15 of 15 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).
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Michael R Gates
- Published on Amazon.com
1987's FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (a.k.a. THE OFFSPRING) is a horror anthology that offers four fear vignettes tied together by a weak, though well-acted, wraparound featuring genre great Vincent Price. Price portrays the town librarian of Oldfield, Tennessee, whose niece has been executed for a series of brutal killings. When a reporter (Susan Tyrell) comes snooping around for the "story behind the story," Price explains that it is the town and its history that drove his niece to become a serial killer, and he illustrates his point by telling four supposedly true stories from the town's historical archives.
Yarn #1 is about a sexually repressed milquetoast who kills and then rapes women to relieve his urges, but one of his victims returns from the grave seeking revenge...or at least child-support payments. This story is the lamest of the four. Segment #2 is about a small-time thug who stumbles across the secret to eternal life. Only problem is, the secret rests with an old hermit who practices voodoo, and the hermit isn't keen on giving up his knowledge. Story #3 also involves voodoo, only this time it's a voodoo priestess who uses her powers to create freaks and geeks for her travelling sideshow. When one performer decides he can no longer stomach a life in show biz, he suffers more than a mere case of indigestion. The final segment is about a troupe of Union Soldiers who stumble into the hands of a band of Confederate orphans. Their minds tainted by the horrors they've seen, the children have formed their own theist government and plan to dish out some justice to the hapless Yanks. It's not hard to see the influence of William Golding's novel LORD OF THE FLIES on this yarn, and though one might also compare it to the screen adaptation of Stephen King's CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984), this one is actually more chilling.
The wraparound ends the flick with a bit of a surprise ending, but it still just not as interesting as the individual segments. Though Price and Tyrell do an outstanding job with what they are given, each of the vignettes also feature stellar performers--performers such as Clu Gulager, Rosalind Cash, and Cameron Mitchell, to name but a few--and since they are working with better scripts, it makes the wraparound come off as a bit disappointing. Indeed, each of the individual segments, with the possible exception of #1, could certainly stand alone as a strong episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT or NIGHT GALLERY.
Overall, then, most genre fans will really enjoy FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM, and the DVD from MGM will make a fine edition to any fan's collection. It's relatively no frills, offering only the theatrical trailer as bonus material, but the double-sided disc does offer the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) on one side and the full-screen butchery on the other. Well worth the very reasonable price of admission.