Thursday, September 23, 2010

In short: Death Screams (1982)

aka Night Screams

aka The House of Death

It's the end of the summer holidays in a small town in North Carolina. In a few days, a group of (of course looking rather old for their age) friends will leave their home for various Big City colleges.

But before it's time to say goodbye for them, they're going to have a little fun at the town's yearly carnival. After that, there's still time to drive out to the river situated nearby and have one final party.

What the friends don't know is that a killer armed with a machete (and sometimes bow and arrow and a plastic bag, it seems) is slashing and stalking through town and will soon enough demonstrate his own style of partying to them.

Will the town's mean fat redneck sheriff be able to save anyone before his heart finally succumbs to all that ichor that's clogging his arteries?

If you're looking for a local slasher movie that's particularly exciting or clever, or for one that actually works as a suspense film, I'd recommend you just keep away from Death Screams, because in these respects, there's not much to the film. The kills mostly aren't interesting, there's no mood of danger or terror, and although the physics of some of the kills are rather problematic (did you know that it takes about three seconds to suffocate underneath a plastic bag that someone has loosely thrown over your head?), they aren't really ridiculous enough to provide much amusement.

If, on the other hand, you're me, and have subscribed to the concept of small local productions like this being windows into the very specific cultural mores of very specific times and places, you'll find some minor delights on display here. Look at the amusing pretend-mean grandmother! Marvel at how boring life must be where a carnival as shabby as the one we get to see is a major event! Thrill to the sense of witnessing a sheriff as authentically mean-spirited and bitter as they come! And be surprised by the sense of pessimism and ennui in the teenaged protagonists played by playmates and people with only a handful of acting credits to their names, whose only distractions from the smallness of their lives are joints and sex (see also, "Let's Take Some Drugs And Drive Around")! Watch me try and avoid to describe the film as "thematically rich"!

Of course, Death Screams truly isn't "thematically rich", but rather a very standard cheap slasher film that - probably without intention of its director David Nelson or its one-time (or just pseudonymous) writer Paul C. Elliott - takes on aspects of the environment it was made in.

But if one goes on an expedition into the wilds of local, independent filmmaking, one should not care too much if the more interesting sights one finds have been erected intentionally or not, and instead enjoy them and be thankful they exist.


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