Monday, April 8, 2019

Meat and Eat: Consumed By The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Tobe Hooper's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) is one of the greatest, most terrifying, and influential horror movies ever made. Its uniqueness lies in its power to manipulate the viewer into thinking they've witnessed far more than they've actually seen. Nowadays, nothing is left to the imagination. In the landscape of horror, a lot has changed in the 45 years since the SAW roared across theater screens around the world. What hasn't changed is much of rural Americana where Hooper and his crew shot the movie. Traveling through some of the bucolic areas of Texas is like stepping into a time warp--going back to the time in which Hooper's Grand Guignol version of 'Hansel and Gretal' was forged onto 16mm film stock.

TCM is such a part of the American (and especially Texas) pop culture lexicon, that two of its most recognizable structures have been remodeled for the horror lovers starved for nostalgia and those with an affinity for good eats. 

This article is a personal look at TCM and its locations visited on a recent Texas vacation. Accompanying the photographs I took are comparative images of said locations from the film itself. But before that, I'd like to divulge how I was first introduced to the 1974 meat movie classick.

The first time I saw TCM was in 1984. Media Home Entertainment was releasing it on videocassette (Wizard Video had released it the previous year). I saw a big poster for its impending arrival inside a local video store called Action Video. I'd first read about the movie that same year in a book my mom bought for me at Waldenbooks in the mall called 'Horrors: A History of Horror Movies' by Roy Pickard and Tom Hutchinson (a book which I still have). The image (seen below) of a masked, chainsaw wielding maniac chasing a man and a woman stuck in my mind like Teri McMinn being stuck on a meat-hook and never left. 

Aside from the visual impression left by what little imagery I'd seen of the film, I heard a lot more about it from family members after asking if they'd seen it. Come to find out, my parents attended a theatrical showing back in 1974. My mom isn't a horror fan, but tried being a trooper by going with my dad to see it and, predictably, it didn't make her 'Best Of' list for the year. She told me the movie unnerved her to the point she had to go sit in the lobby for a while. Regaining her composure, she decided to go back inside to try and finish the flick with my dad. However, once Grandpa began sucking the blood from Sally's finger like a baby to a bottle my mom had had enough--once more returning to the lobby where she remained till the film was over. Needless to say, my dad enjoyed the movie so much, he returned to see the film again by himself.

I remember being transfixed not only by that mind-melting image in my beloved hardcover book of horror films, but by that video store poster. The title alone evoked images of brutality the likes of which my mind couldn't comprehend. 'Texas' with its reputation for being a wild n' rowdy place where everything's big from belts, to boots, to ten-gallon hats; where people perspire profusely--the sun-baked sweat sticking to you like jam; 'Chainsaw' being a loud, terrifying power tool that can slice through human flesh like a hot knife through butter; and 'Massacre' eliciting disturbing imagery of some savage slaughter-fest. When you're a 9 year old with a wild, vivid imagination, something bearing the name of 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is too hard to resist. The filmmakers couldn't have settled on a more unsettling title. 

When we left the video store, I let my dad know I wanted to see the movie. Despite having then viewed some characteristically gruesome horror at that time, his response to me was, "Why would you want to see something like that?" When I did finally see it, I was somewhat disappointed by TCM. I'd been under the impression there was this incredible amount of gore in the movie (it was featured in John McCarty's seminal 'Splatter Movies' book; a book I coveted but didn't get to buy till years later). I also remember being frustrated with the VHS being awfully dark--barely able to make out what was happening in some of the death scenes. Needless to say, my little-league self was curiously underwhelmed but had no problem being braggadocios about having seen this notorious motion picture.

That same year in 1984, I saw PIECES on VHS (it played in my small town for a week back in 1983) and felt like that was a real Chainsaw Massacre in comparison. However, watching Hooper's movie over the years, it quickly improved for me and I eventually came to greatly appreciate his vision for the nightmarish classic it is. I can only imagine what it must've been like to see the movie during its original release, experiencing the visceral horror and controversy first-hand.

And as much as I came to love Hooper's greatest achievement, the aforementioned Texas vacation to see some of the shooting locations has only increased my adoration for THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974).


Since 1974, the iconic gas stop where Jim Siedow's Cook character sold gas and human BBQ became a roadside grocery store; then Bilbo's Texas Landmark before closing sometime in 2006. A decade later, the location would receive a lavish makeover--transformed into retro-heaven for horror lovers. 

