Bride of Project Horror, Day 2: From a Whisper to a Scream


A Scene From Danny's Lifelong Appreciation of Vincent Price:  It is the fall of 1984, and I'm in fourth grade.  One Saturday afternoon, I've gone over to play at my friend Nick's house.  While we're building Legos in his room, he gets up and puts Thriller into his tape deck.  It's the first time I've ever heard the song, but (like most folks my age) I instantly love it, in no small part because of Vincent Price's ghoulish rap break.

Well, after starting with a strong movie, I guess there was nowhere to go but down, and that's definitely what happened with today's selection.  I generally try to stay unspoiled about the movies I'm going to watch during Project Horror, so literally all that I knew about this one is that it had Vincent Price in it.  Unfortunately, saying that it's a Vincent Price movie is like saying that Wilson the Volleyball was the real star of Castaway.  Price is barely in this, and then only as filler.

Let me backtrack a little bit.  From a Whisper to a Scream is a horror anthology movie.  I have no idea why it has the title that it does, because nobody in the movie speaks those words, and they're not really applicable to the movie's plot, either.  When it had its theatrical run in the USA, it was released as The Offspring, a title which also doesn't really apply to the movie, except maybe in one little scene.  The movie opens on a scene of a female serial killer being executed, and then follows a reporter to the house of the killer's uncle, a local historian played by Price.

The reporter has come to interview the uncle, to see if she can gain more insight into why his niece committed so many murders.  By way of answer, he tells her four different stories about the history of the town they live in, and the horrible things that have happened there.  The evil is in the very atmosphere of the town, and drives the people who live there to commit awful deeds.  Each of the stories introduces a vignette for us to watch.  The first is about a romantic obsession carried too far, the second about a small-time crook seeking the secret of immortality, the third about a doomed love between a circus freak and a woman, and the fourth about a Civil War-era town populated entirely by sinister children.

Where to start...  Let's start with the production values.  Now, to be fair, this was director Jeff Burr's very first time behind the camera (although he hasn't really gone on to much distinction since then, either), and the state of visual effects was not as good in 1987 as it is now.  Still, watching the stories in this movie was like sitting down and watching four episodes in a row of Tales From the Darkside, and not good ones, either.  A monster that appears in one of the segments looks like something that my children might have made out of clay.  Aside from Price letting us know that all of these stories occurred in this town, there's really no thread holding them together, either in plot or theme.  And as for those scenes with Price... It hurts to say it, but they're really not very good.  They mostly consist of him telling the reporter, "No, you don't understand!  The evil is all around this town!  In the air, in the water, in my bookshelf, evil evil evil!"

It turns out that I'm actually in good company not liking this movie, though.  Price himself wrote in a letter to a fellow actor, "You're right about From a Whisper to a Scream - terrible! My agent misrepresented it and I was trapped in it."  So that makes me love him again, knowing that he was at least aware of the movie's faults.

It's far from the worst movie I've watched, and there may even be some circumstances where it would fit the bill.  If you're at home on a cold October night, and want to watch something kind of scary, but not too much, and you want it to be something from Netflix instant streaming so that you don't have to go out, and you're kind of fond of '80s horror - hell, queue it up.  The second vignette of the four actually has a pretty wicked ending to it that redeemed a lot of the rest of the film.

I give From a Whisper to a Scream two dusty old books out of five.
Tomorrow night: Madhouse, also available on Netflix instant streaming


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