Let’s take a journey deep into the heart of the public domain, to talk about “Scream Bloody Murder” a negative bank balance budget 70’s slasher that can be found everywhere from the Internet Archive to $5 DVD sets at big box retailers. The leading man is a one film wonder, and every print I can get my hands on is damaged and so yellowed it looks jaundiced. Even so, “Scream Bloody Murder” in slightly better shape than “Death Drug” by virtue of having actually made it onto the lowest rungs of DVD.
However, it is also a fantastic example of a basic class of filmic dumpster fire. These sorts of films wander out of obscurity by virtue of sheer manic gusto. Plot elements and set pieces are piled on top of each other in pedal to the metal crescendos of sex, violence, and sheer weirdness. Plotting or tension building is irrelevant, plot threads, characters, or entire chunks of the film are blithely made non entities in service of the next passing thought. Given budgetary constraints and often concise run times, if you go several steps too far as standard procedure, one of the 8769476834678937 ideas you’ve thrown against the wall will stick before the end credits roll. It’s filmmaking as Mad Libs. The result might be comic. Its also likely nonsensical.The zippy pacing and low investment of effort threshold will also probably go a long way toward making the end result entertaining overall. Now let’s get to “Scream Bloody Murder”:
The pre credit open is a farmer working next to a tractor, while his bowl cut sporting moppet plays nearby. As soon as Daddy’s back is turned, the kid hops into the driver’s seat, and mangles dear old Dad to death under the wheels. Why? Because someone remembered “The Bad Seed” was a huge hit in 1956.
In a lightning fast bit of instant karma, the kid then loses control of the tractor, falls down, and MANAGES TO RIP OFF HIS OWN HAND under those same wheels. We are at the 3 minute mark, and we’ve already had two bloody “industrial accidents” and as much straightforward exposition as we are going to get regarding anything that happens in this entire movie.
Post credits we get a quick scene of the dime store bad seed getting hauled off to a mental ward, then a flash forward to the adult version reading (via voiceover) a letter from his mother. We learn our protagonist’s name is Matthew (Fred Holbert in his only film role), asylums look like mid tier day spas with kicky little striped robes, Matthew’s mom has been too busy to visit because of her new boyfriend, and that Matty boy now has a hook for a hand, likely because it was the cheapest way to explain away the missing one. It still gets a stinger music cue straight out of “Dark Shadows”.
We get the director’s credit (Marc B. Ray, who only helmed that particular chair for 3 films) and a pouring blood graphic to cut to Matt’s homecoming after being released. Too bad it’s the same day as Mom’s wedding to that pesky boyfriend, and no one even knew the he was arriving back. Once the newly minted husband & wife do sort out who the one handed man is in their driveway, they attempt to seem remotely interested. Matt tosses a snitty shit fit worthy of any teenage edgelord that ever moped across a shopping mall to the Orange Julius.
When Matt takes a break from sulking and farmwork to peep on his mom & stepfather kissing in the garden, he promptly murders them. The unmitigated gall of getting married and seeming happy about it was bad enough, but when stepdaddy kisses Mommy/Madonna (and makes her a filthy whore) he dispatches them both….with an axe and a rock. Even though he has a sharp object attached to his arm.
Matthew then hits the road and runs…… from the mother of all Oedipus complexes. He hallucinates his mommy being mauled by filthy men in everyone he meets, and none of the women he “saves” appreciate his sacrifice, so they get bloodily dispatched too. The newlyweds who pick him up hitchhiking? He bludgeons the man with a rock and then drowns the woman in a stream. The imagined taunts of his dead mother and step father ring loudly enough in his ears that they drown out the smooth jazz on the soundtrack, as he once again makes haste to avoid the rising body count.
Meeting painter/hooker with a heart of gold Vera(Leigh Matthews, a two film wonder), things brighten a touch for our little Matt. He compliments her art, renames her Daisy, brings her flowers, and kills a john for treating her poorly. If that isn’t love, he doesn’t know what is. Also, the dead john? Killed with Vera’s stolen palette knife. What do the death sequences of this film and the song “Triumph” by the Wu Tang Clan have in common?
No hooks to be found in either of them.
Desperate to impress and to make good on his claims of wealth and success to fulfill his inane white knight fantasy of “saving” Vera/Daisy from sex work, he murders the entire household of the closest fancy house he can find. For those keeping score at home:
Time elapsed: 50 minutes
Body Count: 9
Implements used: 7
Kills via Hook Hand: 0
Matthew kidnaps his lady love and steals from locals to provide her with all the creature comforts you could possibly need while tied to the stolen bed of a psychopath. I would also be remiss if I didn’t pull out this notable quotable, both for the actual content, and the perfectly petulant delivery:
Matt (to Vera/Daisy): See what I do for you? I get groceries, and clothes, and art stuff, and kill people, and do you appreciate it? No.
“Scream Bloody Murder” has always been a favorite of mine, and the sequence post kidnapping has always been a big part of the reason why. In a film who’s very existence indicates a gaggle of questionable choices, Vera/Daisy never falls into the Bermuda triangle of slasher victim bad decisions. She defies Matthew’s insane directions as best as she is able, be that spitting food back into his face or insisting on being called her real name. The second Matt leaves the house, she hobbles to the phone, even if her bondage means she has to dial a rotary phone with her tongue (a rather impressive skill). She hops downstairs and makes noise when she hears the doorbell. She’s always plotting escape, and eventually she finds Matt’s Achilles heel. Like every other character based on Norman Bates’ basic template, he’s terrified of women, terrified of sexuality, and female sexual agency makes him just as limp as his knives and threats are sharp. In the context of needing a bath, Vera/Daisy forces him to attempt to play pool with a rope, and upends the power dynamic just long enough for another chance to flee.
Unfortunately, just as Vera/Daisy’s plan starts to work out, the unfamiliar sensations of wanting to be filthy cause Matthew’s hallucinations of Mommie Dearest to come back back in full force. He snaps, and finally slashes Vera/Daisy’s throat with the hook. The one character we have reason to care about is just a few STEPS from freedom, and Matthew FINALLY learns to keep it simple, stupid.
Matt’s mind completely snaps, and hallucinations of all of his victims stalk him, cackling ungodly loud on the soundtrack. He runs away, then steals a car, abandoning it to try to hide in a church. Unsure if what he is seeing are real ghosts or tricks of his own mind, we see him finally get his fondest wish, giving the apparition of his mother a tongue kiss, then collapsing and spitting blood.
The ghosts/hallucinations/whatever raise hooks, Matthew raises his…….
…….and eviscerates himself with his own hook. Instant karma strikes again, and this dumbass goes to his grave never having learned.
This is actually the poster/tagline for a much better film. Rightfully, the term gore-nography probably belongs to either “Blood Feast” (the originator of gore horror) or ” I Drink Your Blood” (first film rated x for violence/gore)