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Downbeat spawn of "Psycho"
fertilecelluloid6 January 2006
A cloying atmosphere. A large, wooden mansion close to the beach. A camera prowling the hallways. An arm grabbed in a crawlspace. Barbara Steele. The strange, bespecled son who puts on an old army uniform and stays in his room. The mother we rarely see. The grim tone.

I recall these fleeting aspects of "Silent Scream" and I recall the trailer featuring the arm grabbed.

The film is not very bloody and not a lot happens, but director Denny Harris chooses to focus on the dysfunctional family who rent rooms to college students. One of them, Rebecca Balding, a strong, no-nonsense actress, cottons on to what's happening and starts to investigate.

Although the film was inspired by Halloween, it plays more like "Psycho" or "Terror House" and benefits from its downbeat look and score.
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Nice homage to Psycho.
FrightMeter30 August 2010
College student Scotty Parker waits too long to apply for on campus housing and as a result must rent a room at a spooky seaside mansion owned by the equally spooky Engels family. Soon, one of the other college student renters is brutally murdered and Scotty unknowingly begins to unravel the secrets of the Engels family and the murders.

The creepy, atmospheric little gem is a homage to Psycho through and through. Though it is a slow-burner, there is always an uneasiness present as the viewer is made aware through minor clues that something is not right with the Engels family. There is little to no gore; instead the focus on on building tension leading into the frantic and frenzied climax. Barbara Steele steals the film without saying a word and her performance will certainly give you chills. Highly underrated and one of the better entries into the early 80's slasher genre, though today's audience may be turned off by the slow pace.

FrightMeter Grade: B
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Creepy and nostalgic …
plumberguy6618 April 2002
This movie scared the bejezzus out of me when I was a kid. I think I was scarred for life. I haven't seen the movie since I was a kid, but at that age I went to see a movie more than once so I still recall the movie pretty well. Silent Scream was one of the first ‘psycho killer on a rampage' kinds of horror movies I had ever seen. Most of my childhood movie experiences were supernatural gore fests. I had gone through life blissfully believing that all things horrific where relegated to the realm of the supernatural, where they couldn't hurt me. That ended for me in the summer of 1980: the year Silent Scream and Friday the 13th came out. I was glued to my seat, eyes like saucers, watching some wacked-out person hacking people up with a butcher knife or trying to pull them through a hole in the attic wall so they could hack them up. It was pure magic for an adolescent boy. It didn't matter that there was no mystery to figure out. All that mattered was that I was getting the you-know-what scared out of me and loving it. I look back now and think of how truly silly those kinds of movies were but, hey, they were great summer entertainment for a junior high school kid. I still have a soft place in my heart for all of those mindless slasher movies. I would recommend Silent Scream for anyone who loves classic ‘80's horror (the best decade for horror in my opinion). Here are some other recommendations for horror/thriller from my childhood (I'll try to stick to the less well known ones): Humanoids from the Deep, The Boogens, The Boogeyman, Sleepaway Camp, Dead of Winter,Evil Speak, Scanners (well known but a must), Mausoleum, Motel Hell, Blood Beach, Happy Birthday to Me, April Fools Day, Sole Survivor, Galaxy of Terror. There is also from the seventies: Suspiria, Alice Sweet Alice, The Other, Burnt Offerings, Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things, Piranha and Giant Spider Invasion: most of which I saw in the eighties. There are a lot more that don't come to mind right away but suffice to say that I made it my goal to see all the horror movies I could when I was young and there were a ton of them. I'm sure I loved them all. Please feel free to contact me for any recommendations to give or receive.
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Nicely done mystery with slasher styled murders.
Hey_Sweden7 August 2013
A better than average cast helps to make this horror film a decent watch, along with a reasonably good script (written by brothers Jim & Ken Wheat and Wallace C. Bennett) that has some memorable twists. It's graphically bloody at times but also has fine atmosphere, and a healthy nod to "Psycho" in its use of an imposing beach side house.

College student Scotty (Rebecca Balding) is in desperate need of a place to live and ends up at this house, owned by a weird family, the Engels. Unfortunately, Scotty and her fellow roommates won't know just *how* creepy this family is until it's almost too late. When one of the kids is murdered, a subplot develops with two detectives (Cameron Mitchell, Avery Schreiber) investigating the case.

The cute Balding is an appealing lead in this story, given effective theatrical treatment by commercial veteran Denny Harris (in his only feature credit). Helping a great deal is a grandiose music score by the under-rated Roger Kellaway, who also composes a period style song for the show. There is some good suspense and many ominous shots of the house and its interiors. The shocks are well realized, as well.

Yvonne De Carlo is also among the familiar faces appearing. Mitchell and an effectively serious Schreiber are fine as the detectives. In addition to Balding, Steve Doubet and Juli Andelman are similarly likable. Brad Rearden is great in the role of the nerdy Mason Engels, the films' one true tragic character. And horror genre icon Barbara Steele is a treat to watch in a non-speaking role.

