Dead of Night aka Deathdream (1974)

directed by bob clark
Quadrant films/impact films

The first thing I noticed about this movie, the sophomore effort from Bob Clark following Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, is how vastly improved in every aspect of filmmaking it is in comparison to that initial offering. Script, lighting, camerawork, acting, pacing, makeup effects – everything is better. It’s as though Clark and head writer Alan Ormsby made a serious study of their inaugural production in order to make a more professional showing with their next film. Whatever the explanation – the budget was almost 400% larger, nearly $240,000! – it worked, because altogether this little horror picture is nearly excellent. The emotional impact of the small-town boy returning from a foreign war and the many repercussions of his impaired condition – to describe it as benignly as possible – are powerfully depicted, and the creeping sense that something is very wrong is deftly developed. Inspired by the W. W. Jacobs story “The Monkey’s Paw,” this saga sure seems to have been bastardized within S. King’s 1983 novel Pet Sematary in the tale of Timmy Baterman. (PERHAPS coincidentally, late in this flick, the action veers into a graveyard identified on its iron gates by a sign bearing the misspelling “Cemetary.”)

why did i watch this movie?

As mentioned when I reviewed Children, I had previously seen Clark’s third opus, Black Christmas, and I wanted to complete the trifecta.

should you watch this movie?

Yeah, I think any fairly serious horror fan probably should.

highlight and low point

Appraisals of the thespians amply cover both extremes. As the returning soldier “Andy,” Richard Backus does an overly intense Anthony Perkins impersonation, and as his mother, Lynn Carlin is often grating. John Marley as the father is absolutely perfect, however, and the various smaller roles are also done to a turn.

rating from outer space: A−

The Silent Scream (1979)

directed by denny harris
denny harris inc. of california

Set in a boarding house, this film is a pretty decent example of the derive-the-killer’s-identity plotline, the basic premise of which was repeated a few years later by Unhinged, to name at least one imitator. Whereas many such films may cause one to roll his or her eyes at the revelation of the killer and how he or she relates to whomever else, the backstory eventually provided herein – though convoluted, to be sure – is at the least internally consistent. With only a few actual scares and not much onscreen killing to be had – plus some fairly obviously fake blood – this flick makes do largely with the strengths (or weaknesses) of its characters. Not enough time is given for the development of a certain psychosis that shows at the conclusion, but overall it’s an estimable effort … which apparently was a miracle of extensive post-production, as the original was deemed unreleasable. Perhaps that’s why the director remains an unknown, with no other credits to his name.

why did i watch this movie?

The lead actress played “Carol David” on Soap, one of the greatest shows in the entire history of television, and I noticed her name in the cast list.

should you watch this movie?

I feel as though I’ve said this sort of thing before, but if you’re in the mood for a throwback horror experience, it’ll ably fit the bill. It also seems to be pretty obscure, if that interests you.

highlight and low point

Some of the characters are either broadly drawn or transparently disposable, and a few minor impossibilities may nag at you. The climax is admirably suspenseful and relatively novel.

rating from outer space: B+