Saturday, October 31, 2015

13 Films Of Halloween:
FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM

FROM A WHISPER TO SCREAM (1987)
Aka THE OFFSPRING

Starring: Vincent Price, Clu Gulager, Susan Tyrell, Cameron Mitchell, Lawrence Tierney, Terry Kiser (WEEKEND AT BERNIES), Rosalin Cash (OMEGA MAN) and many others - great cast!
Written by: C. Courtney Joyner, Darin Scott, Jeff Burr.
Directed by: Jeff Burr
Produced by: Bill Burr & Darin Scott


Happy Halloween!



This brings the series to a conclusion, and I’ve had a lot of fun writing these entries. All of these great films from my childhood - watching on late night TV on Halloween night - this was reliving my childhood watching Bob Wilkens’ CREATURE FEATURES and the kids matinee movies they showed at Pleasant Hill Intermediate School on Saturday afternoons. Watching the films again has been a blast, and looking at how they delivered scares on low budgets without gore or much in the way of special effects. Those Corman movies used suspense and dread and shock moments - and I tried to point all of them out in the synopsis so that you can see how the films work. These were all films that you could show to an auditorium full of kids... and provide some “safe screams”.



But some of you are wondering, “Where was THE FLY? Where was TALES OF TERROR? Where was THE TINGLER?” Hey, there are easily 13 more Vincent Price horror films that I didn’t use this time... so maybe I’ll do those next year.

For our last film I decided to go with a film late in Vincent Price’s career, after his “retirement” from movies. When you read a biography of Price they always say he came out of retirement to do two films, WHALES OF AUGUST and EDWARD SCISSORHANDS... but they never mention this film! The actual return from retirement movie. Oh, and made by a whole bunch of people I know. Directed by my friend Jeff Burr, produced by my friend Darin Scott, written by my friend C. Courtney Joyner (plus Darin and Jeff), and even some of the cast members are people I know. Met these folks at a series of Fangoria conventions I went to when I was still living in the Bay Area... and at AFM (maybe the year they were selling the film as THE OFFSPRING - I had a long conversation with Bill Burr on one of the balconies as we looked down at the “Lobby Rats”). Since the film was 1986, and that was my first year ever at AFM, these guys may have been the first people I met in Los Angeles! I saw the film at AFM, which means I probably saw it before it was released by MGM under the new title the next year.



Katherine White (Martine Beswick) is being executed in a Tennessee prison, as the Warden (Lawrence Tierney, pre-RESEVOIR DOGS “comeback”), the death is not instantaneous nor pleasant. Reporter Beth Chandler (Susan Tyrrell) watches in horror...

Oldfield, Tennessee: a spooky old house that is a combination town Library, town bureau of records, and residence - where the White family lived. Beth knocks on the door, finds it open, ventures inside to discover Mr. Julian White (Vincent Price) in the library section. He was the uncle of the executed woman. Beth wants the full story - Katherine killed her first man at age 7 and continued her killing spree until she was caught at 32. Why? What could have caused her to kill at 7? White says his niece’s execution will not end the problem - Oldfield is serial killer central, many a killer has called this place home. A cursed town. White tells the stories of some of the residents like...



Stanley Burnside (Clu Gulager), who wakes up screaming after dreaming of his dead and bloody wife. A quiet small town man. Lonely. He watches a pretty girl, Grace (Megan McFarland), at en employee barbeque for the meat packing company he works for. That night his sister Ellen (Miriam Bird-Nethery) is suffering from a fever and he has to bathe her in ice water, washing down her naked old body. This is more horrifying than that execution - as the wrinkled old sister is digging having her brother touch her naked flesh.

At work he shyly flirts with Grace, who gives him the cold shoulder.

One night, he calls her to ask her out on a date... and she refuses at first... then relents. Sister Ellen is jealous that he’s got a date.



At some cheap family chain restaurant they have an awkward meal together... afterwards on the drive back, she pretty much shoots him down big time. He forces a kiss on her, and she insists he take her home. When she keeps shooting him down, he strangles her to death... the tail light of the car blinking as they struggle. He dumps her on the side of the road and drives away.

Next day at work the Foreman announces that a fellow employee was killed the night before. There will be a funeral in a couple of days and they will be given time off to attend. A coworker notices that Stanley has scratches on the side of his face.