Lovers of the horror films from this period should find a fair deal to enjoy here. "The Silent Scream" is enjoyable stuff that deserves a viewing from them.

Seven out of 10.
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A 'cut above' the usual slasher.
verna554 November 2000
Four college-bound students arrive too late for on-campus housing and are then forced to rent rooms in the creepy old hilltop mansion inhabited by a weird family hiding a dark and disturbing secret. Yvonne De Carlo is the mysterious matriarch who always stays upstairs and always seems to be guarding the attic, and Brad Rearden is her strange son. Cameron Mitchell and Avery Schreiber are detectives called in to investigate when a brutal murder occurs at the eerie place. There's also a nice role for sixties scream queen Barbara Steele. I"ll admit, before I actually saw the film I thought, considering the release date and R rating, that this was just going to be another one of those bloody teen slasher flicks. I couldn't have been more wrong! There actually is a plot, a surprisingly low body count, and even the few characters that do get knocked off are appealing in their own strange way, so you can't help but care what happens to these people. And above all, there is some terrific suspense sequences. It usually takes alot to get my adrenaline running, but at some points in the film, I literally jumped out of my seat! Any horror movie that can do this for me is truly something special. It appears to have been made on a small budget, but the cast handles it all so professionally that it hardly matters. Indeed, there are some real professionals involved, including horror mavens Barbara Steele and Yvonne DeCarlo. Unfortunately, it's a tough movie to find and not likely to be sitting on the shelf of your local retail/rental store, but it's well worth the extra effort.
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Not brilliant but okay
acidburn-1018 November 2011
This is another one of those 80's slashers that came out during the golden age, but has long been forgotten about despite the fact that it was a smash hit when it came out grossing $15 million at the box office, so I asked myself if this was so big then why isn't it more remembered, I mean this made more money than such other slasher gems such as (My Bloody Valentine, Happy Birthday To Me & House On Sorority Row).

Then I finally got round to seeing this and okay it's not quite up there with the other gems, but it's still worth checking out. The beginning is quite interesting and sets the tone for whats to come, like teens staying in an old Gothic mansion then getting picked off one by one by a murderous presence hiding in the attic. The performances also makes this movie work especially from genre stars Babara Steele and Yvonne De Carlo. And the gloomy atmosphere but Unfortunately it is this over-reliance on the past that proves to be the films' ultimate downfall as it gets boring very fast and This movie is nothing special. There's barely any blood or gore and the story tends to drag on at times, especially since the deaths take too long to happen and are too quick when they do.

