Scream (1981) Terrible slasher-era cash-in with no-budget lighting.

Theme Song: Freeform electronic jazz bass, some synth. That’s basically it.

Look, if this is your thing, that’s fine. This loop basically plays over and over for the duration of the movie, interrupted periodically with some guy going nuts on the “sax” keyboard preset.

Interesting Dated References: An enjoyable time spent rafting down a river with a group of people aged 18-65.

Best Line: None.

Social Context: Slasher-mania sweeping through Hollywood and the influx of money flying around with no regard for whether or not a script was finished or even written.

Summary: These people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds are rafting together — it seems like maybe they all work at the same business, or something? Eventually they come on shore and immediately stumble upon an abandoned Wild West town where they make camp.

Night falls and people begin getting killed by weapons that are randomly floating around (meat cleaver, scythe, other sharp weed-whacking tools). Instead of leaving in the morning, they all stand around blaming each other until dusk and then realize they are shit out of luck and have to stay another night.

A lone horseman shows up with the dead body of Jerry, one of the rafting party who went for help, and proceeds to tell an ominous story about a sea captain who ran afoul of his crew in this very town. Then he leaves. And night falls again and people begin getting killed by weapons that are randomly floating around (meat cleaver, scythe, other sharp weed-whacking tools).

After that, some people show up in a car and I think they save the lives of some of the other people? The closing shot is similar to the opening shot, with both involving voiceover from the lone horseman about the sea captain who haunts the town.

I wish I was being a dismissive asshole about this movie, but I’m not. Scream has to be one of the most bland early-80s horror movies ever. It’s clear writer/director Byron Quisenberry secured some cash and the Wild West ghost town location and then decided to write a script utilizing it. Unfortunately he failed to secure a special effects crew or any type of lighting. Considering he was a stuntman by day, it was a noble effort, but falls drastically short of making sense or delivering any genuine scares.

Worth Mentioning:
– At the time of this writing, I can’t stop eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the past week now. It has been all I’ve eaten. Please send help.
– The lone horseman is played by badass Woody Strode (Once Upon a Time in the West, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Keoma).

– Pepper Martin (pummeler of Superman in Superman II) plays Bob, the super-crabby asshole who ends up getting a good amount of screen time.

Poster and Box Art: Scream has one of the all-time best video box covers of the rental era.

Put out by Vestron, the cover image is striking and the type treatment terrifying. These elements combine for the ultimate swindle: a terrible movie. But none of that mattered in the ‘80s; all that mattered was if the cover and write-up got you to rent the movie.

Availability: Available on DVD from Code Red via Amazon with bonus features including commentary from the director.

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