So last year, I did a ’80s film to start off Horrorfest V, so I decided that I needed to review a ’70s film to start us off. So the first post, I feel, is one of the most important ones during Horrorfest. I need a film I absolutely love to watch-
So I tried to think what horror, thriller, mystery, etc.; that I absolutely love. What’s one of my favorite ’70s horror films?
Oh wait, I already reviewed that one.
What’s another ’70s film I absolutely love? Oh, I know!
The Stepford Wives!
Wait I reviewed that one too.
So what to do? I started looking through what films came out in the ’70s, but nothing stood out at me until I saw this:
AMC, back when it was an actual movie channel instead of giving in to being just like any other network, used to do something special called Fear Fridays.
Originally they started showing films at 7, then it was moved back to 8, then 9, then 10, then 11, then 12, then 1, and finally 2. Yes, 2 in the morning!
And they still called it Fear Friday! Even though it was on Saturday! Fear Friday on a Saturday???!!!
Sorry, I digress. So they would just show horror films all night, and I saw some fantastic ones and some pretty rotten ones-but either way it made Friday fun.
One night at 12 this film came on and it immediately captured my attention with its fantastic beginning. We don’t start by showing actors’ names, or anything like that. Instead we start with this:
This film is a detective story – in which you are the detective. The question is not “Who is the murderer?”, but “Who is the werewolf?” After all the clues have been shown, you will get a chance to give your answer. Watch for The Werewolf Break.
You know how much I love a mystery!!
Ready for any case
So millionaire Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) has spent his time training to be the best hunter, building the most unescapable housing complex, etc. Why? He wants to capture a werewolf.
He has hunted everything possible in the world, and this is the last one on his list.
But there is only one problem: a werewolf only manifests at night with the moon. How will he find a werewolf when most of the day they appear as a regular person.
He has that covered. He has been tracking people and invited four people to his mansion for the weekend-five that he believes are possible werewolves. His plan is to wait until they transform and then kill them.
Here are his suspects:
1) Arthur Bennington (Charles Gray): Diplomat who had members of his cabinet disappear suspiciously.
2) Jan Gilmore (Michael Gambon): A famous pianist who while on tour, the cities he played in had horrible killings where their throats were slashed.
3) Davina Gilmore (Ciaran Madden): Jan’s wife in who travels with him, but on a separate occasion a dinner party she attended had a horrifying murder.
4) Paul Foote (Tom Chadbon): An artist who has recently been released from prison. He started out as a medical student, but was involved with a group that each ate a piece of human flesh.
5) Professor Lundgren (Peter Cushing): A professor of archeology and Lycanthropy. Is he so knowledgeable because he’s interested or because he is one.
Which one could it be? That’s up to Tom, his assistant Pavel, and you to determine. Will you figure it out?
I loved this movie so much, I can’t say anything more. In fact, I was told to go to bed, pretended I did, and snuck out to finish watching and see if I had guessed the werewolf correctly.
I thought it was a great time and even went on to searching the internet to add it to my collection. Definitely worth watching for Halloween.
So you know how I do a banner for every movie for my personal facebook, none for this one. I couldn’t find a big enough picture that captured the film.
So a few years ago, my sister bought the Greatest 100 Horror Classics DVD collection. There were some great films on this: such as Carnival of Souls, The Phantom of the Opera (1925), Night of the Living Dead, Metropolis etc. And of course some duds, like The Beast of Yucca Flats. This film was also included in the collection, and a film I really liked.
This film was a new thing for director Alex Nicol, who also played the role of Mickey. The film is based on the book The Screaming Skull by Francis Marion Crawford, but borrows a lot from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca.
So the film starts out with us on a bayou. There appears to be something in the water as a guy creeps closer to shoot it. It is large, scaly, with ginormous eyes.
This isn’t how I remember the movie starting at all. I better check the DVD menu. Yep, whoops. I accidentally chose the wrong film.
I would have reviewed Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) and you all would not have been ready for that. Now here we go with The Screaming Skull.
We open on a candle and flower arrangement. Dark depressing music…zoom out it’s a funeral Makes sense.