All in all Silent Scream does set the creepy and Gothic tone well, but it does boring and far paced but overall the film works simply down the good turns from the cast.
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Family comes first.
lost-in-limbo4 March 2008
Let it begin. Post-Halloween slashers are in force. But this just made it in before the major onslaught, and admirably it's a above par entry. Actually it probably has more common with "Psycho" , and touch of "Black Christmas", than most brain-dead slashers. The one-note story is quite typical and fairly bare on building much in the way of sub-plots, but it's the dreary, underlining atmosphere that smothers the gloomy seaside mansion and invokes a real unsteadiness of slow-burn tension. Even the performances lend well, and the central outlook on a dysfunctional family (who rent out spare rooms in their mansion to students) grows incredibly eerie. A silently steely Barbara Steele is memorably striking in her support role, while Rebecca Balding is competently fine as the main heroine. Cameron Mitchell and Yvonne De Carlo also show up. There's a subtle stylishness to Denny Harris' direction in many effective sequences, where obviously his less concerned about a body count and ghastly shocks. The feel is more like an old-fashioned Gothic-tale, with psychotic-drama currents. A problem though, would that there happened to be many flat (or dead-air) moments. Dead silence, and believable actions aplenty. It's low-budget shows, and minimal scope gives the film a tight, dank and creaky vibe that works. Even the vast, forlorn coastal location choices, and shadowy, cob-web house-bound settings are nailed down to perfection. Roger Kellaway's hysterically sombre music score had that familiar sound to it, but Michael D. Murphy & David Shore's murkily prying cinematography really sneaks up onto the viewer. Even within the empty passages, it still emit's a spine-tingling ambiance and workably solid performances by the cast.
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Among the best slashers of the early 80's.
Coventry31 October 2005
"Silent Scream" was released slightly before the teenage-slasher film got immensely popular and, due to a much wider (and much bloodier) selection of titles, it somewhat got neglected rather quickly. Too bad, really, since this definitely is one best slashers I've ever seen and there are several reasons why other horror buffs should check it out as well. The plot of "Silent Scream" is simple, severely clichéd and predictable, but it still offers some genuine frights and delightfully gore murders. Four university students rent rooms in a large and ominous seaside mansion, owned by a timid old lady and her odd-behaving son. Shortly after, the first of four students is brutally stabbed to death and it becomes clear that there's another, extremely dangerous family member living in the hidden rooms of the house. I really liked how unpretentious this movie was! Due to the limited budget, there isn't that much spectacle, but the creepy atmosphere and uncanny location make up for this. Whenever there's an empty moment in the script, the camera creeps through the halls of the big house, seemly aimlessly, but nevertheless very spooky. "Silent Scream" is obviously inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's milestone "Psycho" and borrows quite a lot of success-elements from it, like the isolated mansion, the freaky son and the awkward family situation. That's not negative criticism, though, as this film has enough style and competence to stand on its own. And although very shallow, the biggest reason why I liked it so much is probably because Barbara Steele plays a very memorable supportive role. She's in her forties here, but still amazingly attractive and... crazier than ever!
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Pretty decent slasher/mystery film.
HumanoidOfFlesh8 November 2002
When Scotty Parker and three other students move into Mrs Engels' boarding house on the coast,they soon begin to suspect that something strange is happening.Landlady Mrs Engels hides away in her attic room and her son Mason is a creepy character who likes to watch brutal TV shows.Then the students start to disappear..."Silent Scream" is pretty good.It's true that some of its elements are stolen from Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho"(check out the shower scene!),but still the film manages to be quite creepy.The characters are reasonably appealing-a horror queen Barbara Steele is another reason to see "Silent Scream".Overall I enjoyed this little suspense horror.Check it out.8 out of 10.
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Barbara Steele's Every Scene She Is In!
BaronBl00d31 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Relatively cheaply-made and not-so-hotly directed by one hit "wonder" Denny Harris, The Silent Scream came out at the beginning of the slasher flicks boom following John Carpenter's Halloween in 1978. This film and Friday the Thirteenth came out in 1980. The Silent Scream seems to have been somewhat lost though it really is way better than the other and its entire franchise. We get a very creepy old house by the sea and a group of college students in need of rooms to rent. Mason Engles, the young nerdy boy of the family handles the business as his mother stays cooped in her room in the attic. Soon young people start getting butchered. First one man by the surf, another in the laundry room - no need for a laundry list here. The murders are not particularly grizzly - certainly not by today's standards, but the acting believe it or not is miles ahead of much of the dreck in films of this ilk since. No wonder as we have Yvonne De Carlo as Mrs. Engles, Barbara Steele in a truly bizarre role of a mentally frustrated psychopath who dresses as an adolescent but is in her forties(and still beautiful I might add), Cameron Mitchell doing a workmanlike job in a small role as a cop along with Doritos pitchman and comedian Avery Scrieber playing it straight as a detective. Rebecca Balding is our heroine and she is refreshing and lovely. The house is very eerie and we get back corridors and all that plus a basement and attic to die for(okay, to die in). The story is trite, hackneyed, predictable, or any word you would like to use that means something we have all seen a hundred times, but the acting and the atmosphere are pretty good. that is quite a complement, because I didn't think much of the direction especially that stupid slow-motion beginning of Mitchell and Scriber coming in the house and seeing the murders. You wonder first if the house has some history of murder, but then just wonder why the director went that route at all. An intriguing film especially in the context of when it was made.
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An Unsung and Underrated Classic
dagonseve16 October 2010
Originally filmed in 1977, the first version of The Silent Scream was so poorly rendered that the actors and actresses had to be called back for a second shooting. The final rendition was released on August 7th of 1980. Directorial new-comer Denny Harris would try his amateurish hand at producing a horror film – in particular, that with a zesty Slasheresque appeal. We must keep in mind that by 1977, Slasher films were not formularized and the usual setup commonly found in this sub- genre was slowly becoming more common (Bob Clarks '74 classic, Black Christmas truly got the ball rolling, in my opinion). Unfortunately Harris would not further his career as a director or proceed down the avenue of show business a second time.

The story concerns Scotty Parker, a college transfer who arrives too late to sign up for on-campus housing and is forced to seek elsewhere for suitable living accommodations. On the edge of town she spots a large estate; situated high up on a cliff-side, flanked by the shore line. Through these arrangements she is introduced to two other housemates – Peter Ransom, a young college man with a rich father, and Doris Prichart. Jack Towne arrives the following day to complete the group of students. A high-schooler by the name of Mason Engels and his mother own the house. Both mother and son share a tragic past and exhibit strange behavior as a result. After a drunken evening of larking around, Peter, stripped of his faculties, is stabbed to death on the beach by an unknown assailant. A police Lieutenant and his partner spring into action and discover evidence that uncovers the dark history of the Engels family; Victoria, Mason's sister, was committed to a psychiatric ward 15 years earlier. Is she to blame for these grisly crimes?

Barbara Steele (Victoria Engels) – a scream queen that solidified her status in 1960's Black Sunday (La maschera del demonio). In 1961 she starred alongside Vincent Price in the Roger Corman, Edgar Allen Poe adaptation, The Pit and the Pendulum. In 1965 audiences also witnessed her appearance in the low-budget chiller Nightmare Castle. If these references don't ring a bell perhaps you've seen her in 1978's Piranha, directed by Joe Dante. The Silent Scream would be Steele's only theatrical appearance of the 80's.

