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MOVIE INFO

Director:
David Nelson
Cast:
Susan Kiger, Martin Tucker, William T. Hicks
Writing Credits:
Paul C. Elliott

Synopsis:
Teenagers are stalked and murdered by a maniac at a town fair.

MPAA:
Rated R.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 9/14/21

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Producer Charles Ison and Special Effects Artist Worth Keeter
• Audio Commentary with “The Hysteria Continues”
• “All the Fun of the Scare” Featurette
• Alternate VHS Opening Titles
• TV and Radio Spots
• Image Galleries


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RELATED REVIEWS


Death Screams [Blu-Ray] (1982)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 24, 2021)

Starting as a teen in 1956, David Nelson appeared as part of the cast on the long-running TV series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. When that show ended, Nelson continued to act but he also directed as well.

Given the series’ reputation as ultra-wholesome, one might expect Nelson to gravitate toward family fare. Instead, he wound up behind the camera for 1982’s Desth Screams, a T&A-laden slasher flick from 1982.

As they make love by a remote river, someone brutally murders young couple Ted (Larry Sprinkle) and Angie (Penny Miller). Though they go missing, the townsfolk become absorbed by the local carnival and spend their time there.

While they revel in the festivities, the nutbag who slaughtered Ted and Angie takes down new victims. As this maniac knocks off one carnival-goer after another, we see their attempts to survive.

After the huge success of 1978’s Halloween and 1980’s Friday the 13th, slasher flicks became a dime a dozen in the early 1980s. Actually, they seemed so ubiquitous that this comparison insults both dimes and dozens, as this form of low-budget horror proliferated like mad.

Outside of the unlikely presence of Nelson as director, does Screams stand out from the crowd in any way? No – it presents a typical example of early 1980s horror.

And by “typical example”, I mean “pretty freaking awful”. Screams provides a virtually plot-free tale that feels horribly padded.

After the opening murder, Screams settles into a monotonous rhythm in which we get to know the characters. In theory, this adds dimensionality to the roles, but even with a lot of cinematic real estate devoted to their development, none of the parts feels like anything more than thin and one-dimensional.

Admittedly, no one sees movies like this for their deep character moments, so I can’t really fault Screams too much for that – or I wouldn’t criticize the bland roles if the movie didn’t waste so much time with them.

As noted, Screams boasts a slaying in its first few minutes, but then we wait about 40 minutes for another death. That seems like a fatal flaw for a movie of this sort, especially because the pace remains sluggish.

If Screams offered a slow build and then let the mayhem manifest, I would feel find with the way it progresses. Instead, it just dawdles and wastes our time during the first act since all those character elements add up to little.

Once the killer returns, Screams remains sluggish and more concerned with its soap opera small town drama. No one seems likely to care about these dull characters, and the film’s refusal to step up the action feels likely to frustrate genre fans.

Often it seems as though Screams goes out of its way to avoid the expected violent material, and perhaps it does. I suspect the movie boasted a budget of roughly $12.38, so it likely lacked the money needed for even the most rudimentary gore effects.

Not only does this mean that the film lacks the usual level of violence, but also it leaves us with dull kills when they do occur. Face it: genre fans want to see creative forms of death, so the absence of anything vivid or memorable in that regard leaves the film devoid of that kind of thrill.

We do get a few tasty nude – or close – shots of some actresses, but Screams even manages to botch that side of the production. What kind of movie casts a Playboy Playmate as a lead but never prompts her to get naked?

A really terrible movie – that’s what kind. Even diehard slasher flick fans seem unlikely to find anything memorable or engaging about this lousy stab at horror.


The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C-/ Bonus B-

Death Screams appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was an erratic but acceptable image.

Sharpness seemed blah. While the movie gave us adequate delineation, it lacked particularly good accuracy.

No issues with jaggies or shimmering materialized, and I saw no signs of edge haloes. Grain felt natural, and only a handful of blemishes marred the proceedings, though some vertical lines and scratches became a distraction in the third act. It seemed weird that the finale suffered from so many more flaws than the rest of the flick.

In terms of colors, the film opted for a natural palette. Unfortunately, the tones tended to seem somewhat dull and flat. At times the hues fared better, but they lacked much vivacity.

Blacks were a little muddy, while shadows seemed somewhat thick. I suspect that the Blu-ray reproduced the source fairly accurately, but this still ended up as a somewhat unattractive presentation.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack, it also seemed bland. Speech came across as intelligible but stiff and a little muted.

Effects lacked much distortion but they also failed to display a lot of range and seemed bland. Music completed the trifecta, as the score and songs suffered from limited dimensionality. Even given the movie’s age and budget, the audio was adequate, but the track still seemed blah.

A mix of extras appear here, and we start with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from producer Charles Ison and special effects artist Worth Keeler, both of whom sit along with filmmaker/moderator Phil Smoot for a running, screen-specific look at cast and performances, sets and locations, effects, and various production topics.

Though not many of those production topics, as the commentary often feels like little more than a recitation of cast members and shooting locations. A few other tidbits pop up, and I appreciate that Smoot – who never saw the movie until right before he recorded this track – points out some of the flick’s problems. Nonetheless, this ends up as a spotty and not especially informative discussion.

For the second commentary, we hear from The Hysteria Continues, a podcast group. We hear from Justin Kurswell, Erik Threllfall, Joseph Henson and Nathan Johnson. All four chat together for this running, screen-specific look at cast/crew, other horror flicks/influences, sets and locations, and related subjects.

My past experiences with Hysteria commentaries have been mixed. Some have offered lots of good information, whereas others have felt fairly banal.

Unfortunately, their chat for Screams falls more in the latter category than the former. At times they offer some decent notes, and they attempt to explain what they like about the film, but I can’t claim the track brings a lot to the table. I learned a little here but not enough to make this a particularly engaging discussion.

All the Fun of the Scare provides a 32-minute, 53-second documentary. It involves remarks from Ison, Keeter, writer Paul Elliott, actor/PA Sharon Alley, actor/talent wrangler Robert Melton and actors Hanns Manship and Curt Rector.

“Fun” looks at the project’s origins and development, cast and crew, thoughts about director David Nelson, and various production memories. “Fun” doesn’t offer an especially tight look at the flick, but it comes with a decent array of details.

Next we find Altenrate VHS Opening Titles that last five minutes, 55 seconds. The movie sold as House of Death on tape, and this reel reflects that change. That makes them a minor curiosity.

In addition to four TV spots and a radio spot reel with 11 clips, we get Image Galleries. These break into “Production Stills” (114 frames), “Behind the Scenes” (108), “Promotional” (22) and “TV Spot Behind the Scenes” (38).

While most of the TV spots are ordinary, “TV Spot 3” offers unique material with Ison as he offers a Hitchock-esque promo. The “Galleries” also come with some good material.

Given how many slasher movies came out in the 1980s, it seems likely that most deserve to remain forgotten. Death Screams falls into that camp, as it provides an entirely monotonous and inept genre effort. The Blu-ray brings adequate picture and audio along with a reasonable mix of bonus materials. Even the most diehard fan of 1980s horror should avoid this stinker.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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