An Ohio businessman named Roy Rose (along with his wife, Lisa) bought the decaying fuel stop and partnered with Ari Lehman--a name horror fans will know as the actor that played Jason Voorhees in the first FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)--to create a novel, one-of-a-kind horror resort. Prior to its public opening, the iconic Bastrop film location was reported to bear the name, 'We Slaughter Barbecue'; the owners eventually settled on simplicity with 'The Gas Station'

The Gas Station had its grand opening October 8th, 2016 with hundreds of horror fans and curiosity seekers waiting near three hours to get inside to take a gander at, or purchase, a wide array of memorabilia from CHAINSAW and a variety of other horror favorites. Edwin Neal, the Hitchhiker from the original movie, attended the opening with SAW 2's Caroline Williams appearing that Halloween weekend. If you're feeling adventurous, you can spend the night in one of four cozy cabins out back or set up a tent on the campgrounds. Additionally, there's a large patio and the occasional outdoor movie night. A music venue was announced as one of the site's future attractions. You can see a glimpse of the area behind the filling station in the insert photo.

Elsewhere on the grounds, a van sits to the right of the establishment--the only one that could be found that's nearly identical to the one in the movie; the difference being it doesn't have the sliding door. Incidentally, the farm across the street appears unchanged all these years later. Additionally, behind the service station is the wooded area where Sally was relentlessly chased by Leatherface shortly before running into the cook.

When the famous gas stop first re-opened for business, the accent was on movie memorabilia. There's numerous T-shirts, masks action-figures, posters, signed photographs, and any number of other horror-related items inside the place. The smokehouse soon followed and The Gas Station is now home to some of the best, juiciest BBQ you'll ever put in your mouth. Interestingly enough, a few Texans told me how much they loved and preferred North Carolina BBQ while their own brand of brisket left as big an impression on me as Hooper's movie and seeing the areas where he made it.

The gentleman behind the counter told me that on one particularly eventful day, they had visitors from every continent except for Antarctica.

He also told me a funny story about one customer that stopped by and talked at length how TCM was her favorite movie of all time. What the lady didn't realize was that Allen Danzinger (Jerry in the movie) was sitting next to her the whole time she was gushing praise for the movie. 

A memorial to the TCM family who have fallen has been placed outside to the far right of the establishment. Seated on either end are replicas of a chainsaw, a sledgehammer and a Leatherface mask, the memorial bears thus far seven names of the deceased who worked on the movie--director Tobe Hooper; production designer Bob Burns; actors Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface); Marilyn Burns (Sally); Jim Siedow (The Cook); Paul Partain (Franklin); and Robert Courtin (Window Washer).

On a final note, I never realized the gas station sign in the movie read 'We Slaughter Barbecue' till seeing it in person.

If you are interested in visiting The Gas Station, stay the night, or eat some delicious BBQ (and you should be!), you can find information at their website HERE.


Built in 1909 in Round Rock, Texas, the Victorian style house was left to deteriorate after filming of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) had ended. Purchased in 1998 by the owners of The Antlers Inn and Resort, the iconic horror home was cut into seven pieces and moved--approximately 90 minutes away--to the lake town of Kingsland, Texas where it was remodeled and transformed into a restaurant and bar. Now, you too can dine inside the very home where the Sawyer's tortured, cooked and ate their victims. Only now it's much cleaner and far more hospitable without any danger of you ending up as a menu item.

Seeing the original location of the Sawyer house in Round Rock today is a dreamlike experience. In the film, the isolated farmhouse harboring human remains is notable for its lack of modernity. Today, the locale is overgrown with grass and bordered by an ever-expanding Austin industrialization that's in stark contrast to the desolate country roads of 40+ years ago. In the adjoining photo, you can see Edwin Neal and Gunnar Hansen chasing Marilyn Burns down the driveway with nothing but a country landscape. Stitched to that is a picture of the same driveway but surrounded by lights and an encroaching modernization slowly choking away the lack of civilization the area was once home to.

Before becoming The Grand Central Cafe, the infamous charnel house went by a few different names--those being The Chariot Grill and The Junction House Restaurant. At that time, the establishment embraced its horror roots, having a Leatherface dummy at the top of the stairs. When the Junction House closed down in 2012, reopening the following year as The Grand Central Cafe, the dummy was removed and only a loose association to the movie was retained with a couple TCM-themed drinks on the menu--the 'Leatherface Lemonade' and the 'Bloody Massacre'. Moreover, the menus between the two restaurants were quite different. The Junction offered more comfort food items while The Grand is more upscale.