Yvonne De Carlo (Mrs. Engels) – A classic film starlet that was born in 1922, De Carlo made her film debut in 1941 and it wasn't until 1964 that she received her break-through role in the comedic TV-series The Munsters. Yvonne's career was not relegated to horror alone, for her work encompassed a wide variety of roles that spanned over the course of 54 years. She passed away in 2007 at the age of 85 from natural causes; the same year that Denny Harris succumbed to a battle with cancer.

Avery Schreiber (Sgt. Manny Ruggins) – a multi-talented individual who shared a passion for comedy during the 60's and 70's. For those of you who've seen Robin Hood: Men in Tights he was the tax assessor who took Robin Hood's castle away by a horse-drawn carriage. "Yea, yea. You vow, we move. Let's go boys! Take it out!" I always thought he shared an uncanny resemblance to my high school literature teacher in Junior year. But, as the bearer of bad news, I should inform you that Schreiber died of a heart attack in 2002.

Now that we've reviewed the more well-known actors of the big screen, what about the rest of the cast? Rachel Balding takes on the lead role of Scotty Parker. Balding has done a fair amount of television work but does not hold extensive credit as a film actress. Her inexperience as a theatrical actress is irrelevant, however, as I believe her work in The Silent Scream was above-par from what we've come to expect from low- budget Slasher types. The rest of the cast play nicely in correlation with her leading tone resulting in a job well done. The production values are on queue and don't miss a beat so it's nice to see things pan out the way they should despite a low budget.

The Silent Scream doesn't waste too much time attracting red herrings to a bug zapper. The premise is straight-forward and won't stray too much from your expectations. A slight twist at the end will have you second- guessing yourself but this technique shouldn't be looked at as too severe and the result isn't distracting in the least. The level of carnage is subtle and relies more on clever cinematography and a competent level of editing as opposed to over-the-top bloodshed that many Slashers from the 80's relied on. What we see in The Silent Scream is more representative of how horror films started out - which in my opinion, is a nod to the classics established long ago.

I'm satisfied to end this review on a positive note with a film like The Silent Scream. It will certainly provide you with that dreaded feeling of, "there's someone in the house!" but I wouldn't say that it's downright terrifying. Any fan that deeply assesses horror movies will inform you that a film's expression of fear is not a requirement in the traditional sense; as for you casual fans, why not celebrate a title that pays tribute to the old days? It may be this level of appreciation that transitions you from the leisurely spectator of the genre into a knowledgeable student of dark cinema.
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Drive-in screamers
GroovyDoom14 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The bait-and-switch tactics of movie trailers are the stuff of legend. We've all been rooked into watching or attending movies that turned out to be radically different than what the trailers implied. One of my biggest memories of this was "Silent Scream", which had a highly memorable trailer that basically revealed the creepy high point of the film. At age 10, I wasn't prepared for the fact that the movie itself was more atmospheric than thrilling, not to mention a body count that tops out at a modest 2. I begged my parents to take me to see "Silent Scream" at the drive-in, and then I think I fell asleep halfway through the movie because I was so bored.

Now that I'm considerably older, I got the chance to see "Silent Scream" again, and I can appreciate it for being a very enjoyable film, somewhat lacking in the gore department but otherwise bizarre enough to hold one's interest for the brief runtime of the film. Whether you enjoy the film or not will probably depend on your own fondness for the moth-eaten elements of horror cinema, such as spooky cellars, cobwebs galore, and secret passageways that lead to nothing but trouble.

Perky Rebecca Balding is a college student whose desperation for a place to stay leads her to a foreboding mansion that anybody in their right mind would flee in a heartbeat. With three other boarders living there too, there seems to be safety in numbers, that is until one of them is found stabbed to death on the beach. How long before our heroine becomes the "final girl" who has to confront the morbid secrets of the bizarre family who rents out their rooms? The worst thing about "Silent Scream" is that the plot of it is rather obvious. The family who presides over the seaside mansion consists of Yvonne DeCarlo, the matronly elder, and a young boy named Mason who is way too young to be her son, even though he seems to think that he is. Since Barbara Steele's name is in the credits of the movie too, it isn't hard to figure out that when she doesn't show up right away, she's a surprise that'll be dragged out later. The first time you actually see her on screen in the film is one of the movie's biggest highlights. Her performance is actually quite disturbing and effective, amid the silly slasher stuff that goes on.

