Screamtime (1984) Review

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I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before on this site but I adore anthology movies. Something about a short attention span brought on by being part of the MTV generation where I was bombarded with three and a half minute blocks of visually stimulating 1980’s awesomeness not to mention the shows they aired like The Young Ones and Comic Strip and…what was I talking about?

Screamtime is just such an anthology movie. Brought to us by Michael Armstrong and Stanley A. Long, we are presented with three British short horror films with a bit of a head scratching wrap-around story that takes place in New York. The wrap-around involves two men, Ed and Bruce, who steal three movies from a local video store. They barge in on what I assume is Ed’s ex-girlfriend, Marie, (insert obligatory shower scene here) and use her TV/VCR to watch their stolen goods.

“That’s the Way to Do It”: Jack is an older puppeteer. His wife is sick of his career choice, reiterating again and again how he’ll never be a huge success and that the whole family should move to Canada to have a better life. Correction: she and her son are going to Canada and Jack had better go with them.

The son, Damien, is set up to be a complete ass. He’s disrespectful to his step dad (Jack), he pals around with hooligans causing trouble, and at one point he screams his hate in Jack’s face and sets his puppets on fire. Yeah, you can probably guess what happens to him. The wife gets no better treatment after she gives Jack an ultimatum – her or the puppets. When Jack calls the doctor and the doctor tries to call the police, we see who exactly is taking revenge for Jack. It’s his puppet!

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Puppets are NOT creepy. Here, let me convince you with this 2×4 to the FACE!

It gets a little over the top silly at this point. The squeaky voiced puppet beating people to death, singing a jaunty little tune. The strange logic of Damien’s girlfriend escaping the carnage to hide at a waste disposal site baffled me. Um, run to the police station, you moron.

BORING.

The wrap-around again: “It’s a British movie. I can tell by the way they talk.” Utter genius, this guy.

“Dreamhouse”: A young married couple, Tony and Sue, move into a home given to them by his parents but it’s kind of a rat trap. He plugs in a TV and the power goes out; rusty water comes out the faucet into the tub; mice are scratching around in the walls.

Sue begins hearing and seeing things in and around the house: a young boy riding his bike on the lawn; a young man painting the walls downstairs; bloody kitchen knife that wasn’t bloody two seconds earlier as she was using it; a man running around with a knife. After being constantly bombarded with the images and sounds for days, Sue calls in a psychic to get a feel for the house. The woman senses nothing and when Tony drives her home, she suggests Tony send Sue to a shrink. And guess what? Leaving Sue alone was the worst idea ever. The next thing we know, Tony is talking to the new owners of the house and wishes them luck.

Some of the imagery Sue experiences was very creepy. The murders she witnesses are quite brutal for 1984. I actually felt sorry for her as she curled up into a fetal position to protect herself from the horrors. The twist at the end was a complete surprise to me. I NEVER saw it coming. Granted, I usually don’t but I thought I knew the whole story by the end. Nooope!

Wrap around: Ed asks Bruce to get cigarettes from Marie. She’s naked and waiting for him. Ed continues to watch the movies. Whatever.

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You know what we need? Some British accents to class up the place.

“Do You Believe in Fairies?”: Dirt bike racing guy, Gavin, needs money or he won’t be able to sign up for a qualifying event. Since his boss won’t give him extra hours, Gav’s brother, Tim, tells him about an advert for a gardener. Gav checks it out and meets two old ladies who go on and on about fairies and gnomes (the latter of which they have a ton in their yard). They only pay in cash and Gav is fine with that.

They give him a little history of their family, based on two portraits hanging in the hall: ancestor Lady Anne (16th century) and her last lover. Apparently, Anne was a total slut and made a deal with the fairies for her husband to never find out. Unfortunately, she murdered all her lovers and buried them in the yard. She didn’t specify about the authorities not finding out about that. She was arrested and executed but not before making another deal with the fairies to capture the souls of her lovers and make them her slaves.

All that seems rather unnecessary but believe me, in comes into play later.

When Gav sees where the women keep their cash, he decides to rob the old biddies and uses his brother, Tim, and Tim’s boss as his helpers. Of course, as they pillage the charming little house, twinkle lights flit about and furniture and objects start moving around. Eventually the gnomes take out Tim, the corpses in the yard attack Tim’s boss, and Lady Anne makes an appearance to get Gav, but not before making out with him and using some kind of telekinesis to strip off his clothes. Okay…

Cue the NEW gardener as the old ladies explain to him about Lady Anne and the picture of her last lover who looks suspiciously like Gavin.

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United Gnome Workers #472, Peoria, IL, at your service.

I think this last film was the worst of the three. Way too much back story made the whole thing feel muddled and overcomplicated. The acting was not that great, either, and the editing was choppy at best.

Wrap around: I think this last portion of the wrap around is supposed to be a surprise or somehow shocking. It’s not but I’ll let you discover that on your own.

In order, I’d rank “Dreamhouse” as the best in terms of story, acting, and execution. “That’s the Way You Do It” had good acting but the predictability factor made it tired and boring. And, as I said above, “Do You Believe in Fairies?” failed on all fronts.

2 Hatchets (out of 5)

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