Sunday, November 09, 2014


Because of the wonderful internet age in which we live it is possible to see almost (but not quite) any movie we want to see. This is great for a movie nut such as myself and adds immeasurably to the list of films I want to eventually sit down and watch. In my hunt for the odder pieces of genre cinema available via the ‘special antenna’  I occasionally stumble across things that look like they might be hidden gems – who knows if that print of the ultra-rare GRIZZLY 2 is going to be worth my time? – but often these movies turn out to be at best passable time wasters and at worst they are boring trudges through the bowels of low budget incompetence. Sometimes a movies falls somewhere in-between.

When I stumbled across SCREAMS OF A WINTER’S NIGHT (1979) I had high hopes that this obscure small budget horror effort from Louisiana might be good creepy fun. It had a few positive reviews and a friend mentioned hearing that it was a good scary movie from someone else. This third person recommendation came from back when these kind of movies turned up on late night television. The print I have access to is a rip from the VHS release which is the only way it has ever been made available. The image is a little too dark for a film that takes place mostly at night and in under lit interiors but it was watchable. The strangest thing about the film for the first hour is that the opening credits play out with bits of frantic dialog layered underneath. This gets to be concerning because there is a long delay between the individual credits and you start to think that the story has started but the picture is black! Luckily this is a creative choice and not a screw up but it gets things off to a rocky start.

The plot is nothing you haven’t seen before- a group of college friends venture out into the country for a long weekend to stay in a cabin in the woods. See- the setup is so obvious that it’s become well known enough to be the title of a recent horror film. These friends are a broad cross-section of (poorly sketched) easily identifiable types and the actors are mostly too old to be playing kids in their late teens or early twenties. While huddled together in the cabin’s living room the friends begin talking about old myths of the surrounding area and relating scary stories they have heard. The first of these is a classic old urban legend that I won’t spoil for the cinematically curious but it was nice to see this chestnut played out onscreen even if the image IS too dark for maximum fun. After that one the stories become a bit less obvious but still retain a neat ‘told around the campfire’ feel.

I can't claim that this little movie is great or even very good but it has a certain charm and I can easily understand how someone coming across it on TV one night would get ninety minutes of enjoyment. It's a not very wonderful but interesting example of regional filmmaking back when that meant something more than trying to imitate a blockbuster hit. It's uneven, a little silly, a bit cheesy and it only cranks into gear in the final twenty minutes or so. I don't think I can recommend it except for horror nuts like myself but if this write-up intrigues you then dive in. The movie certainly ends strongly after a fairly weak first hour but most folks will find this too long to wait for the thrills to kick in. I would love to see this get cleaned up and released to DVD in the hopes that the darkest scenes would be clearer. 

1 comment:

Brad said...

I commented on Facebook but I wanted to elaborate. Circling the lightbulb. My dad watched this film back in the 80's. And I kept that one particular image/scene in my head for a long time. Circling the lightbulb. Yeesh, I've had nightmares. It may be a lot of nostalgia at work but I think it's an effective low budget shocker.