In fact, all the the actors are good here. Yvonne DeCarlo doesn't have much to do, but she's a formidable presence in the film nonetheless. Cameron Mitchell is on hand too, upping the cult movie factor here even further. Considering that it's clearly a slasher film inspired by the success of films like "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th", it's worlds apart from the countless cookie-cutter slasher movies that followed. The gratuitous nods to "Psycho" help lend it some weight, and you gotta love any movie with a secret passageway that leads up to a secret room in the attic.
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Do not underrate Barbara Steele
poch1-129 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This mix of Gothic and Slasher film is lifted from forgettable to must see status by the iconic Barbara Steele. There is a nice setting of mood as the fine Rebecca Balding moves from the typical world of early 80's college setting so typical of slasher films into a more traditional Gothic setting. The music also quickly evolves from incidental to symphonic, again surprising for a horror film of 1980. Soon we are introduced to a still lovely Yvonne Decarlo who has a BIG SECRET! At long last we meet Barbara Steele. It might take a little time and patience to get to Ms. Steele but she dominates the last half hour with a committed artful performance and a beauty that cannot be dimmed with age. Stay with this one. The ending is terrific where most of the 80's films fall apart.
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"Any idea what kind of knife?"..."Yeah, real big and real sharp" Dull horror film.
poolandrews19 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Silent Scream starts with one of the most annoying opening sequences I've seen in a while. An entire scene involving police pulling up outside, going into, searching & making a gruesome discovery in the attic of a large Mansion is shown in highly irritating slow-motion & seems to go on forever. Not a good start, only a few minutes in & Silent Scream has already got on my nerves! Silent Scream then goes into flashback as the story which leads to this event is told. Student Scotty Parker (Rebecca Balding) has transfered to Santa Rey College at very short notice & once enrolled she sets about finding a room to stay in. After no luck searching Scotty comes across an old Victorian Mansion situated high on some cliffs above the sea & beach whose owners, Mrs. Engels (Yvonne De Carlo) & her geeky weird son Mason (Brad Rearden) rent their spare rooms out to students just like Scotty. Already living there are two more students named Doris Prichart (Juli Andelman) & Jack Towne (Steve Doubet). Scotty accepts one of two available rooms, the other is taken by another student named Peter Ransom (John Widelock) at the same time. That night the four new friends decide to go out to dinner. On their way back home a drunk Peter, after being a jerk, gets left behind & is murdered. His body is discovered the next morning, Lieutenant Sandy McGiver (Cameron Mitchell) & his partner Sergeant Manny Ruggin (Avery Schreiber) are on the case. They question Scotty, Doris & Jack but get nowhere, they then decide to investigate the Engels family to see if they can dig something up on them. Eventually they do but are they in time to save the students from a dark secret that has been hidden for years!

Executive produced, co-written & directed by Denny Harris I thought Silent Scream was a waste of time & throughly unimpressive. The script by Harris, Wallace C.Bennett, Jim Wheat & Ken Wheat is extremely slow, nothing significant happens for long stretches. It's over half an hour of tedium, poor character development & scene setting before anything that even resembles horror takes place. The body count is extremely low with just one death for over an hour! The ending was also a big disappointment with a dull so-called shocking revelation that really isn't anything like being shocking, surprising or interesting. In fact Silent Scream ends as you would expect it to, I honestly thought the filmmakers would have tried to come up with a twist ending & catch potential viewers out but no such luck unfortunately. Forget about any blood or gore, just a few red splashes on curtains, clothes & walls & while watching the end credits I noticed there wasn't any special effects credit listed which tells you everything you need to know! There is a sex scene but no explicit nudity. Technically Silent Scream isn't too bad, the house & locations used look OK even if the talentless Harris can't evoke any kind of atmosphere from them & generally speaking it's adequately made throughout although it ain't going to exactly knock your socks off. Acting is alright, there are some genre veterans in here including Yvonne De Carlo, Cameron Mitchell & Barbara Steele. Overall Silent Scream at best is merely watchable as there is nothing really wrong with it I suppose, but at worst it sucks because it's far too slow, uneventful & nothing of interest really happens for most of it's running time. Unfortunately for both me & Silent Scream the negative aspects of the film easily outweighed the positive, better luck next time chaps. The more I think about it the more I think Silent Scream would have worked a lot better as a half an hour Tales from the Crypt (1989 - 1996) episode. There are much better horror films available, watch one of those instead.
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A micro-movie
Maciste_Brother8 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers

SILENT SCREAM ain't much of a movie. I call it a micro-movie because the cast is populated by a few actors. There's only one setting. It takes place entirely inside a big but cramped house, and a lot of the action during the climax occurs in the attic. And the body count (aside from the killers' deaths) is only 2! Yep, 2. That has got to be the lowest body count for a slasher in horror movie history. To make things even more underwhelming, the murder scenes for those two aren't very good. What's really funny is as low as the body count is, the story boasts not 1, not 2 but 3 psychos/potential killers (the mother, the woman played by Barbara Steele and the "young" nerdy guy). The flashback is confusing and the film starts with, get this, the actual end of the movie, which basically shows us dead people lying on the floor. We don't know who's who on the first viewing but still, what a boring a lazy way to start a horror film. All in all, I have to say that this micro-movie was not worth watching.
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Lesser known, but not as bad as some of the eighties slasher output!
The_Void29 January 2007
The slasher film was one of the more popular eighties horror sub-genres, and as a result; a lot of truly awful slashers were made. This one isn't particularly brilliant, but it's more than decent and has more going for it than the vast majority of similar films from the same period. Most of the eighties output was directly influenced by John Carpenter's overrated Halloween, but this film appears to take more from the original slasher - Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece Psycho - than the aforementioned modern slasher, which is definitely to the film's credit. The film puts it's focus on just one location; that being a boarding house near to a beach. The house is run by Mrs. Engels, who leaves her son Mason in charge as she prefers to stay locked in her upstairs room. Scotty Parker arrives at the house after searching all over town for a room. She gets a room there and pretty soon she is introduced to the other three house mates and mingles with them well. However, it soon becomes clear that there's a member of the household that she hasn't been introduced to, and it's not long before one of her new-found friends turns up dead.

