Scream Bloody Murder (1972) by #MarcBRay
"The First Motion Picture to be Called GORE-NOGRAPHY!!!"
"Who Will Survive the Psychosexual Claw?"
— Angus Kohm (@AngusKohm) September 11, 2021
My favourite video store used to have an amazing deal that allowed you to rent all the movies you could watch for one month for a low, low price (maybe $9.95, or $12.95, I can’t quite recall). You could rent three movies at a time, and exchange them as often as you like. Some a-holes would pay for the deal, take out three movies and just keep them for a month. I guess it was a cheaper way to “own” movies that had price tags like $199.95 (which basically meant they weren’t for sale – but if you wanted to pay that price, I guess they would have taken it). One year I decided to spend the final month of summer watching all the movies I could put my hands on. I figured it was a good way to try out a bunch of weird and iffy looking movies that I wasn’t so sure about. It was also a good way to relax before heading back school in September.
Unfortunately, I got an unexpected offer to assistant stage manage a play that was going up in September, which meant rehearsing the last three weeks of August. Like a fool, I said yes. This meant that I was in rehearsals for several hours each day – hours that I had planned to spend sitting in front of a TV watching outrageous cinematic atrocities. I had already paid for the all-you-can watch movie deal, so I didn’t want to waste it. I felt that on principle I had to watch a minimum of three movies a day. And since I was in rehearsal until 10:00 PM most days, this meant that had to watch movies all night to make up for it.
I remember the sun was coming up as I finished watching a beat up looking VHS tape of an obscure old movie called Scream Bloody Murder (1972). The box had been taunting me, and tempting me, from the shelves of Movie Village for a while now, but I’d never been able to convince myself to rent it. It just looked so cheap – it had to be terrible. Perhaps I had flashbacks to renting Garden of the Dead (1972) with my friends a few years ago. Scream Bloody Murder just couldn’t live up to it’s own hyperbole: “The First Motion Picture to be Called GORE-NOGRAPHY!!!” Gore-nography? That screamed ‘rent me!’ and yet I still didn’t trust it. The box looked so… nasty – is that the word for it? Just take a look at it (on the right). Something about it creeped me out in a way that no other horror film ever had.
I’d been a big fan of horror films since I was a kid. I loved movies like Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980), not to mention The Amityville Horror (1979) and Poltergeist. (1982). I’d even seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and The Toolbox Murders (1978) – and those ones had probably given me similar vibes to Scream Bloody Murder, but both Texas… and Toolbox… were famous movies. Steven King even endorsed Toolbox… on the front cover. So, l I knew those movies had to be of a certain level of quality. But Scream Bloody Murder… it was more like finding something creepy buried in your back yard and going “what the hell is this?”
So, it took an all-you-can-watch movie deal, and an all night movie marathon, to finally convince me to slide this tape into the player. It was the final film of the night, and I was probably half asleep when it started – but pretty soon I was wide awake. It starts with a bang – or perhaps I should say a senseless killing. A young boy runs over his father with a tractor. Was it an accident? or some kind of twisted murder? It’s not really clear to me. But the boy jumps out of the moving farm vehicle and manages to get his arm run over. There is some blood and gore, and the whole thing has an air of unpleasantness to it. I was completely riveted.
The kid, Matthew, has his mangled hand replaced by a hook, or claw, and is stuck in a mental hospital until he is eighteen. Now played by Fred Holbert, he is released and he returns to the farm to discover that his mother has a new man in her life. Suffice it to say that Matthew has deep, deep troubles with his mother, and the murders soon begin (again).
This is just the beginning, and Scream Bloody Murder is soon winding it’s way through unexpected plot turns, and delivering some truly awesome moments of madness. By the time the final scene was playing out on my TV screen (as the sun was coming up through the window behind me) I felt disturbed, and just a little bit dirty.
Yes, dirty. The movie seemed so scuzzy to me (and I’m not even sure how to define that), that I almost felt a need to take a shower when it was done (as one critic once predicted that people would feel after watching a play I wrote – but that’s another story). Don’t get me wrong, I had enjoyed the movie – particularly the first half or so. There were moments of unintentional hilarity, as well as truly suspenseful scenes. I even found myself wondering, at one point, if Steven King had seen this movie and been inspired by it when he wrote Misery. Probably not, but there are certain similarities.
In the last act, the movie spirals down to a nightmarish conclusion. Something about the low budget production values, the bad film print, and the worn out VHS tape – coupled with the dark, disturbing ending – left me feeling thoroughly shaken, and somehow less clean than when I had started. Perhaps lack of sleep on my part was also a factor, I don’t know. But I never forgot Scream Bloody Murder, and I later picked up a half-decent print on DVD.
Watching it last week, I didn’t get that same feeling of disturbed uncleanliness. I’ve seen so many other movies over the years that are just as cheap and scuzzy – if not more so – that it really seems kind of quaint and classy to me now. It still entertained me in all the same places. And it was great to see Angus Scrimm in an early appearance, credited as Rory Guy. There are moments in Scream Bloody Murder (1972) that I think are absolutely brilliant, and overall it’s a fairly unpredictable story. I would call it a minor #NotQuiteClassicCinema classic, and recommend it to anyone with a taste for low, low budget horrors of the early 1970s. I know I will always be happy to see it turn up on any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.