Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Night Screams (1987)

Party night for future star footballer David (Joe Manno), his unpopular and kinda Carrie-ish new-in-school girlfriend Joni (Megan Wyss) and their friends (and "friends"). It's a teenage (and "teenage") free-for-all in the house of David's parents. But oh noes! David hasn't taken the pills against his "severe hyper-activity"! And two hilarious dangerous loonies on the flight from the police are hiding themselves in the cellar after some badly staged action antics in a diner, making googly-eyes into mirrors while declaiming stuff! Plus there's a lot of teenage heartbreak going on, because every girl wants David's healthy athlete body! Then, odious comic relief attacks!

Is it any wonder that somebody begins to kill off the kids (and "kids") in increasingly silly ways? But who, oh who might the killer be?

One does not venture into the realm of the ultra-low budget slasher from the end of the 80s expecting anything like a coherent or entertaining film, so I can't say that Night Screams disappointed me. The film does in fact have a few things to recommend it, these things being the hilarious performance of a certain John Hines (this film is - not surprisingly - his only IMDB credit) as boss of the crazy killers who might or might not do most of the film's killing (yes, I'm not going to spoil the obvious identity of the main murderer; at least the film was trying to be different and so deserves to be cut at least that much slack) and an absolute overkill of 80s pain in form of 80s hair, more bad 80s "rock" than I ever wanted to hear in a film, and even - Lord Cthulhu protect us - 80s interior decoration.

Night Screams and its director Allen Plone (who would go on to direct the surely epic and important Earth, Wind & Fire: The Millennium Concert) get some extra points for creative use of other people's films. The first double murder is cross-cut with footage from Herb Freed's Graduation Day, which the victims are supposed to watch, instantly giving a hopeful viewer the wrong idea that this is going to be a very meta kind of slasher, aeons before Wes Craven did it. The fact that the Graduation Day scenes look stylish, moody and well-acted (and who'd ever thought I'd use these words when talking about that film) when compared to the film they are appearing in, on the other hand, gives the experienced slasher victim/viewer the right idea about the anti-quality she will experience in what follows.

This isn't the only time the film at hand will be enhanced by footage taken from a different film. It seems as if the actresses weren't on board with actually showing their breasts in the cheap and stupid exploitation film they were appearing in to show their breasts - unlike some of the very buff young men who are there to delight women and gays early on. What to do? Oh, right, let's just let the characters watch some porn videos and cut in some non-hardcore footage from them. This does not only fill the nudity quota brilliantly (if not necessarily in an erotic, attractive or sensible way), it also left me awe-struck and therefore un-bored for at least five, possibly ten minutes of the film. It is such a beautiful example of pure hucksterism and a director and producers very obviously not giving a damn about the integrity or basic coherence of their film as long as they have some breasts to show, just thinking about it fills me with the warmest glow of pride in belonging to the same, brilliant family of insane monkeys as the people responsible.

All these great (or "great") elements are somewhat wasted on a film that manages effortlessly to show ten or more (I wasn't counting and am certainly not going to watch this again any time soon) murders and still be mostly boring and very, very slow.

But - as I said - I expected this to be boring and stupid, and can now hardly complain that Plone's film delivers exactly what it promises. As with the breasts, so with the rest of the film.


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