I have to be honest and say that I probably wouldn't have bothered tracking this one down if it wasn't for the fact that it features the great Barbara Steele. Steele doesn't get the lead role, but she is by far the most memorable thing about the film with her deliciously insane character. The plot plays out very directly, and there is little or no attempt to be clever at all. This certainly isn't a bad thing, however, as it means that writer-director Denny Harris (with his only film) is able to put the focus on the popular slasher elements such as murder and atmosphere. The film isn't very bloody compared to its counterparts; films such as Friday the 13th, but there's a few brutal murder sequences contained within the film, and this is sure to please slasher fans. The foreboding and tense atmosphere is a result of the focus on the central location, and the old house at the centre of the film gives it a nice feel throughout, which is also one of the film's main assets. The conclusion is somewhat predictable; but you can't expect much else from this sort of film, and while Silent Scream isn't massively impressive, it's better than a lot of slashers and comes recommended to fans of the sub-genre.
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Tame but not bad
preppy-34 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
When this came out originally it looked kind of stupid. I was going to skip it but two things changed my mind--a local Boston newspaper gave it a rave review (this was from a critic who HATED horror films) and it had Barbara Steele in it.

It's about these four college kids sharing this huge mansion with owner (Yvonne De Carlo) and her teenage son. However somebody kills two of them and the two left are fighting for their lives. But who is it...and why?

Pretty mild horror film. The killings are pretty tame as is the one sex scene. The dialogue is terrible and the film looks cheap. It feels like an R rated made for TV film. Also except for De Carlo and Steele (both wasted) the acting is lousy. Still I sort of liked this. It's competently directed and there were a few minor chills here and there. There's also one VERY gruesome scene where a pregnant teenage girl tries to hang herself. That probably earned the film an R rating.

Mild but not bad.
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See it for Barbara Steele
udar5511 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
University student Scotty (Rebecca Balding) finds campus housing is full so she secures a room in a creepy house overlooking the beach. She makes quick friends with the other three students there but is a bit creeped out by teenager Mason and his mother Mrs. Engels (Yvonne DeCarlo). The night she moves in, one of her newfound friends is murdered on the beach. While the police investigate, Scotty stays in the house to fall in love with Jack, unaware that the killer is lurking between the walls.

For some reason, I never saw this early slasher flick despite a pretty wide video release on the Media label. Checking it out 27 years after its debut, it is a pretty effective little horror film that mixes the old dark house scenario with the popular slasher trend of the time. The first hour or so is pretty standard stuff. It is in the last half hour that the film really makes it point. Once Scotty discovers the hidden path in the walls, it is a pretty good freak out with a deranged family. Best of all, you have a wonderfully deranged (and wordless) performance by Barbara Steele as the psychotic killer Victoria. Despite her character having a lobotomy, she is still hot!

Cameron Mitchell and Avery Schrieber (!) have small supporting roles as the cops investigating the case. Director Denny Harris handles the scares well with the end in the attic being rather suspenseful. Sadly, this is his only feature to date. Composer Roger Kellaway delivers a really nice score as well. Writers/producers/brothers Jim and Ken Wheat went on to direct EWOK: THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR and the horror anthology AFTER MIDNIGHT. They then took sequel writing duty, churning out THE FLY II, parts of ELM STREET 4, THE BIRDS II, THE STEPFORD HUSBANDS and IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE II. They also wrote what eventually became PITCH BLACK.
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Predictable and forgettable
mnpollio31 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Nubile college student Rebecca Balding scrambles to find housing and ends up boarding at the Engels' Gothic seaside home. Fellow boarders include funny girl Juli Andelman, braggart trust fund dude Peter Widelock, and hunky dreamboat Steve Doubet. The house is managed by the nerdy Brad Rearden, whose mother Yvonne DeCarlo rooms in the attic and emerges on occasion to glare mutely at the boarders. A psychopathic killer enters the mix and begins offing the inhabitants, bringing in detectives Cameron Mitchell and Avery Schreiber to investigate.

Most have probably never heard of this film, although it did fairly well in the early dawn of the 80s slasher genre and seems to have a very small cult following who insist it is better than it really is. The sad part about the film is that the bones of something quite good are there, but it simply never catches fire and contains zero surprises.

