling down a hanging sheet as if it were a shower curtain

We are finally introduced to the star of the movie, Barbara Steele, who plays sister Victoria, the apparent black sheep of the family, as she is barricaded in a room in the house. While I’m certainly a colossal source of shame for my own family, I’ve never gotten that kind of treatment. Her favorite past time involves staring into a mirror, the reflective surface replaced with old black and white photos of herself (longing for the past, perhaps?), while listening to some knock off 50's rock n’ roll (no doubt courtesy of the snake oil fucks at Time Life Books). Oh yeah, she’s also hanging out with the corpse of the chick that was just murdered. I’m normally not one to chastise shut-ins, but perhaps this isn’t the healthiest daily routine. Maybe some fresh air would help, or maybe she could join some bridge group or something.

Scottie investigates the basement with flashlight in hand, finding spatterings of blood. She also finds another set of stairs, loaded with cobwebs, and decides to scale these endless steps. What curious delights await our heroine at the top of the stairs? While some may say that curiosity killed the cat, Scottie ain’t no kitty, and curiosity is also a necessary component to scientific discovery. Either way, I won’t spoil this most obtuse of mysteries.

Well, Cameron and his fake Shalit buddy show up at the last second, after the final confrontation, further cementing their worthlessness. The opening scene is now played in context and with clarity, and we are left with the bloody aftermath of a family that, rather than dealing with their psychological hangups, just stuff them into a secret wing of the house. The mother figure never offered support or guidance, instead letting her two kids waste away in opposite directions. At the very least, she could’ve told her son to shave that fucking mullet off.

1 comment:

  1. love the sex scene, especially Scotty's orgasm!!
    I love the way she comes, it's very beautiful!!!