Jeff Burr, 1987
Starring: Vincent Price, Cly Gulager, Susan Tyrrell, Terry Kiser
Also known as The Offspring, this late ‘80s anthology film was one of Vincent Price’s final horror films, though allegedly the veteran genre actor thought the movie was awful. While it isn’t completely terrible, I think the best that can be said about From a Whisper to a Scream is that it has a few surprises, some horrifying and mean-spirited moments, and is worth watching for horror anthology fans or Vincent Price completists. More casual Price fans will want to avoid it, because he’s in the film for about five minutes.
In Oldfield, Tennessee, a woman is executed for murderer. A reporter visits her uncle (Price), a historian, and he tells her four tales about the horrors that have come out of Oldfield. In the first story, a creepy, desperate, older man (an almost completely unrecognizable Clu Gulager) takes his coworker out on a very awkward date. When she rejects him at the end of the night, he kills her and uses her dead body in a rather nefarious way. In the second story, set in the ‘50s, an injured man is on the run from gangsters, because he owes them money. He is rescued and saved from death by a voodoo practicing hermit who possesses the secret to eternal life. The man’s overwhelming greed makes him try to steal the formula from the hermit with some unpleasant results.
The third tale, set in the ‘30s, involves a carny who has recently fallen in love. He wants to leave the circus, which is fittingly called Lovecraft’s Amusements, to run away with his lady love, but the voodoo practicing, snake worshipping owner of the circus has a devastating power over him. The final tale concerns Civil War soldiers cut off from the army, who encounter by some very bizarre children. The soldiers soon become trapped...
While From a Whisper to a Scream really isn’t that great of a film, one strong point is that the stories are all very different and are set in varying time periods. They also each make a solid stab (pun intended) at horror. Unlike the TV anthology film, Escapes, that Price also had a small part in, From a Whisper to a Scream is concerned with the grotesque, horrifying, and violent. To its credit, it makes a number of serious attempts to either gross out or creep out its audience with varying degrees of success. The segments cover such unpleasant topics as necrophilia, a hint of incest, murder, voodoo, deformity, etc. Some decent effects from Rob Burman (The Thing) certainly help.
As the historian who frames the stories, Price doesn’t have nearly enough screen time, through there are some other recognizable horror actors. Bond girl and Hammer regular Martine Beswick (Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde) makes an appearance as the executed murderer, as does Clu Gulagar (Return of the Living Dead), Terry Kiser (Weekend at Bernie’s), Rosalind Cash (Omega Man, Tales from the Hood), Cameron Mitchell (Blood and Black Lace), Susan Tyrrell (Tales from the Crypt TV show, Forbidden Zone), and Angelo Rossitto (Freaks).
This was director Jeff Burr’s first horror film, though he went on to a career made up of mostly horror sequels: Stepfather II (1989), Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990), Puppet Master 4 (1993) and 5 (1994), Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1994), and many more. He does a decent job here, but is at least partially hamstrung by a small budget.
I can’t really recommend From a Whisper to a Scream, but it’s not a bad way to spend an evening and I suspect it would be more entertaining to watch in a group. Anyone who likes low budget, '80s horror will probably also find plenty to enjoy. It is available on DVD from MGM.