The fact that the film is painfully predictable is a downfall. The film opens with a flash forward of the police running into the house in irritating slow motion and we get snatches of carnage, so we have a good idea from the first few frames of who ends up six feet under. We also know that Balding and Doubet as the two lookers in the group will automatically fall in love/lust, but it seems to happen even improbably quicker in this film than usual. They get one brief sex scene where Balding bares her boobs, but alas Doubet predictably merely doffs his shirt. Further, with only four potential victims in the house and a healthy running time, there is not much suspense as to who is on the killer's chopping block. There is also no surprise as to the identity of the killer as the film pretty much tells us from the outset.

On a plus side, the film looks great. The house - with its cobwebbed passages and hidden places - is a creepy setting. It is easy to see what truly gifted filmmakers could have done with this scenario (adding a few more students to the mix to keep suspense going would have been nice), but the director here too often settles for the obvious.

Mitchell and Schreiber are wasted as the detectives, whose subplot really does not go anywhere and seems included only to pad the running time. Rearden never really milks the prospect as to whether he may or may not be a Norman Bates-ish character and veteran DeCarlo is never given enough material to really ham it up. Barbara Steele is effective at her menacing best as a mute hidden denizen of the house. The students are all appealing and fairly well played. Andelman seems like that fun best friend everyone wishes they had. Balding and Doubet are credible and sympathetic, and have nice chemistry.

The kill scenes have some minor gore, but they never really have much shock value or scare factor going for them. Again, the fact that we can guess who is a victim and when they will be taken out is disappointing, as is the tiny body count for a slasher film. The climax holds no surprises either and seems more of an anticlimax.

Again, the film is actually OK to watch if expectations are not high, but I would not advise anyone to go out of the way for it either. This is definitely one that would be ripe for a better remake in the hands of someone who could remedy its weaknesses and capitalize on the creepy sets and situations.
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Tedious and uninvolving
jadavix23 August 2018
"The Silent Scream" is an ineffective chiller with a number of feeble loose ends it never ties together.

A co-ed finds a sea-side rental house with some secretive types. She is warned to keep quiet around one of the rooms, inhabited by the house-owner, played by Barbara Steele, star of '60s horror flicks like "Black Sunday", but curiously underused here.

Inevitably, some people start getting sliced up (in fairly non-violent scenes), and Cameron Mitchell comes to investigate. He was the only other actor I recognized.

Obviously the finger seems to point to the old lady. More people die, and the characters don't seem that concerned about it. They go for a walk on the beach one day after someone was murdered there. Shouldn't there be some yellow tape trying to keep people out, and chalk marks on the ground?

I guess there were some twists and turns, but nothing that took me by surprise at all. I didn't care about any of it. None of the actors make any impression. There is a complete lack of human detail to the characterizations that would have provided an entry point for the film. You end up just waiting for the movie to end.
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Sadly only average
adriangr10 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Silent Scream had to jostle with hundreds of other "slasher" movies at the start of the 1980's to get into the public consciousness, and it just doesn't make enough of an impression to be remembered. The story, action and characterisation are so ordinary that it never really makes a mark on the viewer.

The plot: Rebecca Balding takes a rented room in a large cliff top mansion along with 3 other students. The house is ominous, the family who own the house are creepy, and one by one, the students start dying. Cue police investigation that turns up nothing, noises in the attic, romantic sub-plot, secret passages, etc, etc.

On the whole, the film just isn't exciting. Although it employs heavy duty "horror music" almost constantly (and loudly) to try and make things seem frightening, the murders are tame and the first hour of the film borders on boring. Things pick up after the big reveal and the plight of the "final girl" takes a satisfying turn for the worse, but this extended climax is diluted by some fairly weak acting from a couple of pivotal characters, and again, the dramatic music is laid of with a trowel in attempt to convince you that something really scary is going on when it's not

So don't expect to be scared. Sadly the gory excesses of other films of the early 1980's make Silent Scream seem very tame. And viewed today, it hasn't really got enough going on to recommend it on any other level either. Shame.
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Tame early slasher
FilmFatale9 November 2012
Scotty, Jack, Peter and Doris are all students who move into a gorgeous seaside mansion/boarding house run by Mrs. Engels and her son Mason. At first, the students love their new digs, but when one of them turns up dead, things get weird and the Engels family secrets begin to come out.

I remember always wanting to watch this movie when it was on HBO before we had cable, so it had taken on an almost mythic importance in my mind. I don't know why I never rented it during the VHS boom, but I finally tried to watch it earlier this year but couldn't get into it. I'm glad I gave it another chance, because I actually found it quite enjoyable. Sure, it's pretty tame compared to other 80s slashers, but there's a grimness to the murders through the sound or the blood spatter or other visual/auditory tricks that really make them effective, even though we don't see anything. The young actors playing the college students are mostly likable and not cartoonish, so I could imagine them all being friends. Overall, I'd recommend this one, especially to someone just starting to explore the slasher genre.
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Steele Steeles It
ferbs5416 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
An object lesson to all college students who choose to procrastinate in getting their off-campus housing, as well as a tale of a truly tragic American family, 1980's "The Silent Scream" is a solid winner on both fronts. Released shortly after John Carpenter's "Halloween" ushered in the era of the psycho-slasher-vs.-horny-teenagers film but before all the succeeding wannabes, the picture is far more than, and for superior to, the average adolescent slice-and-dicer, including that same year's "Friday the 13th." In the film, pretty Sonny Parker, desperate for lodging, rents a room, along with three other college kids, at an elegant old Victorian house by the sea. The home's owners, Mrs. Engels and her son Mason, are both decidedly odd, but the rooms seem clean enough and, at only $50 a month, quite the bargain. Too bad, though, that a knife-wielding maniac soon begins to make quick work of the fun-loving teens....

