Theme Song: Some violins, then some more violins, then enough wind sound effects to make you super annoyed.
Interesting Dated References: Going on vacation to a place where there is no means of communication (phone, the not-yet-invented internet); White people camping; White people telling each other stories; White males wearing moustaches un-ironically.
Best Line: Said by man in car (presumably complaining about the vehicle suspension) — “My butt can’t take two more hours of this.”
Social Context: Screams of a Winter Night was made by a writer/director team in Louisiana. Perhaps it was their effort to make it big in Hollywood, or maybe they were just bored thespians looking to fill up their days between rehearsal. Motivation aside, for director James Wilson and writer Richard Wadsack, Screams of a Winter Night remains their sole credit. Much of the cast is made up of first-timer/last-timers, not counting a quick William Ragsdale cameo.
Basically Screams of a Winter Night was someone’s pet project that at some point was picked up for home video distribution. That pedigree might be what helps make the film somewhat engaging, despite a very limited budget and poor lighting throughout.
Summary: A bunch of white males with facial hair and their girlfriends/wives are travelling in their conversion/boogie van to visit a cabin.
Once there, John (who seems to be most familiar with the cabin) takes his bearded friend, Cal, out to get firewood. While walking around John rambles on and on about the “coyote wind” that drove a local farmer crazy and made him kill his family.
Later on, all the whites sit around the fireplace wearing big sweaters and moustaches and tell ghost stories. This was a perfectly acceptable thing to do in the late 70s, but if you find yourself sitting around a fire with a bunch of white people with moustaches and big sweaters nowadays you need to fucking run because you are about to have the worst night of your life talking about shitty music nobody cares about at a party for dildos who think wearing ironic clothing gives their personality substance.
The first story they tell is about the “Moss Point Man,” which is a poorly-lit riff on the common urban legend “The Hook.” Some drunk guy leaves his girlfriend stranded and then he is killed, hanged from a tree above the car, and his feet scratch the roof of the car and freak her out. She is then driven “insane.”
Then it’s back to the fire. This time another guy with a moustaches tells a story about some college dorks who are forced to stay in an abandoned, haunted building overnight as part of their hazing ritual.
Eventually they are driven ”insane” after becoming convinced the frat is partying on the second floor. This segment, once again, is lit very low. It’s not total ineptitude, though. The dark scenes serve to create an authentic, low-budget atmosphere. The filmmakers seem to have been aware of the dim scenes and played that to their strengths.
The third story is about a crazy college coed who kills a man who tries to rape her. This act drives her “insane” (there’s a theme here), and when she gets back to college she acts weird and starts killing other people. Low on gore and subtle, but somewhat effective.
Then all the camping whites get scared by the wind that is now aggressively banging on the cabin door. The wind then starts destroying everything in the cabin and making everyone “insane.” A few of them are killed, and then a few escape.
While making a very dimly lit run for it, the camera freezes, and we can assume the coyote wind eradicated the forest of mustachioed white men and their insipid girlfriends.
There’s no way the writing credit on this movie to “Richard Wadsack” is a real person. It’s impossible that someone named Dick Wadsack could even make it to adulthood. They would die by suicide before they even reached puberty.
Poster and Box Art: The box for Screams of a Winter Night features an ominous creature looming in a foggy forest. It’s so hazed up you can hardly tell what’s going on, much like most of the movie. There’s also a version without the ominous creature, which makes things look even more muddy.
Availability: It seems as though this movie has fallen into public domain and you can watch it on YouTube.