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A Movie A Day: THE SILENT SCREAM (1980)
Terror so sudden there is no time to scream!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the next installment of A Movie A Day: Halloween 2010 edition! [For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf or streamed via Netflix Instant and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]

The story behind 1980’s The Silent Scream is bit more interesting than the movie itself, which isn’t a bad “slasher hiding in the walls/attic” genre flick to be completely fair, but it was a very troubled production. The Silent Scream was actually filmed in 1977 and was deemed too shitty to release, so the producers and filmmakers knocked their heads together and reshot the majority of the film. IMDB says only 15% of the original footage survived to the final product, which was radically recast and restructured. In fact, one character, the nerdy high schooler with a mullet, is watching TV at a certain point and there’s a rape scene on the screen. That’s from the original version (and has nothing to do with what actually goes down in the movie we see), which had the skinny-dipper from the opening of JAWS, Susan Backlinie, in the role of Victoria, our slasher. She was eventually replaced by Barbara Steele. Steele’s an interesting actress who is known for her genre work, like Black Sunday, Castle of Blood, Dark Shadows and The Pit and the Pendulum, but she also worked for Fellini in 8 ½. So, they traded up. The flick’s about a bunch of college kids that are desperate need of housing as they being their fall semester in an unnamed and barely seen college. In particular we follow the adorable Rebecca Balding (horror fans will remember her from THE BOOGENS) a hippy-ish innocent whose last resort is an old house by the ocean. You can tell when she drives up this is no good (if only the characters in horror films could hear the score! Then they’d know that foreboding orchestra means “Don’t go into that house!”). It’s a gothic house, isolated, someone peeks out from an upper floor window… all signs that might as well be flashing neon “Danger! Do Not Enter!” Sure, the landlord is an old woman who won’t come out of her room and her emissary to the tenants is her awkward mulleted dweeb of a son, but the rest of the students are normal and at this point Balding is desperate. Gorehounds should know up front that this is a character driven slasher film, not a kill driven one. Kudos to them for spending time with these characters so we care when they’re put in danger later in the film. It’s a more perilous route for a horror film to take. Flicks like Night of the Demons, Night of the Creeps, Critters, Slumber Party Massacre and the Friday the 13th films are goofy, but highly entertaining and rewatchable. It’s that vibe that so many films of this time period are chasing and rarely achieve.

That praise having been said, I do wish this movie was a little more fun. Or a little creepier. One of those two had to happen for this flick to really come together. One aspect I really enjoyed was Barbara Steele’s murderous Victoria. Lily Munster herself, Yvonne De Carlo, plays the mysterious mother at the top of the stairs and we come to find that her daughter, and sister to the nerdy kid, went a little cuckoo back in the day and is now kept in a locked room connected to the rest of the house only via passageways behind the walls. They handle Steele’s character as a bit of a tragic story. She’s not a homicidal maniac because she’s evil, she was dealt a very, very bad hand in her teenage years and her mind broke, resulting in institutionalization and some form of lobotomy. The woman is now kind of stuck in her teenage years, playing the same records she did as a teenager over and over again, looking into a mirror with a photo of her as a teenager is plastered… She’s kind of trapped in a time of horrible memories. It’s an interesting turn on the typical boogeyman. The acting all around is better than you’d expect from a low budget slash-em-up of this time as well. Most the kids suffer a little from the “late 20s playing college age” syndrome… or maybe they just grew up faster and hairier back then. Who knows? The filmmakers smartly focus on the most interesting, and dare I say cutest of the bunch, with Ms. Balding. I will say her love story with Steve Doubet dragged the movie down a little bit, as did the detectives subplot involving two very likeable actors, Cameron Mitchell and Avery Schreiber. Unfortunately the police investigating the murders aren’t given nearly enough to do, so the whole subplot feels tacked on. Final Thoughts: The whole doesn’t come together, but it’s definitely worth a watch since it’s on Netflix, especially for those genre completionists out there. The late ‘70s/early ‘80s is an interesting time for horror, which was evolving at an incredibly fast rate. This flick might not have produced any icons, but it’s an interesting relic of the time period. Plus Rebecca Balding bears a striking resemblance to CinemaBlend’s Katey Rich! So internet movie nerds will have something else to watch out for! Currently in print on DVD: YES
Currently available on Netflix Instant: YES

Upcoming A Movie A Day Titles: Sunday, October 24th: SCREAM OF FEAR (1961)

Monday, October 25th: THE MEPHISTO WALTZ (1971)

Tuesday, October 26th: THE OMEN III: THE FINAL CONFLICT (1981)

Wednesday, October 27th: THE EVIL (1977)

Thursday, October 28th: THE DEVIL DOLL (1936)

Friday, October 29th: DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (1981)

Saturday, October 30th: SCARECROWS (1988)

You’ll be getting another AMAD today in order for me to fully catch up. I’m about half a day behind now and that will be fixed today! Look for it! We’re rounding the last bend, entering into our final week of the horror themed AMAD! -Quint Follow Me On Twitter

Previous AMAD 2010’s: - Raw Meat (1972)
- Ghost Story (1981)
- Two on a Guillotine (1965)
- Tentacles (1977)
- Bad Ronald (1974)
- The Entity (1983)
- Doctor X (1932)
- The Return of Doctor X (1939)
- The Tenant (1976)
- Man in the Attic (1953)
- New Year’s Evil (1980)
- Prophecy (1979)
- The Other (1972)
- The Mummy (1959)
- The Gorgon (1964)
- Mad Love (1935)
- Repulsion (1965)
- The Church (1989)
- The Black Cat (1981)
- The Black Cat (1934)
- The Comedy of Terrors (1963)
- Dolls (1987) Click here for the full 215 movie run of A Movie A Day!

Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 24, 2010, 5:50 a.m. CST

    Balding is cute.

    by AugustusMacReady

    The movie not too good. This and The Hearse, as a drive-in double feature, really tested my horror movie watching mettle.

  • Oct. 24, 2010, 7:12 a.m. CST

    Is this that anti abortion movie

    by UGG

    I was made to watch in school?

  • Oct. 24, 2010, 8:17 a.m. CST

    I still have my Boogens VHS

    by SoylentMean

    since it ain't on DVD. Kill the dog!

  • Oct. 24, 2010, 8:22 a.m. CST

    This is the one with the house on the cliff, right?

    by SoylentMean

    I think I watched it earlier this year. If it's the same movie, it wasn't all that memorable.

  • Oct. 24, 2010, 10:17 a.m. CST

    I actually saw this in the theater back in 1981.

    by The Reluctant Austinite

    It was the first time I ever saw anyone blow their brains out on screen, and that image haunted me for years. Barbara Steele's eyes totally convinced me she was completely nuts and she scared the crap out of me. The film was disturbing and downbeat enough to have been a film I wish I could've unseen. It wasn't fun. Still, it stuck with me through the years, and most people I mentioned it to had never heard of it.

  • Oct. 24, 2010, 10:40 a.m. CST

    "Trop Tard"?

    by Cassius_Crackhead


  • Oct. 24, 2010, 11:07 a.m. CST


    by MST3KPIMP

    never forget...

  • Oct. 24, 2010, 12:08 p.m. CST

    spoiler alert?

    by Bouncy X

    so someone tells another to use spoiler warnings because they mention a death, not even who but just how. but they dont mind that the review itself reveals the entire plot down to the reveal of who and why? interesting.

  • Oct. 24, 2010, 1:01 p.m. CST

    Shared title

    by Unscripted

    It is interesting that the filmmakers would share the title with the famous (and seriously over the top) anti-abortion film, which would have been at the top of the headlines in that time. Or maybe that was their intent...

  • Oct. 24, 2010, 1:04 p.m. CST

    I thought the silent scream was

    by disfigurehead

    an anti abortion ad

  • Oct. 24, 2010, 2:12 p.m. CST

    Dark Night of the Scarecrow

    by HansBubi

    I can't wait for the write-up about Dark Night of the Scare Crow. Can we jump ahead?! So many of the movies covered fall into two categories: (1) not very effective and not worth your time, or (2) actually pretty solid. Dark Night of the Scarecrow exists in that even rarer category of horror movies: it is genuinely bizarre, yet it will also get a genuine reaction out of you.

  • Oct. 24, 2010, 2:22 p.m. CST

    And if you haven't seen...

    by HansBubi

    ...Dark Night of the Scarecrow, please watch it. I realize many of us are reading these articles out of curiosity, not really intending to see all of these movies. However, please check out Dark Night of the Scarecrow. I'm not saying it's The Exorcist or Halloween, yet it's a bizarre little movie worth watching for the experience of watching such a movie.

  • Oct. 24, 2010, 2:22 p.m. CST

    Lastly, DNOTS is on YouTube...

    by HansBubi no excuses!

  • Oct. 24, 2010, 3:34 p.m. CST

    by Prague23

    Someone please just check out this link. It's amazing.

  • Oct. 24, 2010, 4:11 p.m. CST

    Looking forward to the Scarecrows review

    by Rabbitcakes

    That means Quint will probably chicken out again like he did with The Video Dead. <p>:(

  • Oct. 24, 2010, 4:16 p.m. CST

    Spoiler? Here's a spoiler for you!

    by The Reluctant Austinite

    You Will Die Alone. Just kidding. I didn't mean to spoil anything. Even though "Silent Scream" is am obscure movie, in my crazed movie obsessed brain, I figure if a movie is 30 years old, all is fair to discuss. Spoilers only count for new releases. BTW, VADER IS LUKE'S DAD!!!!!!!!!

  • Oct. 24, 2010, 4:25 p.m. CST

    Susan Backlinie, what happened to her anyway?

    by HarryKnowlesNonExistentInceptionReview

    Hot as hell in Jaws and 1941... then apparently lived as a bike gang crack whore for 30 years, resulting in her current appearance. Well, she looks like that's what happened to her anyway.

  • Oct. 24, 2010, 6:33 p.m. CST

    Isn't it funny how the trailer is sometimes better

    by Monroville

    Than the movie? I never saw this in 1981 (11 being too young, and no one to sneak me in), but I will never forget that trailer with the girl creeping up the steps and then getting pulled into that opening. Same thing with the burned bodies pulling the man into the hole in DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE and Gary being dragged off by his face in the quick shot in THE THING trailer. <p> Check 'em out on youtube.

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  • Oct. 25, 2010, 8:14 a.m. CST

    Is there the original 1977 version as well?

    by ricarleite2

  • Oct. 25, 2010, 1:53 p.m. CST

    Dark knight of the scarecrow scarred me

    by durhay

    I was 8 and I should not have watched it. I turned it off after the "bubba didn't do it" scene, which was early in the movie.

  • Oct. 25, 2010, 8:06 p.m. CST


    by jon pertwee

    i thought this was about the anti abortion movie from 1984 com/watch?v=cjNo_0cW-ek