Death Screams [Limited Edition] [Blu-ray]
(Martin Tucker, William T. Hicks, Susan Kiger, Andrea Savio, Jennifer Chase, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1982) 2021 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: In one of the most unlikely cinematic pairings of all time, David Nelson (who rose to fame as a child star playing alongside his real-life family in the wholesome TV show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet) directs Playboy Playmate and adult star Susan Kiger in this body count-heavy, long overlooked slice of Southern fried hack-and-slash - 1982’s Death Screams!
Late one night, a young couple are brutally murdered at a make-out spot by an unseen assailant, their bodies tossed into the nearby river. As the lifeless lovers drift slowly downstream, the residents of the town excitedly prepare themselves for their annual carnival, unaware that a machete-wielding maniac with a twisted grudge is lurking in their midst.
When a group of teen revelers plan a late-night after party down in the local cemetery, they unwittingly set the stage for a bloodbath.
Blu-ray Verdict: Death Screams, which was released on US VHS as House of Death (and on UK DVD with the reels in the wrong order!) oozes early ’80s regional slasher charm from its every pore, boasting an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink final reel featuring slashed throats, bisected bodies and exploding heads!
At long last arriving on Blu-ray and lovingly restored from the only-known existing 35mm print, this little-seen slasher classic is ready to carve its way into the bleeding hearts of horror fans everywhere!
That said, one has to genuinely ask if every film studio limited their output to just slashers in the early ’80s! There are so many of them. Just when I think I’ve seen them all, I find another one I’ve never even heard of!
Still, it’s not hard to see why Death Screams flew under my radar for so long: it’s formulaic stuff that never tries to do anything out of the ordinary, from its clichéd group of characters (obnoxious joker, nympho, goody-two-shoes final girl, town simpleton, fat bumbling sheriff) to its rain-lashed finale in a rundown house by a cemetery.
The film opens with a pre-credits double murder of a young couple, but it’s too dark to see what happens to them, director David Nelson seemingly more preoccupied with getting in the first shot of a topless girl than delivering an effective fright.
Certainly, for much of the time, Nelson appears to be more intent on delivering gratuitous T&A than he does horror, focusing on the twenty-something victims-to-be as they go about their daily business; smoking weed, showering, chatting up the local baseball coach, making out, etc.
All of the girls are attractive and several wear skimpy outfits, with buxom town tramp Ramona (Jennifer Chase) looking great in a bikini top and hot blonde Kathy (Andrea Savio) sporting short shorts.
In a rare spot of gender-reversal, it is Coach Marshall (Martin Tucker) who takes the customary slasher shower, baring his butt, but he does manage to give randy Ramona a soaking in the process.
The only other killing amidst all of this titillation is a girl shot with an arrow and suffocated with a plastic bag, a scene more notable for its silliness than scariness (instead of seeking help, the injured girl takes time-out on a merry-go-round).
As the film approaches its final act, sexy blonde Sandy (Jody Kay) goes skinny dipping (cue full frontal nudity) and winds up dead, and from this point Nelson ramps up the violence, eventually bumping off most of the characters in the space of a few minutes (including double decapitation and a girl torn in half).
But while the sheer number of kills in a short space of time is admirable, the gore is extremely basic for the most part, and not very satisfying (the severed hands scene is hilarious).
The best effect is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bullet to the head (resulting in the face exploding) as the useless sheriff empties his handgun into the already dead killer (who had fallen out of a window while attacking good girl Lily, played by Playboy playmate Susan Kiger).
In closing, quite exactly what the psycho’s motive was remains unclear: possibly something to do with being mentally scarred by his mother, who may have been a stripper, but I really don’t know.
What I do know is, the last 15 minutes are really pretty good, stuffed with gory massacres and explicit make-up effects, but all it’s too late by then. Besides, why the hell was it originally called House of Death? Did you see a house?! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with this slew of Special Features:
Brand new 2K restoration from an archival 35mm print
Original uncompressed mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary with producer Charles Ison and special effects artist Worth Keeter moderated by filmmaker Phil Smoot
Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
All the Fun of the Scare: The Making of Death Screams - newly-produced making-of documentary featuring interviews with producer Charles Ison, special effects artist Worth Keeter, writer Paul Elliott, actors Hanns Manship and Curt Rector, actor/producer’s assistant/assistant supervising editor Sharon Alley and actor/talent wrangler Robert “Billy Bob” Melton
TV and Radio Spots
House of Death Alternate VHS Opening Titles
Two versions of the screenplay under the original title of Night Screams [BD-ROM content]
Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork and a newly-commissioned reimagining of the original VHS artwork by Sadist Art Designs presented with die-cut slipcover
Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Brian Albright
Official Movie Trailer
Official Purchase Link