Scream for Help Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Michael Winner
Written by Tom Holland
1984, 89 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on September 18th, 2018
Rachael Kelly as Christie Cromwell
Marie Masters as Karen Cromwell Fox
David Brooks as Paul Fox
Lolita Lorre as Brenda Bohle
Rocco Sisto as Lacey Bohle
Corey Parker as Josh Dealey
Sandra Clark as Janey Ralston
Tony Sibbald as Bob Dealey
Christie Cromwell is your typical all-American teenager with a healthy social life and an active imagination. Her loving mother has recently remarried to a man named Paul Fox, who works at her successful car dealership. The family relationship is tense because Christie is convinced that not only is Paul cheating on her mother, but that he also plans to kill her! Things at home wouldn’t be so bad if Christie knew how to keep her suspicions to herself, but instead she not only repeatedly warns her mother, but she confronts Paul!! Denials and explanations follow and no one believes her, but this girl has made up her mind and will do anything to prove it. She begins tailing Paul on her bike and follows him to a motel where she indeed catches him having an affair with a woman named Brenda. She’s not very smooth at snooping and is soon being pursued by both her stepfather and his mistress. Christie races home to the safety of her mother’s arms but if she was right about the other woman is she also correct about the murder plot?
Christie seeks help with the support of her boyfriend Josh and best friend, Janey. She continues her investigation but is having trouble connecting the pieces. The police don’t believe her, and neither does her mom, but she knows there really is something sinister going on here. There are also a series of accidents to contend with, including faulty wiring at the house and the failing brakes on her mom’s car. Making matters worse, a creepy guy named Lacey is hanging around and has some sort of connection to Brenda and Paul. Things all come clear one fateful night in the wake of a tragic accident and soon Christie must confront a grim reality. She’s pretty smart and good at jumping to conclusions, but if she is facing real danger, she may have brought it on herself.
Scream for Help is a strange little film that plays like an R-rated TV Movie of the Week or an adult After School Special. The picture has a dreamlike quality to it, performances are big and the score is overly melodramatic - but there’s adult language, nudity and violence peppered throughout. One of the strangest aspects of this title is that it was directed by Death Wish alum Michael Winner. His efforts are pretty straightforward without getting too grandiose, but there are no real signature moves or set-ups that single this out as one of his collaborations. The film’s impressive pedigree extends to the screenplay written by Tom Holland (Psycho II) and the score composed by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones. Scream for Help was produced by Irwin Yablans (Halloween). How all of these talented individuals came to make such an odd little movie is beyond me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great in a weird, wild manner of speaking but not what I expected jumping into this one.
Rachael Kelly stars as Christie Cromwell and does most of the heavy lifting as the girl who cried murder. Nobody believes her, but this only increases her determination to uncover the truth. Kelly is excellent in the role of put-upon heroine and perfectly captures the frustrations of being a teenager. David Brooks stars opposite her and delivers a solid performance as the philandering stepfather Paul Fox. He plays a great foil to Kelly and the two work really well opposite each other. Marie Masters co-stars as Christie’s trusting mom Karen, the unconvinced voice of reason. She wants to believe her daughter but not to the extent that her new husband is plotting to kill her. Lolita Lorre and Rocco Sisto play the heavies Brenda and Lacey with convincing menace and really shine in the final act.
Scream for Help has a strange vibe about it that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s not a good movie by any means, but I had a blast watching it and couldn’t stop thinking about it once it was over. I am a huge fan of Joseph Rubin’s The Stepfather (1987) and this serves as a perfect precursor. I thought the John Paul Jones score was a bizarre choice until I remembered that Winner had Jimmy Page compose the score for Death Wish 2. As I mentioned earlier, the picture has a dreamlike quality to it, thanks to the efforts of cinematographer Robert Paynter (Curtains). Viewers are not sure if what they are seeing is really happening or if this is part of Christie’s imagination. I highly recommend this oddity and encourage you to watch it with a group of friends. Maybe make it a drinking game every time someone refuses to believe the girl.
Video and Audio:
Scream for Help is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and sports a new 2K High-Definition transfer. Previously only available on VHS, this is obviously a marked improvement but the results are actually quite impressive. Colors are well-saturated and black levels are solid. A lot of the third act takes place in the shadows and everything looks really nice.
A DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track preserves the original audio recordings. The music is over-the-top but never steps on dialogue levels. Everything is clean and clear without hiss or distortion.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Starting things off, we get an all-new audio commentary from Justin Karswell (The Slasher Movie Book) and Amanda Reyes (Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium). The two are well-versed in the material and have a lot to say. The track moves at a constant pace with each providing ample information about the production.
Screenwriter Tom Holland sits down for Cruel Intentions (13 minutes), an interview that pulls no punches. Holland is no fan of Michael Winner’s direction and lays the blame for the film’s underperformance squarely at his feet. He discusses the original script and how he prefers to work with directors, but remains at a loss as to why certain decisions were made on this occasion. This experience led the writer to step into the director’s chair for his next project, Fright Night (1985).
Stepfather of the Year (16 minutes) is an interview with actor David Allen Brooks, who is an instantly likeable guy with a lot of fond memories of the work. He discusses the audition process, the shoot in England and working with the cast and director. The interview covers a lot of ground and is a welcome addition to this release.
The original trailer has been included.