Some changes and additions have been made to the house, but immediately upon entering, a few key locations are unmistakable; those being the unforgettable staircase and hallway leading into the kitchen where Leatherface infamously slammed the metal door after claiming his first victim. You can see a 'then and now' comparison in the insert photo. The place was filling up with customers, but I was lucky enough to snap a picture of the hallway when no one was walking into frame. To the left is the notorious Bone Room; and across the hall is the legendary Dining Room where much of Marilyn Burns' torture takes place. You can see a comparison below of the same room in the film versus what it looks like now. We sat at the table in front of that mural.

Regardless of where you're seated in the house, if you're a fan of the movie, it will be impossible to not have images of the film running through your mind as you enjoy your meal. As for the food, I had the Hawg Wings appetizer and Surf and Turf (bacon-wrapped filet mignon with grilled shrimp) for the main course. Both were fantastic if a little on the expensive side.

If you're interested in dining there (and you should be!), you can find information about the restaurant, its location, and the menu at their website HERE.

Tobe Hooper's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is a distinctive motion picture; a product of its time made in a docu-guerrilla style that is impossible to replicate today. It has survived for decades. The Saw shows no signs of slowing down. Like the opening crawl of TCM2 proclaims, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has not stopped. It haunts Texas. It seems to have no end." From a fan's perspective, seeing these locations, interacting with them, was a mesmerizing, surreal experience; allowing fans to make some personable memories to share kinship with those previously made in darkened theaters or the comfort of ones living room.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Land of Doom (1986) review


Deborah Rennard (Harmony), Garrick Dowhen (Anderson), Daniel Radell (Slater), Frank Garret (Purvis), Richard Allen (Halsey), Akut Duz (Orland)

Directed by Peter Maris

The Short Version: LAND OF DOOM presents the End of the World in the silliest, most continuity error-filled way imaginable. Not only has Earth become a wasteland, but the holocaust has wiped out all stunt coordinators resulting in painfully lazy action sequences. Cows are in abundance, though, with all the leather on display. The barren plot is about the search for some mythical, barely mentioned paradise called Blue Lake. This is by-the-numbers cataclysmic camp on the cheap kept alive by outrageous character designs, a clumsy motorcycle motif, and gratuitous explosions. Virtually all the gun sound effects are either from Bronson and Eastwood's magnum collection or STAR WARS laser blasts. Yes, and those do look and sound like Jawas at the end. DOOM is primarily for dedicated devastation cinema fans; all others will find this a LAND OF ZZZZ.

A man-hating female with the ironic name of Harmony teams up with a member of the opposite sex to find a fabled paradise known as Blue Lake. On their journey they encounter various perils like cannibals, a plague, an assortment of continuity errors, and The Raiders--a marauding gang that destroyed Harmony's village.

MAD MAX (1979), and especially its far more influential sequel, THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981), are among the most famous examples of the Post-Apocalyptic action picture. Numerous knock-offs like THE EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 (1983) and WHEELS OF FIRE (1985) followed with the bulk being made in Europe and the Philippines. LAND OF DOOM hails, fittingly enough, from Turkey.

Peter Maris's movie is high camp from start to finish; occasionally dull and with zero originality and unenthusiastic action sequences. The threadbare plot is about as nonexistent as any sign of modernity in the Turkish desert. What passes for a storyline is the incidental search for a lost oasis called Blue Lake. It's not much of a forage since Blue Lake is mentioned once or twice and forgotten about. The Raiders--the main villains in the movie--have no real purpose, either; they're not looking for oil or water (two seemingly plentiful things) or the nearest Harley Davidson store; they simply attack people; neither desiring to find or even create paradise, they openly embrace the heat and arid desert.

Other than his bizarre costume design, Slater, the leader of The Raiders, lacks any presence whatsoever. In an attempt to stand out from other holocaust-themed bad guys, Slater has a metal arm. Unfortunately, like everything else in this movie that's underdeveloped, you never see him use it. Moreover, one of cinema's least imposing antagonists looks a bit like a lithe Ric Flair with a black, suitably skunk-like streak down the middle of his blonde mane, and lacking any of the famous wrestlers' charisma. "Ric" Slater's (h)air of menace extends as far as yelling into the camera a couple of times and making veiled sexual offers to an uninterested Harmony. The character isn't seen much at all and doesn't even participate in the finale apart from a brief fight with the hero who chops his fingers off with an axe. Slater disappears leaving the rest of the end-battle to a subordinate villain who is given far more screen time to begin with.

