Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Screaming Skull (1958) review


   Though this movie may seem like terrible, B-movie garbage to some, I have to admit that I had a lot of fun watching this one. Though cheesy, the intended scares and concept of the movie's horror aspect came off as very entertaining and nostalgic, if you will, in relation to the time of the black-and-white, B-movie mania. Even with that, the performances have great potential, and the movie carries a great spirit of the horror it wants to be.

PLOT: Newlyweds Eric (John Hudson) and Jenni (Peggy Webber) Whitlock have just moved back into the large house of Eric's late wife, which has been carefully maintained by the creepy groundskeeper, Mickey (Alex Nichol), who withholds a deep respect for the dead woman's memory. The marriage is going great for the newlyweds until Jenni starts seeing strange apparitions in her home, such as random skulls everywhere and flashes of Eric's late wife. With all these apparitions of terror, she starts hearing random screams similar to the peacocks that waltz around the yard. Eric, hearing of these occurrences, even starts to think she's going insane. Is her mind getting to her or are these apparitions really coming to her? The plot is actually pretty decent if you replace the skulls with more threatening apparitions of a sort. The execution is both a letdown and a prime factor of the movie's camp. The execution makes the movie come off as ridiculous, with imagery failing to even give you a chill until maybe once near the end. However, the execution also seems to glorify the camp in the movie, making the bad seem so much more entertaining and hilarious than it really is.

ACTING: The acting performances in this movie are actually really good, though the content lets down the potential. Our two leads, Eric and Jenni Whitlock, are actually very well played by John Hudson and Peggy Webber. Anytime the leads needed to show emotion, it was performed excellently, with several blood-curdling screams from Webber and general conversation with Hudson. Along with our leads, Alex Nichol (also the director) supplied a more-than-decent performance as Mickey, the creepy groundskeeper. His performance of the groundskeeper really tried to set the mood for the movie, even though the true mood it was setting was never really reached. The movie in itself is extremely low-budget with characters; aside from these three, we have exactly two other characters: Russ Conway and Tony Jackson as Mr. and Mrs. Snow. They didn't do anything significant performance-wise, however.

SCORE: The score of the film tried to set a creepy kind of mood to freak the audience out, with operatic-type themes suggesting something ghostly. However, with all of the cheese and camp of the movie, it feels misplaced and almost laughable. It's definitely a well done horror score, but it just doesn't fit and kind of enhances the hilarity and entertainment I feel during this movie.

EFFECTS: The effects in here were really cheap. There really isn't much to say about them, considering the majority of them were skull props and occasional faded-out flashes of skulls and ghosts a.k.a. people in sheets. The one effect I thought to be decently interesting for its time would be the skull corpse near the end, for it actually stands and moves and looks a little like it poses a threat.

MISC. THOUGHTS: With all of the low-budget fails of which I have described, including the non-threatening effects, not-scary imagery, and ensuing, unintentional hilarity, you would think I would mark this movie as terrible. However, I don't have the power to say that this movie didn't entertain me one bit. The promise of needing a coffin in the beginning to the unintentional hilarity of the scares to me just come off as glorious camp. This seems like it unintentionally wanted to be a parody of its own time frame of film. The era of midnight shock-horror in the 50s and 60s were very well cheesy yet known as notorious days in early horror filmmaking, and this film seems to accidentally glorify just that. It feels almost like this is intended to be just a low-budget camp fest to glorify its own era of horror. Though it may not have been intended to come off as that, it came off as that to me and I really have to say I enjoyed the movie with this aspect in mind. It was actually a lot of fun to watch.

   This old midnight horror flick was very cheaply made and quite bad, but it was very fun to watch. The acting performances were actually pretty good and the unintentional camp made this a fun movie for me to watch, as I found it hilarious and all in good spirit of this sub-genre of horror back in its time. If you look at it from a more serious standpoint, the execution is ridiculous, the score is almost misfitting, and the effects are failed attempts, making this feel cheaper than it actually is. The factor that determines whether you like this movie or not is how much fun you actually have watching it, and for me, there was a lot of fun had actually watching this.

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