16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
The 80s saw a mini-resurgence of the horror anthology film format popularized in the 60s and 70s, primarily by a studio out of England called Amicus (affectionately known as `The Studio That Dripped Blood'). This new crop included The Monster Club (1980), Creepshow (1982), and this little, late entry nugget titled From a Whisper to a Scream (1987) aka The Offspring, to name a few...co-written and directed by Jeff `Mr. Sequel' Burr (Stepfather II, Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Puppet Master 4), the film includes some notable performers like Vincent Price (The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Monster Club), Clu Gulager (The Return of the Living Dead, Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge), Rosalind Cash (Tales from the Hood), and Susan Tyrrell (Big Top Pee-wee, Cry-Baby). Also appearing is Terry `Bernie' Kiser (Weekend at Bernie's, Mannequin: On the Move), Harry `Grandville' Caesar (The Longest Yard), Cameron Mitchell (The Toolbox Murders, The Swarm), Ron Brooks (Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III), Miriam Byrd-Nethery (Stepfather II), and Martine Beswick (Thunderball, One Million Years B.C., Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde) in a small, but memorable part.
The movie is comprised of four tales of grotesque ghoulishness, tied together with a fifth, or wraparound story, featuring Price as a librarian/historian of the little southern town of Oldfield, Tennessee (Tenneseeing is believing!). Seems the town, which has a dark and troubled past, draws upon people to do nasty things...the first tale proper features an almost unrecognizable Gulager as Stanley Burnside, a mild, mousy man with about the thickest pair of glasses I've ever seen. Anyway, Stanley's got the hots for a babe he works with, but she seems hardly interested (not surprising as Stanley's got an creepy `albino' vibe going on). Stanley finally manages to wrangle a date, but things go from bad to worse (worse being murder) as an obviously repressed Stan loses his cool (I'm thinking he probably should have tossed one off prior to the date). Things get particularly weird as Stan wants a second date, even if he has to break into the funeral home to do so...the second story, set about thirty years earlier than the first, features Kiser as Jesse Hardwicke, a two-bit hood who, after being betrayed by his girlfriend, is shot, left for dead, and found by a resident of the swamp played by Caesar. Turns out the old man practices some kind of voodoo, and has a valuable secret which Jesse, being the greedy, ungrateful, rat slimeball he is, will stop at nothing to acquire. The third story, set in the 30s, features Rosalind Cash as a cruel and sadistic owner of a traveling carnival show that stops in Oldfield. Seems most everyone who works for her has done something bad in their past, and now she provides them protection, asking only one thing in return...complete and utter devotion. Did I mention she's a witchy woman? The trouble begins as one of her `performers' tries to break free of her grasp. The fourth and final story is set near the end of the civil war, and features Cameron Mitchell as an a-hole leader of a small group of Union soldiers separated from their unit. Learning that the war has actually ended, the group decides to sack and pillage some towns, Oldfield being first on the list. They get waylaid though, by a band of local orphans who've got plans of their own.
I liked the overall structure of the film, in that the intent being to show how the town was build on a history of violence, starting from the present and working back in reverse, chronological order. As far as the individual stories, they were hit and miss. The first was okay (Gulager especially good), but lacked the strong twist I was hoping for...it could have delivered a more powerful punch had the director not telegraphed the ending with text displayed on the screen (if you've seen the film, you probably know what I mean). The second tale, however, did have a most excellent twist, and turned out to be the best of the bunch, in my opinion. It kept things simple, which is probably why it worked better than the others. This one actually reminded me a lot of the stories from the old EC comics like Tales of the Crypt, or The Vault of Horror. The third story, the one about the traveling carnival, was my least favorite, as it had no real twist, was an anemic tale, and contained a whole lot of really bad acting, especially by Ms. Cash, who proved she could chew up the scenery as well as anyone. The other thing it had a whole lot of was blood in a spectacularly pointless sequence. I liked the fourth story about as much as I liked the third, which is to say not a whole lot. It was interesting, and showed some promise, but eventually petered out, especially in terms of the expected twist ending. And then there's the wrap around story...Vincent Price, looking pretty aged here, adds a lot to anything he's in, as he was an actor with incredible screen presence, along with being a consummate professional...too bad he wasn't utilized better than he was here. I did like the notion of who his character was and how he presented the stories, but again, there was something lacking, and I grew tired of his character continually harping on the evil inherent in the town (yeah, we got the point by now). The wraparound pieces in these horror anthologies general tend to be weak, but this one is especially flaccid. Overall the direction throughout is solid, but the writing was lacking in general, producing one, really good tale, one so-so, and two not so hot. I do enjoy a good horror anthology, and while I felt the effort was here, I have seen better...
The picture is presented in both fullscreen and anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) on this DVD. The picture quality is decent, but I did notice some slight `graininess' resulting in a lack of overall sharpness. It's not terrible, but I think it could have been cleaned up a little. The Dolby Digital mono audio comes through well enough. The only extra feature is a poor looking theatrical trailer for the film, which really is much of a feature, but oh well...
If you enjoy horror anthologies like this, I'd recommend checking out some other films like Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965), Torture Garden (1967)*, The House That Dripped Blood (1970)*, Tales from the Crypt (1972), Asylum (1972)*, From Beyond the Grave (1973), and The Vault of Horror (1973). Not all are available on DVD at this time, but should be...
*denotes film is available on DVD in the states, as I write this (Torture Garden was just recently released).