In one of the interview extras on this Scorpion Releasing DVD, the film's director, Denny Harris, mentions that his favorite horror picture is "Psycho" (mine, too, by the way), and that 1960 classic leaves its imprint all over "The Silent Scream." From the use of staccato strings on the soundtrack to add jolt to those knifings, to the peeping Tom behind the wall hole, to the decidedly Bernard Herrmann-like music in other spots, the film really does play like an homage to Hitchcock's scariest masterpiece. Harris, primarily a director of TV commercials, excels here in this, his only film, while Roger Kellaway's background music, as mentioned, is often quite nerve racking; in addition, the rock and roll tune that Kellaway wrote for the film, "I Love You Baby, Oh Baby I Do," is quite catchy and is used to supercreepy effect. The film features an excellent cast of both old pros and newcomers, and all give winning performances. Rebecca Balding--who this viewer only remembered as Billy Crystal's hateful girlfriend, Carol David, on TV's "Soap," although others may recall her from 1981's "The Boogens"--stars as Sonny and easily carries the lead role here; she comes across as sexy, spunky, smart and admirable. In a small but crucial role, former sex symbol Yvonne de Carlo underplays nicely as Mrs. Engels (those viewers who only know Yvonne as Lily Munster might want to check out some of her really "vamp" roles from the 1940s, such as in "Criss Cross"), while Cameron Mitchell and former funny man Avery Schreiber (hey, baby boomers: Remember the comedy team of Burns & Schreiber?) make for an unlikely yet likable pair of cops. And then there is Barbara Steele, who, without a single line of dialogue, absolutely, uh, steeles this movie, despite her short screen time. The initial look at Babs (accompanied by music that is reminiscent of the scene in "Psycho" in which Lila Crane explores Mrs. Bates' bedroom) is chilling in the extreme, and the actress is able to generate subsequent shudders with just her facial expressions alone. Just look at the gleam in her eyes! As I've said before, not for nothing has Barbara Steele been dubbed "The Queen of Horror"; she galvanizes every scene that she appears in here. To my delighted surprise, "The Silent Scream" turns out to be essential viewing for any Barbara Steele fan!

A final word about this Scorpion Releasing DVD itself: It is a superb presentation, with an excellent print of the film and over an hour's worth of interview extras with Balding and the Wheat Brothers, Jim and Ken, in which the film's writers detail how they recast Harris' original film, rewrote and reshot entire chunks, and emerged with a superior work. To the Wheat Brothers' credit, "The Silent Scream" emerges as much more than your average gore fest. The teens here are likable and have differentiated personalities--we care about them--and the Engels family tragedy at the film's core is an affecting one. Another fascinating extra: an audio-only interview with Denny Harris, recorded shortly before his death, that gives further insight into the making of this surprisingly artful film. In all, a superior DVD presentation of a picture that is well deserving of a new audience....
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Slasher flick, but Like it for another reason
mingo-218 June 2001
This film has the best R rated sex scene I have ever seen. Mainly because the director decided to let the actors sound like they where having sex instead of playing some stupid music. This is the only movie outside of porn in which the woman sounds like she's having a good time. As for all the knives and death, who cares?
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if you can't scream anything nice...
FieCrier3 June 2002
Pretty dull. Some somewhat Argentoesque aspects, like the opening, which seems like a flashback (it's not) and a long tracking shot. Psycho hangs over this film more obviously, though, with a sinister mother character, a wimpy young man, voyeurism - and a psychoesque murder, as well as music clearly stolen from Psycho's shower scene.

Some memorable images, but an unmemorable film unworthy of a second viewing.

My reasoning for seeing it was a bit odd. I recall having seen in the late 1970s or early 1980s an advertisement/public service announcement, promo, or trailer of some kind on TV. This would almost certainly have been network TV, since we didn't have cable. Camera was zooming in going up a narrow white staircase, I believe there was a heartbeat on the soundtrack, and the camera might have zoomed in on a vent on one of the walls in the staircase. I believe there was a voice-over saying something about a "silent scream." Visually, that's all it was - camera zooming up a staircase.

I thought it was possible, and it was also suggested to me on either IMDb's I Need to Know or Horror message boards, that this was a trailer for Silent Scream (1980). However, there was not a staircase like that in the movie, and unfortunately no trailer was included on the video. For some reason, I also wonder if it could have been a fire safety promo, or an antiabortion ad.

So, even though I'm not keen to watch the movie again, I would like to see the TV trailers for it!
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