Night. The funeral home. Someone breaks a basement window and crawls inside... Stanley making a late night visit. Grace is laid out in a coffin for tomorrow’s funeral, surrounded by flowers. Stanley brings champagne, tells the corpse they can’ let something like this get in the way of their romance. Oh, yeah - it’s going there. Stanley kisses her corpse, then undresses both of them and gets busy...

Nine months later...

He comes home from work to find his sister wanting a bath... and wearing a ton of make up. Um, what’s up with that? Stanley breaks up the ice with an ice pick and pours some in the tub. His sister keeps talking on and on and on... and finally Stanley just pushes her head under the water and tries to drown her. That doesn’t work, and he grabs for the ice pick., ends up getting her robe belt - that works just fine to strangle her. She ends up dead and naked in the tub of ice water.

Meanwhile, at Grace’s grave, something crawls out of the dirt! Crawls across a field to Stanley’s house.



Stanley hears noises in the house - a broken window in the kitchen. A tree branch? No, something messy on the floor - dirt and slime. And there’s something crawling around in his house - like the totem dude in TRILOGY OF TERROR. Now it’s Stanley versus this little crawling thing! He reaches under he couch for it and it bites his hand! He grabs a knife to defend himself as it terrorizes him - what the hell is it? It skitters upstairs. When he follows, he finds his sister’s naked corpse at the base of the stairs! He climbs the stairs carefully, knife ready... when that *thing* trips him at the top of the staircase. Stanley tumbles all the way down... into the arms of his dead sister. He looks up to see what that thing is... and it’s a dead baby. A dead baby that keeps saying, “Daddy!” Then the baby comes down to attack him!

Back to Mr. White who tells the next story... that happened over 30 years ago.

Jesse Hardwick (Terry Kiser) lives in a crappy trailer and has the ultimate in relationship problems - his girlfriend says she’s leaving, and that she’s tipped off the McCoy Brothers that he was cheating them... and they are on their way.

Just the, the McCoy Brothers show up - guns drawn - and Jesse blasts through the wall of the house trailer and runs. But he can’t outrun a bullet, and one of the McCoy Brothers shoots him and leaves his body on the side of the road. But Jesse isn’t quite dead, and drags himself to the river where he has his boat stashed and then passes out in the boat. The boat drifts down the river... until someone pulls it ashore.

Jesse wakes up in an old shack filled with some really weird stuff. The old man who owns the shack, Felder Evans (Harry Ceasar) comes home and tells Jesse he’s been asleep for days. Gives him some soup. That night, old man Felder is practicing voodoo on the back porch and Jesse overhears.



The next day, Jesse asks Felder some prying personal questions and can’t get any straight answers. How old is Felder? How long has he been living here? Felder just talks about carving wooden buffalo while standing in the middle of a herd. No herds of buffalo for decades. How old is this guy? When Felder leaves, Jesse ransacks the shack - looking for valuables. Finds a hidden trunk filled with “valuables” - some antique guns, a book of voodoo spells, a scrap book with clipping about Felder that go back over *two centuries*. What? How is that possible?

Felder comes home and Jesse asks him how a man gets to be 200 years old. Is it that voodoo? Jesse demands to know how it’s done. If you could live that long, you could become rich! Jesse wants to take voodoo lessons...



Three weeks later, Jesse is frustrated. He’s a guy who is looking for a get rich quick scheme and this voodoo thing is a lot of work. Jesse has seen Felder drink from a little vial - is that his secret to eternal life? He knocks out Felder, puts him on the boat, and takes him out on the swamp. Threatens to throw him overboard if Felder doesn’t tell where the vial of magic water is. Felder doesn’t tell, and Jesse screws up yet again and accidentally shoves him all the way out of the boat. Felder sinks into the swamp. Jesse can’t see his body anywhere. Crap!

At Felder’s shack, Jesse is tearing the place apart looking for the vial - can’t find it. When Felder - covered in swamp mud - blasts through the door and slams him in the head with the boat paddle!

