Don’t Go In The Attic – Rediscovering ‘Silent Scream’ (US 1979 – 87 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - January 07, 2018
Don’t Go In The Attic – Rediscovering ‘Silent Scream’ (US 1979 – 87 mins)

Unfairly lumped in with the early slasher films, Denny Harris’ late 70’s horror ‘Silent Scream’ is actually a pretty good thriller that doesn’t dwell on gory murders, but more on the psychological aspect of the story. Slasher fans will feel cheated, but I’ve always enjoyed the look of the movie and especially the tense atmosphere that permeates throughout the film.

After moving into the beachfront boarding house run by the mysterious Mrs Engels (Yvonne De Carlo), pretty student Scotty Parker (Rebecca Balding) soon finds herself caught up in a series of brutal murders. When the police uncover some long hidden family secrets, they must race to the Engels boarding house before Scotty becomes the latest target of the deranged and unseen killer.

Originally shot in 1977, ‘Silent Scream’ was largely re-shot the following year while bringing in the likes of Yvonne De Carlo and Barbara Steele to give the film a bigger named cast. Rebecca Balding is great as the likable Scotty who is unaware of the danger she’s placed herself in by renting a room at the Engels’ home. Balding would find herself in more peril a couple of years later, in the cult creature feature ‘The Boogens’ (’81). Yvonne De Carlo doesn’t have must to do as the tormented Mrs Engels, and genre regular Cameron Mitchell looks mostly bored as the detective, while comedy actor Avery Schreiber pops up as Mitchell’s cop sidekick. For me the casting highlight was that of the striking Barbara Steele as Yvonne De Carlo’s tragic mute daughter, who managed to convey so much sadness and grief in just a few looks, during a (sadly) brief screen time.

With his sole directing effort, Denny Harris did a very professional job here, building tension well and providing an atmosphere that lends the movie a distinct Hitchcockian feel. Also memorable is Roger Kellaway’s excellent Psycho-influenced score that wonderfully weaves through the film. Screenwriting brothers Jim and Ken Wheat went on to pen sequels to both ‘The Fly’ and ‘The Birds’, before having success with the cult sci-fi hit ‘Pitch Black’ in 2000.

While the murders are largely shown off-screen, there is still a fair amount of blood, though it’s more about the unseen terror we know that’s lurking nearby, than the killings themselves. The creepiest moment for me was the lengthy tracking shot that finishes by introducing the audience to Barbara Steele’s knife wielding mute.

So much more than your typical horror flick, with minimal gore making way for maximum tension, ‘Silent Scream’ is an interesting and creepy entry in the teen slasher cycle, and one that I can happily revisit. Deliberately paced and well acted by the cast, I think it’s one of the better genre entries and worthy of reappraisal.

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