Narrator: “The Screaming Skull” is a motion picture that reaches its climax in shocking horror. It’s impact is so terrifying that it may have an unforeseen effect. It may *kill* you! Therefore the motion picture producers feel they must offer free burials for any that die of fright, during The Screaming Skull.
Let me stop and say this is one awesome beginning, like The Beast Must Die. I award it a thousand gold stars.
So we open on a beautiful mansion, impeccable gardens, relaxing lily pond. A dream house.
When we see something in the water. What is that? A SKULL!!!!!
It actually made me think of David Lynch and his constant use of a tranquil, pretty setting that has evil lurking below.
So we have the opening titles/credits using the same music from Sleeping With the Enemy, but added a woman vocalizing is high it almost like screaming.
So that switches with a peaceful drive up to the house, and light airy music. They park the car and out comes the newlyweds, Eric and Jenni Whitlock. Eric is bringing his new wife back to his old house.
Jenni loves the house as the garden looks like a magician paradise, it even has peacocks.
She sees a window and asks if that will be their room.
Jenni: Will that be our room.
Eric: Will need some fixing first.
Jenni: Was that her room?
The “Her” she is talking about is Eric’s first wife Marian. He is a widower. I know what you are thinking:
But it is not the same. In The Screaming Skull, Marian the first wife was the wealthy one and the house belonged to her.
So as the couple are walking around, we that the house is pretty much empty. Marian got rid of all her families’ furniture and was planning on purchasing new pieces to make it “their home”. The two hadn’t gotten far with redecorating before she died. Now Jenni and Eric will make this house “their” house.
He wants to show her the rest of the house, but she stops and looks at the window into the room.
Eric picks up Jenni and carries her around the room. Meanwhile, there is a guy behind them creeping through the windows.
He’s creepin’ in your windows. He’s starin’ at your people.
Who the heck is he? And why is he doing that?
While the two are kissing, he sneaks away.
The two walk around the yard and pass Mickey, the gardener’s, tool shed. He’s been in charge of maintaining the grounds since Eric has been away. Wow Micky sure has a green thumb, it looks amazing!
As they are seeing the yard, Eric tells Jenni that Mickey & Marian would spend hours working on the garden together. He doesn’t think Mickey ever got over her death, he was in love with her, and still believes she is coming back.
So as the two are talking and walking, someone drives up. It is the Reverend and Mrs. Snow. They came to meet the new bride and drop off something for dinner. As they are all talking, the Reverend and Mrs. Snow get invited to dinner.
As they are heading to the house, Eric spots the gardener, Mickey. It turns out he was the guy creepin’ on them earlier. So Mickey isn’t really a creep, he is developmentally disabled. He and Marian grew up together so it is hard on him not having her in his life.
Mickey sees the land as his and Marian’s place, and anyone else is trespassing.
Back inside the house, the group is clearing things up a little. Mrs. Snow and Eric go off to make dinner, while the Rev. and Jenni hang out.
While they are preoccupied, Mickey sneaks inside the house and goes to look at a painting of Rebecca…opps I mean Marian. Sorry, certain parts of the film are a bit similar it was easy to make that mistake.
Mickey wants Marian to send them away, so it can just be the two again.
Eric is talking with Mrs. Snow and she is saying how much she likes Jenni, and how great she is. Eric thinks it is great Mrs. Snow likes Jenni, but there is something he has to tell her.
I knew there had to be more to her than just a sunny personality. Here we go, give me the whole story.
So Jenni didn’t have a happy childhood. She lost her parents years ago in a horrible way. She is very impressionable, so talking about sad pasts is something best to stay away from. It sounds to me as if she and Ruth from Dangerous Crossing had a similar experience after they lost their fathers. Jenny probably had to go to a mental hospital afterwards too.
How did she loose them? They drowned in an accident, and Jenny saw it all. That is super damaging for a child to experience something like that. SUPER damaging.
So the Rev. and Jenni are talking when she asks him how he knew they were in town. It turns out that the Reverend heard of them moving in from the lawyer, as the lawyer and Eric are executors of the estate. All that was left to Eric out of Marian’s tremendous fortune, was the house and grounds. He notified the lawyer he was back and moving in with his new wife.
Even more what Jenni wants to know is how did Marian die?