Jesse wakes up tied to the dock. Felder tells him when he first dragged Jesse and that boat in, Jesse was already dead. Felder used that potion from the vial on him to bring him back to life - so Jesse has just been trying to steal something that he already had. “You can’t die. I gave you enough that you’ll last another 70 years or more.” Felder pours kerosine on Jesse’s chest. Then chops off one of Jesse’s arms and sets him on fire and...



Two kids find a *moving* sack on the side of the road, call the police.

Hospital: The doctor says it is impossible for this... man... to be alive in his condition. But he is. And then we see what is left of Jesse - burned torso and head and... yech! Felder’s voice echoes, “You’ll last another 70 years or more.”

Back to Mr. White and Beth, who still isn't convinced it is the *town* that is evil. All of these bad things happening in the same place is just a coincidence. Mr. White tells her the Librarian who was here 40 years ago killed two people and buried them under this very floor (what that Mr. White?) then he tells her a story from his childhood - when the carnival came to town, bringing along the sideshow. And he remember Amarrillis Caulfield....



1933: The Carnival - crowded - pretty small town girl Amarrillis (Didi Lanier) walks along the midway until she comes to the sideshows, and enters the tent for Arden The Amazing (Ron Brooks) - who eats nails and screws and broken glass and razor blades and other things not on the standard food pyramid. After the performance she waits for Arden, and kisses him. Small town girl attractive to “sophisticated” carny. As they kiss, fellow carny Leonard (Gordon Paddison) watches them. Arden tells her he has a poker game with the guys, so she’s gotta go. She doesn’t want to leave... and makes him a deal - she’ll leave tonight if he meets her for a necking party at the graveyard after tomorrow’s shows have finished. He agrees and tells her to leave, “You don’t know how dangerous it is here if she finds you.” Amarrillis wants to know “Who’s she?” but Arden tells her to just leave.



Arden plays poker with the other carnies... when SnakeWoman (Rosalind Cash) steps from the darkness and wants to know who’s the girl she saw Arden with. Arden asks *who* saw him, SnakeWoman or Leonard? Leonard sneaks up behind Arden and blows on his neck. Tiny Tinker (Angelo Rossitto) says that SnakeWoman has no control over their personal lives, and she threatens him with the police... Tinker relents. SnakeWoman says that she protects all of them from the police in exchange for their talents - maybe in the case of the freak “No Face” (Barney Burman) she gave him his talent (by removing parts of his face). “This is my carnival. I own everything in it. Even you,” she says to Arden. “I own the tears you weep and the blood you shed.” Arden splits.

Amarrillis goes to the graveyard to put flowers on Father’s grave, when Arden arrives. Arden says he can’t stay long, she needs to forget about him. She says since she first saw his act she wanted to marry him, or just be with him. He tells her he’s a freak. She puts his hand on her breast and gets her freak on. They make out on her father’s grave, and begin undressing each other. But when he puts his hands “down there” she screams and bleeds - is it supposed to hurt like that? He takes his hand out of her panties - and screws and nails that he’s eaten in the past have erupted from his finger tips. He screams and staggers back to the carnival, where SnakeWoman is there to meet him. “Welcome home, glass eater.” SnakeWoman is a voodoo priestess - whose tent is filled with snakes. She makes his bleeding stop... and tells him to forget the girl. She makes the glass and nails he has eaten poke through his insides! Tells him to love that girl and know what pain really is.



When Arden returns to his tent, Amarrillis is waiting for him - she begs him to leave with her. He decides that might not be a bad idea. But on the way to her car they are discovered by Leonard - who has a gun. When he threatens to kill Arden, Tiny Tinker comes out of the shadows and stabs Leonard in the back. As Leonard lays dying he tears open his shirt, exposing a third eye on his chest, and says “I can still see you!”

Arden and Amarrillis drive off together.

In a roadside motel, they once again try to make whoopi... then he begins screaming in pain as all of the nails and screws and glass and razors he has eaten over the years *burst* from his body! Blood sprays everywhere - drenching Amarrillis - and piercing her body again and again!



Back to the side show, where they have a new attraction: Amarrillis The Human Pincushion. She has holes in her body that you can see through!

Mr. White finishes the story, and Beth is coming around... she is starting to believe that Oldfield might just be an evil town. “Oldfield’s history is written in human blood, on pages of human skin.” All the way back to when the town was founded during the Civil War. He shows her a series of Civil War photos, and one comes to life before our eyes for the last story...

