MARCH 4, 2010
Today is my birthday (I’m 30! Christ....), and my gift to myself was being truly upset at a horror movie for the first time in years. During the first segment in From A Whisper To A Scream (theatrically released under the title The Offspring, which only applies to this particular segment), Clu Gulager (possibly the nicest and awesomest actor of all time) played a murderous necrophiliac with giant fishbowl glasses. I didn’t even recognize him at first, and then when he started doing horrible things I wished I hadn’t.
I kid of course - it was great to see him in a way out there role, and that’s a common thread throughout the whole movie. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly one of the more original anthologies I can recall. Not only is the wrap-around a bit different (a guy - Vincent Price! - is telling the stories to a reporter, trying to convince her that the town itself causes bad things to happen), but each story is a bit out of left field; instead of presenting familiar stories “but with a twist!” (i.e. vampires and other traditional monsters), they each take a certain character archetype and apply it to a fairly unique story.
Clu’s, for example - he’s a loser who has to take care of an invalid family member. But it’s his sister instead of his mother, and he’s not the usual handsome but odd young man (i.e. Norman Bates). He’s in his 60s, as is his sister (played by Clu’s real life wife), who may harbor some incestuous feelings for him. Also, the object of his affection clearly has no interest in him, as opposed to the usual sort of “they get close and then she realizes he’s not all there” setup. And none of these types of stories have ever had the murderer’s necrophilic actions spawn a monster baby nine months later (spoiler). Clu also has frequent hallucinations, so it’s a surprisingly gory entry as well. The only problem is that it feels a bit choppy at times, like it was a longer story and they had to strip it down to the bare minimum in order to fit into the film.
That was even more of a concern when I watched the 3rd story (concerning a strange circus), which should have been chucked all together (with the time applied to letting the three other segments “breathe” a bit). I liked the final “twist”, but it’s rather dull throughout, and while it also seems a bit stunted, it’s not as involving or interesting as the others. Nothing wrong with just having three stories in an anthology - Creepshow 2, Tales From The Darkside...
I also dug the last story a lot, because it had killer children, which is always a plus. But it also had Cameron Mitchell, and it’s rare I see anything approaching quality with the man. But most importantly, I really liked the twist, which (unusual for an anthology) was more of a Twilight Zone, or even Star Trek “makes you THINK, huh?” type of twist, than Tales From The Crypt.
The really cool thing about the movie as a whole is that all of the stories take place in one town (at different points in time), giving the film a sense of cohesion and local flavor that anthologies never really have. Even Cat’s Eye, which had a similar “They’re all in the same world” narrative, went from big cities to small towns, and there was no distinct personality to them. But this is a VERY southern movie, from the accents to the customs (not too many areas where a voodoo man living in a swamp can really work). So even though it lacks the cross-blending of something like Trick R’ Treat, it’s still one of the more unified anthology films I’ve seen, which adds to its unique appeal.
The film was directed by Jeff Burr (his debut I believe), who went on to helm several sequels, including the underrated Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (aka Leatherface) and Stepfather 2, which is the film that I got the name “Grayland” from, which is what I have used for pretty much every video game I’ve played since that allows you to name your character. He also made a terrific (not horror) war film called Straight Into Darkness a few years ago - definitely check it out (the trailer is below, since I couldn't find a trailer for this movie).
The DVD is barebones (just the trailer), but it’s also one of those old school flipper types with widescreen on one side and full frame on the other. You only need one of those sides though, right?
What say you?