Reverend Snow: Didn’t Eric tell you?
Jenni Whitmore: I think the subject is painful for him. He doesn’t like to talk about it. Will you tell me? I’d really like to know
So it was a rainy day and Marian and Mickey had been working in the greenhouse. She left him to go back to the house for a few minutes. The way it was pieced together later was that she was probably coming back and slipped in a leaf, fell down, and smashed her skull in the cement wall around the pond, fell in the water and drowned. That was where Eric found her later.
While they are talking, Mickey is sneaking about. I think it would be mean to say this, but the way he moves and creeps makes me think of Gollum from the The Lord of the Rings series.
After dinner the Snows are walking home and talking about the two.
Reverend Snow: Did you know that Jenni is very wealthy?
Mrs. Snow: Yes Mr. Mowry told me. She’s not at all like Marian. So gentle and timid, as if she is afraid of something.
OMG Jenni is Joan Fontaine from Rebecca. Sweet, young, shy, timid, like same character. Except Joan was poor while Jenni is rich.
That night, Jenni and Eric are sleeping in cots, as their furniture isn’t out of storage yet. That night Jenni is reading a book sent by Mrs. Snow, Beast in the Jungle. It seems like a very sad book, I don’t know why she would give such a book to Jenni knowing her background.
That night Jenni hears loud bumping and clanging noises.
Who is that?
She calls to Eric, but he is not there.
She decides to investigate, calling to Eric, but receiving no answer. Eerie music starts playing as she keeps calling Eric. Turns out to be a shutter in Marian’s old room, not properly latched.
As she is leaving, Eric comes in and scares her as she leaves the room. She starts when she sees something on the ground, that looks like water and a lily pad.
Why is that in here?
Jenni thinks Mickey brought it in as he doesn’t like her as she is a replacement Marian. Eric, on the other hand, thinks it was just an accident. It freaks Jenni out and she looks at the painting sounding a bit crazy as she talks. She thinks the painting reminds her of her mother, who she hates. Almost as if she is haunting her.
We find Mickey in the pond, by the lily pads. Did he bring it in? Is he trying to upset her? Make her go crazy?
The next day, Eric tells Jenni that he talked to Mickey and he is no longer allowed in the house. Jenni is worried Mickey might become angry and take it out on her, but Eric tells her not to worry about it. But Jenni is worried. She wants Mickey to like her, for them to be friends. Eric tell her to garden with him.
Eric leaves that day to get the electricity turned on, furniture out of storage, and see the bank and lawyer.
Now it just occurred to me, what does Eric do? What does he do that he had the ability to live away for two years, but then move back to his former home. They all said Marian had money, I mean he did move into her family house; but they never mention him having money. Does he have any? And if he doesn’t, he sure was lucky to bag two wealthy wives.
Jenni sees Mickey and tries to befriend him. But Mickey won’t say a word. She tries to reassure him that she wants the garden to stay beautiful in honor or Marian. They pick flowers to place at her graves.
Now her grave is a weird one. It is an obelisk with a relief of Marian’s face in it. And it is just creepy, like she was mixed into the stone or forever watching.
While they are doing this, Mickey is overcome with emotion.
Mickey: She cries in the night.
Jenni Whitmore: Dead people don’t cry Mickey!
Mickey: I heard her.
Jenni Whitmore: Heard?
Is Mickey really hearing something, or just messing with Jenni? And if he is hearing something who or what is it?
At the house, Jenni looks at Marian’s painting. She hears some creaking, but just assumes it is the house settling.
So earlier, Eric said he was going to be gone all day and out late that night. When night comes, the electricity still not on, forcing her to use candles, as she is getting ready for bed.
Once again, Jenni hears the shriek of the peacocks. Creepy little buggars. Jenni decides to try to go to sleep, but feels weird not having Eric in the house.
Jenni hears a noise and looks to the window, nothing. She runs downstairs to investigate…just the peacocks. Looks at the picture of Marian again. She is looking at the painting when the cabinet door behind her slowly opens.
She turns around and sees a SKULL!!!!
Suddenly cuts appear on her hand!!!!