Then there's the unexplained, eccentric character who rides a bicycle, carries a puppy and a flamethrower; and is associated with a mini-army of robed midgets that look and sound like Jawas from STAR WARS (1977). 

Regarding Armageddon, you know you're in for a special kind of movie when the image of a dystopian future is set using rubber spiders to create a hazardous ambiance. Furthermore, a healthy dose of continuity errors ensures society's meltdown won't be taken seriously. One of the most prevalent and blatantly obvious mistakes is Rennard and Dowhen changing motorcycles from one shot to the next.

Discounting the scripted disorganization, LAND OF DOOM works best when chaos is onscreen with lots of gratuitous explosions; sometimes even these become monotonous when the editing occasionally repeats the same pyro burst over and over again.

The opening 'Pillage the Village' sequence is the film's most impressive moment. It sets a tone Maris's movie is unable to maintain. Virtually everything falls apart before it even has time to get revved up; this goes for the bizarre decor adorning the motorcycles and tanks the Raiders ride. It's eye-catching for a few seconds till you realize how fragile the cardboard attachments are. Hindering things further, the motorcycles have these cumbersome roll bars and other accessories attached to the front that clearly gives the riders problems trying to navigate on the desert sandscape or even on the roads in the slowest chases this genre has ever seen. 

Stage and screen actress Deborah Rennard is the heroine of the future; roaming the wasteland telling those she meets how much she detests being touched; kicking men in the nuts; and carrying a crossbow she never uses. The Nutcracker Kick is her signature move and pretty much the only one she uses throughout the entire movie. Rennard is at least spunky in the part even if it is a far cry from her popular role on the massively successful drama series DALLAS (1978-1991). The actress throws herself into the role of Harmony, though; which is more than can be said for some of the other actors onscreen.

Presumably, her resistance to men is due to the opening rape-fest when the Raiders burn her village and murder everyone in it. The filmmakers miss yet another opportunity to expound on plot and character details to make their movie less dull and undernourished than it is.

Probably the best attribute of Maris's movie are the Turkish locations. Organic and inhabited--as opposed to being actual sets--they're really startling and look unlike anything the genre has seen.

An early production in Peter Maris's directorial (and producer) career, it must have been profitable considering he went on to helm a dozen or so other movies; to say nothing of quality vs. entertainment value, he worked with some big names like George Kennedy, Ned Beatty, Yaphet Kotto, Jan Michael Vincent, Lou Ferrigno, Robert Forster, Robert DoQui, Kim Delaney, Meg Foster, and Ken Foree. 

Apocalypse acolytes are about the only viewers who will find much of worth in this LAND--barren of interest to most everyone else. Aside from the plentiful shortcomings inadvertently playing in the film's favor, compared to other examples of catastrophe cinema, this is more akin to a LAND OF DULL.

This review is representative of the Scorpion Releasing bluray. Specs and Extras: 1080p HD 1.85:1 widescreen; interview with Deborah Rennard; original LOD trailer; other trailers; running time: 01:27:28

Friday, February 15, 2019

Screams of a Winter Night (1979) review


Matt Borel (John/Ron), Gil Glasgow (Steve/Parker), Patrick Byers (Cal), Mary Agen Cox (Elaine), Robin Bradley (Sally/Annie's Roommate), Ray Gaspard (Harper/Billy), Beverly Allen (Jookie/Crazy Annie), Brandy Barrett (Liz), Charles Rucker (Alan), Jan Norton (Lauri), William Ragsdale (Gas Station Attendant)

Directed by James L. Wilson

The Short Version: Released theatrically in a 90 minute version, this exclusive 2 hour cut reinstates an additional story that has never been seen until now. This first-time feature from director James Wilson and writer Richard Wadsack is more competently made than your average regional  horror. SCREAMS is a late-night styled spook-a-thon with an old-fashioned, Amicus anthology ambiance; a touch of slasher shenanigans; and a helping of pre-EVIL DEAD devilry in its wraparound. It's not entirely successful but packs enough shudders in its ghostly campfire concept and ample shivery sound effects to ensure there's just enough chill in the air on this WINTER NIGHT.

