Scream for Help (1984)

scream for help 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Her Stepfather plots murder.

Christie (Rachael Kelly) is a teen convinced that her new stepfather (Paul Fox) is out to kill her mother (Marie Masters). The problem is that no one believes her. Eventually she is able to take a picture of him having sex with another woman, which is enough to get her mother to throw him out of their house, but then he returns with two of his cohorts and traps Christie and her mother in the basement were they plan to kill them and make it look like a robbery.

This film, which was written by Tom Holland, might have been better received had it not been put into the hands of sub-par director Michael Winner. Winner who is probably best known for his close association to Charles Bronson of which he directed 7 films with him and then later when his film career waned became a famous restaurant critic, shows no feeling for the material and directs with such a sloppy style that it almost seemed like he was intentionally trying to make a bad movie. The sweeping orchestral score would have been better suited for a romance or epic adventure and is completely out of place here. The dialogue is corny and the overall acting by the supporting cast is wooden. The pace is awkward and at times becomes unintentionally funny.

However, the second half improves greatly particularly when the two find themselves trapped in the cellar and must use their ingenuity to get out. The twists are clever and unpredictable and the atmosphere becomes genuinely taut and exciting. The musical score also improves becoming much more intense and darker. I actually started to get really into it and afterwards felt like I had watched two different movies with the second part being good enough to overshadow its otherwise many flaws.

Brooks as the bad guy has a male model face, but his performance is as generic as the film’s title and it would have been better had a veteran character actor been cast in the part instead. The mother character with the way she refuses to believe the obvious until it is much too late seems unreasonably and annoyingly stupid. I did though like Kelly in the lead. Not only is she cute, but her acting is good enough to compel the viewer to keep watching when they otherwise might have turned it off and I was surprised to see that this was her only film as she showed enough promise to have had a solid career.

Filmed on-location in New Rochelle, New York this is the type of low budget flick that proves how a good script can sometimes overcome other production inadequacies. Had it been better directed this could have been a snappy thriller and it’s a shame that Hitchcock disciple Richard Franklin who was the original choice as director hadn’t helmed it although a film school dropout or even your local garbage man could have done a better job than Winner or certainly no worse.

scream for help 1

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 16, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated R

Director: Michael Winner

Studio: Lorimar

Available: VHS, DVD (Region 2)

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