FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM
THE CRAVING; THE OFFERING; THE OUTING
As is the case with any anthology, the individual episodes here vary somewhat but a consistent level of quality is present. Director Jeff Burr demonstrates a considerable surety of approach. The first episode is perhaps a routine story and its hellspawn from the grave ending fails to come off as stingingly as it should but the episode is propelled into high gear by the painfully socially maladjusted milquetoast performance from an unrecognisably made up Clu Gulager. The scenes where he works up courage to ask Megan McFarland out, her evident boredom and her disinterested rejection of him, Dont embarrass yourself, have a bitingly true pain to them.
Both the second and third episodes are centered around stunningly grisly endings in the second episode, Terry Kiser being dismembered, left in a sack and then pieced back together and found to still be alive at the ending; and Ron Brooks being blown apart in a shower of razor blades and paper clips in the third episode endings that Jeff Burr knows perfectly how to build up to and exactly when to imply more than he needs to show. The fourth story seems at times to be a far better telling of Stephen Kings Children of the Corn (1977) than the film Children of the Corn (1984) and any of its sequels was.
Throughout From a Whisper to a Scream, Jeff Burr adopts a darkly gritty low key lighting scheme which, while clearly helping to disguise the low budget, also adds a darkly haunted mood to the film and is something that often works to extraordinarily moody effect, particularly in the second episode. There are a couple of times when Burr inserts irritatingly pointless cutaway effects flash fantasies of Megan McFarland dribbling blood from her mouth, Terry Kiser dreaming his dinghy is being attacked by underwater zombies but not that often.
The film also boasts a fine cast, particularly the heart-wrenching performance from the aforementioned Clu Gulager. Burr also obtains fine work from Harry Caesar in the second episode and from Ron Brooks in the third. Vincent Price has never seemed more at home in a horror film than during the wraparound sequences, his fruity intonation perfectly suited to the role of a storyteller.
Since his debut with From a Whisper to a Scream, Jeff Burr has stayed within the horror genre but never gone on to uphold the promise that he showed here. His other genre films include Stepfather 2 (1989), Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990), Puppetmaster V: The Final Chapter (1994), Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1994), Night of the Scarecrow (1995), Johnny Mysto, Boy Wizard (1997), Phantom Town (1998), Spoiler (1998), The Werewolf Reborn (1998), The Boy with X-Ray Eyes (1999), Straight Into Darkness (2005), Devils Den (2006), Mil Mascaras vs the Aztec Mummy (2007), Resurrection (2010), Gun of the Black Sun (2011) and Alien Tornado (2012).
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