Four Confederate Soldiers, lead by Sgt. Gallen (Cameron Mitchell) have been separated from their division, and come across a group of Union Soldiers - also separated from their division. The Union soldiers haven’t seen them yet, so Gallen orders his men to fire on them. Everyone fires except Pike... whose man is getting away. Gallen grabs Pike’s rifle and kills the running survivor. Gallen has them loot the bodies. They find documents on the dead Union soldiers - the war is over, and has been for a month. Gallen thinks there’s still some raping and looting left to do. Pike says if the war is over, he’s going home... and walks away. Gallen shoots him in the back, killing him.



Gallen and the two other soldiers (Bullock and McBride) go looking for a house where they can rape and loot, when they’re fired upon... and captured. They’re taken in a wagon to an old house named Oldfield with a bunch of children in the yard. Some of the children have been mutilated in the war - missing limbs or eyes or parts of their face. A little boy in a Union Army uniform, Andrew (Tommy Nowell), comes out of the house and tells Gallen that he is their prisoner now. Gallen can’t take this little boy seriously. Bullock (Tim Wingard) tells them their just a bunch of kids... and gets stabbed in the balls with a knife. Suddenly Gallen is taking this seriously. He tries to convince the boy that the war is over... but little Andrew does not believe them. Andrew takes the three Confederate soldiers into the house and warns them that the Magistrate will decide their fate. The Magistrate taught them everything they know - how to fight.

Soldier Bullock who was stabbed in the balls? They don’t expect him to last the night, so they’ll prepare a game for him. The other soldier, McBride (Leon Edwards), is in a different room, so he won’t be able to conspire with Gallen to escape.



A little girl with only one leg and only one eye, Amanda (Ashli Bare), brings Gallen dinner. He tries to talk her into letting him go when the ball rings - the Magistrate is calling a meeting. She leaves.

Andrew tells Amanda that he has a surprise for her, and takes her into the room where they have McBride. The Confederate soldier is now strapped to a table. Andrew tells Amanda to take off her eye patch... and then he inserts one of McBride’s eyes into her socket. McBride screams - and we see that his eye has been cut out.

When Amanda brings his next meal, Gallen convinces her to untie him... he’s adopt her and be her daddy. She untie him... Then he gives her a full on kiss... which is just wrong. She fights him. And he kills her and escapes... to find the kids playing a game in the front yard.

Pinata with meat hooks and the body of dead soldier Bullock. You know, for kids!



Gallen gets the hell out of there - running through the woods at top speed. Until he runs into Pike, who wasn’t killed by Gallen’s shot in the back. Pike knocks Gallen to the ground. Gallen says - you have to help me get away, those kids are going to kill me!

And Andrew has discovered Amanda’s body and the kids *are* chasing through the woods to find Gallen. But Andrew doesn’t help Gallen... he turns him over to the kids.



Gallen wakes up in the Magistrate’s Room. Andrew tells him they don’t murder people, they take them before the Magistrate and the Magistrate passes sentence. Then Andrew pulls aside a curtain so that Gallen can see the Magistrate: a Frankenstein’s monster made of the body parts of these kid’s parents... who were murdered in the war.

And the sentence for Gallen? Barbecue. They cook him up and eat him.

And that’s where the town of Oldfield came from - those cannibal kids.



Mr. White tells Beth that Poe and Lovecraft’s monsters where inventions of their imaginations, but here in Oldfield they walk the streets. Beth asks how Mr. White managed to survive this town, and he answers: “How do you know that I did?” Beth reaches into her purse and touches the handle of her knife... Mr. White smiles and tells her that he managed to just remain an observer of the parade of violence, but his niece Katherine became part of the parade. Beth says that she reported on Katherine’s murders, then after the arrest became Katherine’s pen pall while she was in prison... and learned all about this town and how Katherine was brought up... by Mr. White. And now she’s here to deliver Katherine’s parting gift to the man who raised her - pulls out her knife and stabs Mr. White, who dies saying: “Welcome to Oldfield.”

One of the final credits on the film: “When In Tennessee Visit Oldfield”!

Happy Halloween everybody! Trick Or Treat responsibly!

Buy the pit



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