When I saw that Silent Scream (1979) earned three votes and landed at number 274 on the 2020 list of your favorite horror movies, I was pumped! It didn't quite land for me when I originally reviewed it, as I found it a case of "the parts are all there, but they are not assembled into a completely satisfying whole." I was therefore eager to revisit it and see if time might weave some magic.
Well, spoilers, I still feel that Silent Scream isn't quite satisfying overall, but time has indeed woven a wee bit o' magic, because I find that I'm more than satisfied with the parts.
Though it's often billed as a slasher flick--and, yeah, some people do get killed with a knife all slasher-style--Silent Scream is too odd a duck to be put into such a narrowly-defined box. It predates the the stalk-n-kill subgenre's heyday by a couple of years, but I'm not even sure if I'd call it a proto-slasher, exactly. It's more like a gothic soap opera walked through a slasher movie perfume mist, maybe.
It feels a bit underseen in the mainstream, I think, so I'm reluctant to give away too many spoilers, although I certainly gave them away in that old-ass review. Four college students rent rooms in a seaside mansion owned by an eccentric family. Maybe that's all you need to know? Well, that and the fact that Avery Schreiber and Cameron Mitchell are our intrepid police detectives. For those of us with discerning taste, that's definitely a selling point!
Schreiber and Mitchell aren't the only draws on this cast though, not by a long shot. Perhaps you recognize Rebecca Balding of The Boogens under that mushroom cap? (If not, get thee to The Boogens stat!)
And of course we get horror icons Yvonne De Carlo and Barbara Steele--Steele in particular is a real treat, emerging from the cobwebs (as she tends to do) and turning in a delightfully unhinged performance without saying a word.
So yes, Silent Scream straddles a few subgenres and isn't enough of any one of them to knock your socks off...but boy is it fun nonetheless. The entire film takes place over two days or so, and it gets really bonkers for all the folks involved in that short time span. It sort of keeps unraveling and unraveling as secrets are revealed, and then it's suddenly over, just shy of the 90 minute mark. It's missing some essential ingredient to bring it all together, though I can't quite pinpoint what it is. But I'm also completely fine with that--I really dug its strangeness this time, and it'll be thrown into a much more regular rotation around Stately Final Girl Manor, that's for sure. It's got a charming cast, a few terrific jump scares, a bit of atmosphere here and there, and Barbara Steele stole the show. That's definitely not unheard of for her, but still, I was really into the creepy weirdness she brought to this one.
Even just writing about it now, I feel my fondness for Silent Scream growing. Hot dang, SHOCKtober, you've done it again!