And she runs away to her room, and locks the door jumping under the covers. Now Jenni is so freaked out that every noise is making her heart race. She hears tree branches scrapping, making sounds like something trying to get her.
And then it sounds like something is coming up the stairs. A banging noise.
Something is coming up the stairs!!!!!
This scene is shot from the “thing’s” point of view so we don’t know what it is!!!!
I know there is a strong likelihood that it is just her husband, but I’m still a bit freaked, my heart os pumping. Who or what is it?
Jenni is equally freaked, what is coming?! She goes to look and nlocks door to see what is making noise, but there is nothing there
Jenni runs to window, the peacocks are gone, nothing is here. What could be making such a racket?
She looks at cabinet, and sees that the skull is still there and not a figment of her imagination. She goes to get the skull ad flings it out the window.
It rolls on the grass an stares at her with its eyeless gaze.
She goes back to bed, but can’t sleep.
Then the camera zooms on the front door Something’s coming?!!! Something starts knocking…Don’t answer it!!!
Jenni is afraid, and she just sits in bed waiting for it to go away. Soon she feels the need to check, after all it couldbe important. She looks down from room, unsure of what to do.
She decides to risk it and opens the door. Creepy music playing again getting the blood pumping with fright. She calls to Eric, but no answer. Just more pounding on the door.
Jenni opens it and the skull is there!
She screams and runs inside, the skull tumbles after her.
She faints. And I don’t blame her.
Mickey pops out of the shadows. Could he have done this? If not, did he see who did? Or what did?
Jenni wakes up in Eric’s arms. She asks him if he saw anything when he found her, but he says no. Just her on the floor.
Is it all in her head?
So Jenni weirded out. She had never imagined any such thing before, why should she see it now? She wants her doctor from New York to examine her, but Eric vetoes the idea, saying that Rev. Snow will be coming tomorrow and can help.
I think it is weird how Eric doesn’t want a trained psychologist’s help. Seems odd to me, especially as she asked for him. Hmm…
The Rev. comes and studies the cabinet. He discovers that the door is very loose, and can easily open on its own. The door is also damaged on the bottom, which caused Jenni’s scratches. Both look for a skull but find nothing.
Jenni feels like a fool, but knows that she saw a skull there.
She asks the Rev. if Eric told him of her past. He says he knows a little. Jenni decides to gives him a bit more. She grew up loving her father and hating her mother.
Jenni Whitmore: I wasn’t a child when I wished my mother dead. One day I got my wish.
So both of her parents drowned. She tried to help them, but couldn’t overcome tide. She still hears their cries. She blames herself for the deaths, saying she killed them. This is common in grief, survivor’s guilt. For Jenni she became so unbalanced that she had to be put in hospital. She was released and told cured. So why would she be seeing strange things now?
Eric is outside looking for Mickey, but he can’t find him anywhere. He sends the Rev. and Jenni on ahead for lunch, promising to be there soon. After they leave he heads into the garden. He goes to Marian’s grave and calls for Mickey. Mickey hears him but keeps running away from him. Is he running because he is in trouble or running from trouble?
When Eric arrives at the Snow’s house, Rev. gives him a talking to. The Rev thinks he should take Jenni far from the house as it scares her and makes her think she is crazy. Eric refuses as if they left, it would mean Jenni is crazy. I guess that reasoning makes sense, but it still seems a bit off to me.
Later eric finally find Micjey, grabbing him and questioning him, scaring Mickey and Jenni. Mickey says it isn’t him, but Eruc doesn’t listen tossing him aside. This is Another side to Eric. He has quite the temper.
Jenni feels bad about Eric’d behavior toward Mickey, as she believes what is going on is all in her mind. I’m not so sure Jenni, there’s something rotton in the state of Denmark.
So Eric decides to burn the picture of Marian as it reminds Jenni of her mother, and is what Eric says is the root of Jenni’s current madness. They create a bonfire and Eric forces Jenni to light the match, even though she doesn’t want ti. As thepicture burns there is a huge screech!
Eric says it is only the peacocks, but is it?
We are show the garden where the pond bubbles, the flowers at Marian’s grave are uprooted, and shrieking is heard. Sounds like Marian is not happy to be destroyed.
