Death Screams, House of Death (1982)
Directed by: David Nelson
Written by: Paul C. Elliott
Starring: Andria Savio, Curt Rector, Hanns Manship, Helene Tryon, Jennifer Chase, Jody Kay, John Kohler, Josh Gamble, Martin Tucker, Mary Fran Lyman, Sharon Alley, Susan Kiger, William T. Hicks
DEATH SCREAMS (1982)
Directed by David Nelson
Available on Arrow Video Blu-Ray
Before heading back to college after the holidays, a group of teens see out summer with a trip to the local carnival before getting cosy by the riverside campfire. Unbeknown to them, a killer is on the loose and they’ve set their sights on slaying the promiscuous youngsters.
Teenage slasher fun ensues in early 80’s horror DEATH SCREAMS where a machete, bow and arrow and plastic bag are just some of the weapons of choice for the mystery homicidal maniac stalking the small town in North Carolina.
DEATH SCREAMS plays out like your typical slasher movie where we get to know the people of the town before they eventually come face to face with the killer. With the first couple of kids killed in the opening scene, the viewer knows there’s a bloodthirsty maniac on the loose but the rest of the town are oblivious to the grisly demise of the duo, and assume the loved-up pair have simply run away. Peace seems to be restored to the town, that is until the carnival arrives where the killer decides to strike again, a prelude to the slaughter due that evening when the kids get touchy-feely in front of the river before heading to the graveyard to share some of their favourite ghost stories. It’s paint-by-numbers in many ways but DEATH SCREAMS is a hell of a lot of fun! The low budget style charms its way into your heart whilst the innovative, variety of murders will keep you watching, wondering where and how the mystery killer will strike next.
As with other slasher movies, you begin to suspect a couple of players within the neighbourhood. Could it be shop assistant Lily’s grandmother, who’s clearly not wheelchair-bound and has a fine set of knives in her utility room? Could it be Coach Marshall, the baseball coach who’s caught the eye of many of the ladies in town? Could it be Casey, the teen with learning difficulties who struggles to interpret right from wrong? The movie likes to keep you guessing and it’s great that the reveal of who the killer is is kept under wraps until the final few minutes of the film. I suppose the only downside is how quickly it seems to wrap up once the culprit is outed.
Much like Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge, that I reviewed shortly before this, there’s weaknesses here and there that prevent it from becoming a great horror but at the same time there’s plenty to enjoy, from the energetic charm of the characters to the unconventional settings. For instance, the carnival makes for a colourful location for the killer to prowl. With the bright lights and noises of the rides and much of the town’s folk there to sell their wares, there’s plenty to tantalise the senses as the teens wander around, proving their skills on the games for the chance to win a stuffed plush toy or the affections of their partner. One minute they’re enjoying the sights and sounds of a community fair, the next they could be on the chopping board.
With several Playboy girls working on the film, you can expect some female nudity in the film but we get a fine glimpse of Coach Marshall’s bottom in the shower too so there is truly something for everyone in this movie.
Featuring an abundance of vibrant, youthful energy, DEATH SCREAMS is more entertaining than perhaps people give it credit. Its rough-round-the-edges approach and daft elements are easily overlooked when you have good pacing, which I feel this film has. I couldn’t help but love this tight-knit, seemingly sleepy-community where everyone knows everybody else but who’s inhabitants are completely oblivious that there’s a killer on the loose. Towards the end of the movie, the excitement ramps up considerably as we’re hit with multiple death scenes that are unrelenting and increasingly violent. If the citizens didn’t know they lived in a dangerous neighbourhood, they do now!
A pleasant, cheeky lil’ slasher, DEATH SCREAMS is worth giving some time to. As long as you don’t expect greatness and enjoy a bit of a laugh, you’ll be in for a treat.
Arrow Video bring DEATH SCREAMS, aka House of Death, to Blu-Ray with a brand new 2K restoration from an archival 35mm print featuring original uncompressed mono audio and optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
As per most Arrow releases, the Blu-Ray comes complete with a selection of special features, including:
- Brand new audio commentary with producer Charles Ison and special effects artist Worth Keeter moderated by filmmaker Phil Smoot
- Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
- All the Fun of the Scare: The Making of Death Screams – newly-produced making-of documentary featuring interviews with producer Charles Ison, special effects artist Worth Keeter, writer Paul Elliott, actors Hanns Manship and Curt Rector, actor/producer’s assistant/assistant supervising editor Sharon Alley and actor/talent wrangler Robert “Billy Bob” Melton. This entertaining making-of has some of the stars sharing their fond memories of working on the film and with director David Nelson, whilst writer Paul Elliott describes how Agatha Christie’s ‘Ten Little Indians’ served as inspiration for the original script.
- TV and Radio Spots
- Image Galleries
- House of Death Alternate VHS Opening Titles
- Two versions of the screenplay under the original title of Night Screams [BD-ROM content]
- Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork and a newly-commissioned reimagining of the original VHS artwork by Sadist Art Designs presented with die-cut slipcover
- Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Brian Albright