College prankster John and nine of his coed friends head up to Lake Durand to spend a quiet winter weekend at his family's isolated cabin. Unknown to most of his guests, the remote retreat is built on property alleged to be haunted by Sha-taba, an evil Indian winter spirit said to be responsible for numerous violent deaths. That night, John and his friends gather around the fireplace to tell four scary stories till the wind picks up and a terrifying howling crashes their party.

James L. Wilson's Louisiana lensed fright-fest gets off to an unsettling start with a total blacked-out opening sequence made up of spooky sound effects, a shrill, unholy howling, and the sounds of a family in some undisclosed time period preparing to do battle with a wind demon. Cut to our ill-fated, van-full of weekend travelers stopping at a gas station--encountering several characters that would fit right in with the folks from DELIVERANCE or even the eerie crowd of LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH.

This oft-used, rural horror set-up the chill in the air once the college students make it to their final destination at this isolated, and sinister, cabin in the woods. Night sets in and the cast settles down around a fireplace to raise some goosebumps with four stories (only three were seen in SCREAMS theatrical release) dealing with urban legends, ghosts, and murderesses. What many of them are not aware of is that their location is steeped in folklore of its own--tied to several violent tragedies over the years.

Shot in Natchitoches, Louisiana during the summer of 1978 at a cost of $300,000, SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT was one of many examples of regional horror films mass produced in the 1970s (and into the 1980s) outside the major studio production lines. Some of these are held in high regard (like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK, and THE EVIL DEAD) while others have moderate to middling followings among fans (like THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE and TOXIC ZOMBIES).

SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT was a success during its theatrical release in 1979, although the film had no staying power and fell into obscurity like numerous other titles. Over the years, it has managed to amass a meager cult following. It's a surprisingly strong little picture, showcasing a level of skill that defies the inexperience of its first-time writer and director (both of whom produced together). Unfortunately, it was James L. Wilson's and Richard H. Wadsack's first and last time behind the camera. Apparently, the experience in dealing with the distributors at Dimension Pictures was too frustrating; and whatever aspirations he and writer, co-producer Richard Wadsack had of becoming successful filmmakers in Hollywood had soured.

Curiously, the quartet of stories are the weakest parts of the movie; while the wraparound portions deliver the bulk of the shivers. The stories are decent enough, just very rudimentary and basic. The segments at the cabin (shot in and around Black Lake, Louisiana) provide the tension the tales mostly lack. 

Some of the exterior shots create the proper mood--such as wide shots of the van traversing the winding road deeper into the woods; and imagery of the placid lake where a palpable evil is about to make its presence known.

The finale, for example, is eye-opening in the way it methodically builds a substantial amount of horror so quickly; making one wonder why the previous 90 minutes had tiptoed around its shock value so cavalierly. Still, storytelling is the film's strong suit as well as its central theme. The reliance on weaving spooky tales as opposed to using a single one as a springboard for a series of gory killings will have greater appeal to those who have participated in the ritual; that being the audience that will find greater appreciation for the sort of yarn the filmmakers are spinning.

The focus on telling scary stories and local legends reminded me of when I was a kid in the cub scouts--eating S'mores and telling ghost stories. There's very little blood on-screen so adolescents are safe with this picture (although it's suspenseful enough in places to give some of them nightmares). The appeal of SCREAMS will mostly be with nostalgia buffs, anyway; rather than hardened horror fans expecting more than this PG terror flick is offering.

Now let's take a look at what all the screaming is about....

In the first segment, Roger and Estelle run out of gas on their way home from a school dance. Since this is a horror movie, Roger makes two mistakes--leaving his date in the car while he walks to a gas station alone. What they don't realize is a moss-covered, cackling creature is stalking them.

Based on the urban legend, "The Boyfriend's Death", this story's antagonist is cited by reviewers as being a Bigfoot type monster. To contrast, the malevolently chortling thing recalls something more in the vein of the Blair Witch. The creature doesn't even look that big--what you get to see of it--nor does its description match the hairy hominid predominantly "found" in the Pacific Northwest. Fairly brief and unremarkable, the story does have a minor chill effect due to the scratching noises on top of the roof of the car moments before the shock reveal. If you're familiar with this urban legend, you know what that is.

Story #2 is about fraternity pledges who have to spend the night in an abandoned hotel with the stipulation not to go past the first floor. Naturally, this being a horror movie, they go past the first floor.