Th deed is done and Eric asks Jenni to help him bury the ashes. Jenni feels worse after the act, as if it’s not over yet.
Jenni Whitlock: She’ll come back…she’ll come back.
Jenni spreads the ashes while Eric waters them down. As she is spreading them, she unearths a SKULL!!!!!
She screams for Eric, but he doesn’t see anything.
Jenni faints, and while she is knocked down, Eric touches the skull, picking it up and hiding it somewhere.
Aha! He is behind it! I knew it!!! This isn’t Rebecca, it’s Gaslight!
Eric places the skull in the pond and heads back to Jenni. Little does he know, Mikey was watching the whole time.
Tht night Eric has to go out of town. Jenni is freaked, but Eric tries to calm her down. The Rev. comes over to drop off some eggs for Jenni. Eric takes the Rev outside and tells him what happened, saying he saw “nothing”. What a jerk.
Of course the Rev buys his bleeding heart routine. Eric also tells the Rev. “something I never told anyone.” When Jenni was in the mental hospital she tried to do away with herself.
So that’s his plan! Make his wife look crazy, murder her, and have everyone think it a suicide. After all you can’t have two accidents in a row.
What? I think what? Yeah that’s right. I think he killed his first wife too. Probably wanted her money, and then when he ended up with none, decided to remarry and kill his second bride,
So Eric tells the Rev. he thinks Jenni will try again unless he get her to the hospital tonight. After tonight they are never coming back to the house.
Eric goes back in and talks to Jenni. She tells him the Rev. was kind. He told her he would search the whole estate for that skull. Jenni shrugs it off as kindness, but Eric is worried.
If they find the skull, it will bring up a lot of questions he doesn’t want answered. Jenni goes upstairs to pack. Eric goes looking for the skull, but it is gone!!!!!!!!
Where did it go?
He spots Mickey and chases after him. Eric grabs him and questions him again, beating him. But Mickey tells him he didn’t take it, Marian took it.
Eric laughs it off and leaves. After he is gone we see that Mickey does have the skull in his workshop, hidden away. Mickey put the skull in a basket, hidden under a cloth.
Meanwhile, Eric has checked the pond again, finding nothing. He then goes to the grave, hoping the skull is there. But he doesn’t find anything but uprooted flowers. Then when he looks at the grave, instead of her face he sees the SKULL.
He throws a rock at the grave, angry.
Meanwhile, Mickey has taken his basket of skull over to the Snows’ house. They start questioning why Eric would lie about seeing the skull. Only one reason, he wanted to make Jenni crazy. They all head to the house.
Jenni has finished packing and goes looking for Mickey. She wants to say good-bye, but can’t find him. She goes into the tooshed where she sees a headless body moving!
She runs for her life, while this ghostly hated figure chases after her.
Inside Eric is preparing a rope, going to hang his wife, when he hears her coming and screaming. She runs up the stairs where Eric is hiding. He grabs her and starts choking her, about to kill her when he hears a knocking at the door.
He goes to answer it, and when he opens it he sees the figure with a skull face!!!!
Eric backs away, while the figure comes closer. It is wearing the same dress Marain wore in the painting, it must be her!
The skull winds up on the stair blocking Eric from going up. It tumbles down, chasing him as lightening comes out overhead.
The skull becomes large and astral chasing him, and causing him to fall down. He tries to run and get in his car, but he sees it again! It is everywhere!!
The skull jumps on to his neck, biting him in the throat and causing him to fall back into the pond, drowning.
Jenni wakes up and is freaked out. She finds Miraian’s dress on the ground. Just then the calvary show up (the Snows and Mickey) but are too late, and have missed everything. They ask her if she is okay, and she tells them what happened. Crying and completely freaked out.
Rev. Snow goes looking, and finds Eric’s dead body, in the same place Marian was killed. Jenni is confused and wants to know why he did it. The Rev. tells her his suspicions about the money. Now the question is, did Marian really die in an accident? We’ll never know.
They all leave, while Mickey goes to the pond and tells Marian they are gone, she can now rest.
This was a great film and I strongly recommend it. The characters are good, the storyline, etc. It is a bit predictable, but that last scene when the skull really attacks, very creepy.