NOVEMBER 1, 2011
If there’s one thing I can comment on with some authority, it’s slasher movies. I’ve watched nearly 300 just for HMAD, and if I could be assured I wouldn’t go insane, I wouldn’t watch anything else BUT slashers for the remainder of HMAD’s existence. Thus, I hope you all take my word that Silent Scream is better than most of the indie slashers from the past 10 years – granted that’s saying next to nothing, but I feel it’s one of those movies that someone who hasn’t been subjected to the Graveyards and Dark Harvests of the world will dismiss as being a total failure – even the film’s own actors have badmouthed it.
For starters, the pacing is surprisingly solid until the final 20 minutes (more on that later), with a death roughly every 5-7 minutes – even some of the Friday the 13th movies don’t offer up that much carnage! The killings also start much earlier than expected, due to the fact that (spoiler) they successfully pull off the “introduce a bunch of kids, then quickly kill them all before bringing in the REAL group” approach that the Friday remake tried and most failed at. One nice thing about indies like this is that the cast of no-names (though the Final Girl is apparently from some pop band called Dream) makes it a lot easier to pull this sort of thing off, whereas the Friday remake had several known stars that weren’t in that (too small) first group, making them impossible to buy as the real group. Here, they do it the other way – like 8 of them go off to the cabin first, most of them die, and then 5 more show up the next morning.
Also, the deaths are actually pretty good, and nearly 100% practical (just a few CGI enhancements). Nothing on the level of Hatchet or Laid To Rest, but there’s a fun spark of creativity to many of them. My favorite involved a girl who was slammed into the “V” part of a tree – we only see her head, stuck in the tree as she struggles and then finally dies, as we hear the sounds of the killer doing his thing. Then there’s a pause, and just when you think they will just cut to the next scene, we see the killer, now way off in the background, carrying her headless body. Heh, awesome. It’s the ol’ Texas Switch, but used for a beheading death! Win.
I also liked the relative lack of kids sitting around goofing off and never noticing the disappearance of their friends until much later (i.e. when all but two of them were dead). The first group are all sex addicts, so they go off instantly and die right away, and then when the other group shows up they are instantly concerned that no one is around and thus keep their hijinks to a minimum (there’s still some sex though – this movie makes even Final Chapter’s teens look chaste). And their cells sort of work, which is like the filmmakers meeting us halfway – obviously they can’t have too much “safety” at their disposal (and they’re on an island anyway so it’s not like the cops can just drive up), but we’re spared the usual “I can’t get a signal!” stuff even though someone says early on that they might not be able to make calls (which, again, makes some sense since they’re on an island with inclement weather).
Hell, even the damn twist isn’t TOO bad (spoilers again!). It’s sort of an “all a dream” thing, but it’s closer to Final Destination in that the dream is a premonition of what is actually going to happen. So think of it like the opening scene of an FD movie stretched out for most of the running time, and then just showing the first death in the sequence to let us know that it’s all going to happen as previously shown. This also helps explain some of the minor plot holes and apparent supernatural powers of the killer, so, you know, fine. The movie had at least built up some goodwill before then, making it easier to accept.
A couple of things weren’t so forgivable, however. For one thing, the killer’s identity is too damn easy to figure out, which is worse when you consider his lame-ass costume. The big winter coat thing was already used in Urban Legend, and that movie’s killer was much harder to pinpoint after a half hour. Here, the guy is so obviously behind it all that he didn’t even NEED a costume (like in the Prom Night remake), so to give him one that was so uninspired was just salt in the wound. One or the other, filmmakers!
Also, even for these things, the dialogue was painful. Dream or not, no one says “There’s going to be some ass TAPPING tonight!”, or any of the other brain dead bits of dialogue that occur in those rare moments when folks aren’t running or being killed. There are a few decent lines here and there (the seeming cheating boyfriend character had some nice hero shit in the 3rd act, with a few good lines to match), but most of it just sounded like a 40 year old trying to write dialogue for teens, which it probably was (I can’t find the birthdays of any of this movie’s inexplicable THREE writers).
Finally, the movie’s insistence on killing off the kids as soon as possible means they run out of victims too early, giving it a very clunky final “reel” (not an actual reel, this was shot on ugly digital video). Our final girl runs around for too long, and then once the twist is revealed we have to re-watch a few scenes and listen to a bunch of exposition (see above paragraph re: the dialogue in this movie). Even though the twist is actually foreshadowed quite obviously in the first scene, the way it’s written STILL manages to feel like they made the movie, realized it was too short, and made up a final 20 minutes to pad things out.
The disc’s only extra besides some 5 year old trailers (The Descent! See No Evil! Fucking Dark Fields!) is a collection of brief interviews with the cast, all of whom loved the script and their characters and found Michigan to be quite cold. There might be something in the world that is less useful even to people who loved this movie, but at this point in time I cannot think of it, nor would I want to.
So no, it’s not a good movie or minor gem, but they were clearly putting SOME effort into it, which is more than I can say for at least 100 of the slashers I’ve watched over the past (almost) 5 years. And it was the first feature for the directors, so there’s something to consider. Plus the snowbound setting is almost always a recipe for disaster for slasher movies (Iced, Shredder, etc), so that it was even watchable was something of a minor victory. Thus, if you’re like me and consider slasher movies to be the equivalent of comfort food, or if you’re simply in the mood for a harmless, “fair enough” little horror movie (and you’ve seen all the legitimately good ones I’ve recommended), this should more or less get the job done.
What say you?