There's some light comedic moments in this spooky segment with the three frat boys believing the bumps in the night they're hearing on the floor above belong to their fraternity brothers trying to scare them. This one manages some light terror when each of the three young men disappear one after the other. The final image is unsettling, and one of the more memorable of the entire film. The setting inside an actual abandoned apartment building adds to the atmosphere of dread.

The third tale concerns the legend of a witch named Lorraine, an outcast who lived in the woods on the outskirts of town; an evil woman said to haunt an old Catholic cemetery and desecrate its tombs. One night, two high-school kids decide to see if the stories are true. This being a horror movie... of course they are.

Cut from the film at the behest of Dimension Pictures executives for reasons of time so as to fit more theater showings, this story is as simplistic as the others; but falters a little bit due to the flying witch creature that's as scary as a Halloween decoration. Despite its silliness, the filmmakers retain the spooky aura of the preceding stories.

Story #4 is about "Crazy Annie", an anti-social, sexually repressed female psychopath who seemingly dislikes men and women equally--and especially if they're having pre-marital sex. Annie's free-spirited roommate has posters of Robert Redford and other men affixed to the walls on her side of the room and, one night, borrows Annie's shawl without asking. After a heated confrontation, and with this being a horror movie, viewers know Annie is going to snap.

The final yarn in this creepy compendium abandons the ghosts and goblins, settling on a human monster in the form of the withdrawn Annie. The most thematically complex of the tales, it also does the least with its premise. As for Annie's psychosis, it's ambiguous if her trauma began from nearly being raped by a date at the outset, or if she was already crazy. What makes this short subject special is Beverly Allen's interpretation of the orthodox, unsophisticated Annie who, when set off, lets loose those pent-up frustrations. One minute her face displays a refined innocence and the next she's smiling murderously at the camera. It's an effective final stab before the wrap-up rips your guts out.

The acting is also worthy of mention. Not only do the actors in the wraparound play the parts in the stories they're telling, but virtually everyone turns in believable performances. Granted, some of the cast have little to say, but for the most part, the delivery is better than what this sort of picture normally offers. Matt Borel, Gil Glasgow, and Patrick Byers are especially good. Borel's portrayal of John is arguably the most pitiable of them all; being the lonely practical joker whose hobby is studying legends and scaring people half to death. When all Hell literally breaks loose at the end, he gets one of the best responses after timidly uttering with apprehension, "It's just a story..."; that response being what was used as the movie's tagline, "How do you think those stories get started?!"

Unfortunately, and rather surprisingly, aside from Gil Glasgow, most of the cast did little to nothing afterward. If you're a fan of FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)--and likely you are, you'll spot a young William Ragsdale as the peculiar, inquisitive gas station attendant near the beginning.

The acting is particularly effective in the explosive finale. Everyone plausibly captures a feeling of fear; that death is about to take them. There's also an air of familiarity about the climax just before the wind demon makes its appearance. I wondered if Sam Raimi hadn't seen the picture and been influenced by it before making THE EVIL DEAD (1981); and not just in the cabin setting. The scene where Ellen Sandweiss begs for the tape recorder to be shut off just before a window shatters is similar to Beverly Allen's finale freak-out in SCREAMS after her friends begin this bizarre taunt and chant routine as the wind pounds outside and the hellish howling grows louder.

Overly ambitious for a low budget picture, the filmmakers utilize some solid editing and even some helicopter aerial shots to tell their story. The score isn't entirely successful, but a few cues deliver the creeps. For a first-time director, James L. Wilson displayed an assured hand for this type of material. A shame both he and his co-producer and writer Richard H. Wadsack never did anymore horror features.

If regional horror appeals to you, SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT is a well made, if occasionally rough hewn example of low budget horror made with a level of passion that shows onscreen. Those desiring a fast-paced splatter flick will be left out in the cold; unlike the warm fire that awaits those seeking a modest, old-fashioned spookshow populated with wind devils, witches, ghosts and graveyards. 

This review is representative of the Code Red bluray. Specs and Extras: Exclusive 2K scan of the original negative of the never before seen 120 minute version; 90 minute theatrical version; interview with star Gil Glasgow; TV spots/trailers for SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT, BLACKOUT, THE FIFTH FLOOR, STREET LAW, THE DARK, CONQUEST; Running time uncut version: 01:58:44; Running time theatrical version: 01:31:29

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