Ah, the other Scream. I decided I would follow watching a great film with watching a truly awful one, and this 1981 slasher film really is awful. It also has a relation to The Professionals; Woody Strode stars in both, The Professionals coming at the height of his career, while Scream came at the end. But even if you are a Woody Strode fan (and I am. He has a physicality and an intensity that reminds me of Yul Brynner, and I believe he was every bit as capable of an actor but was criminally underused and relegated to B-movies), this movie is so awful that it isn’t worth watching for the 4 minutes in which he appears to give what little backstory there is. Even he seems bored of it.
Basically a bunch of folks ride a river to a ghost town and spend the night, only to see their rafts destroyed and their friends picked off one by one in the night by an assailant who is never shown. The killer is implied to be the ghost of a long dead sea captain, but the audience never finds out, and the characters definitely never figure it out. That said, these characters probably couldn’t figure out how to escape a wet paper bag if they had a buzzsaw and a guidebook on how to do it. They quarrel, they harass each other, they complain, but they don’t really try to help themselves and end up effectively letting the biggest asshole run the group, and he’s pretty much an idiot who is too busy giving shit to the fat, unintelligent, fearful comic relief character. They do at least attempt to put up booby traps to give away their assailant and then later bar the door, but they even manage to screw up these basics and nearly get killed off until an elderly couple shows up in a pickup truck and saves everyone after the ghost is “shot” by someone off screen.
In fact, most of this movie takes place off screen. Just about everyone dies there, the rafts are destroyed off screen, the final fight takes place off screen, and what is on screen is usually too dark to see. The audio is a mess (the soundtrack overrides all the dialogue…which mostly comes from off screen), the contrast is off, and what we can see is mostly characters sitting around arguing while the audience wonders when the next person will eventually die in one of the boring kills.
If there is anything that this movie does differently from the rest of the slasher genre, it doesn’t kill women. Only one woman is chased by the mysterious assailant in the entire film, and she survives with little more than a bump on the head. It’s only the men who get slashed, stabbed, cleaved, or hung. This might have made for an interesting change of pace if there was any other substance to the movie, but it just isn’t there. Just like the characters in the movie, the film seems to be waiting around for something to happen. And when it does happen, there’s a momentary freak out, it acts like an idiot, and then it sits back down and waits for something else.
Do you guys remember a few pages back where I said Mortuary wasn’t very good? It’s way better than this, and it’s pretty bad. I would say Scream is probably the worst slasher I have ever seen, because it is both amateurish and completely boring.
So yeah, the other Scream is better. Way, way, way, way, way better.