15 September 2014

Screamtime (1986)
89 min.
Directed by Michael Armstrong and Stanley A. Long.
With Robin Bailey, Jonathon Morris, Ian Saynor, Yvonne Nicholson, Dora Bryan, Jean Anderson, and David van Day.
Jose Cruz

This scrappy little horror anthology might be lacking in polish and finesse, but it has enough heart and commitment to the material to provide the viewer with a fun enough time through its offbeat horrors.

Our first story, That’s the Way to Do It deals with an elderly puppeteer (Bailey) whose punk stepson (Morris) mercilessly taunts him for dawdling with his Punch and Judy-esque creations. After the no-goodnik sets fire to step-dad’s theater, the plank-wielding puppet begins to beat some sense into his master’s enemies.

The goofiness of the premise is surprisingly restrained here, and the puppet’s attacks—complete with high-pitched chattering—are actually well-handled and even a little creepy at times, as is the final chase that ends in our killer falling into a garbage compressor! This segment would certainly go over well with a large crowd and plentiful libations.

Dreamhouse involves the intense visions of murder that a woman (Nicholson) experiences after her family moves into a new house in the country. Her husband (Saynor) attempts to dissuade her ideas of supernatural activity, and not even a psychic giving the house a clean bill of health can stop Nicholson’s visions. Who is this family she is seeing being killed by a knife-wielding madman? The answer is genuinely surprising, and this segment wins points for playing out its grim story straight-faced the entire time.

Things return to a slightly lighter note with Do You Believe in Fairies? A motorcyclist (van Day) is hired by two old biddies to care for their palatial home, but he is informed that he needn’t worry about the garden: the fairies oversee its care. When he and a buddy attempt to break in one night to rob the ladies’ riches, they find out that the gnomes and fairies take their chores very seriously.

This yarn is commendable for not copping out on the set-up (actors in little gnome costumes!) as well as making the odd yet welcome decision of throwing in the telekinetic ghost of an Elizabethan lady to boot! You certainly can’t knock them for trying.

As a bonus the film’s wrap-around segment offers an interesting peek into pre-glamorized Times Square and the lurid clamshell art that adorned the horror section of its video stores.

The movie has the scratchy veneer of the decade’s grimier slashers, but its (mostly) competent script and direction shoot for a later-day Amicus flick and (mostly) succeed.

An ideal watch for a lazy afternoon.

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