SCREAM BLOODY MURDER just screams grindhouse.
Matthew is a disturbed and kooky young man with a tragic hair cut (picture a grumpy Emo Philips), who, as a demented kid, run over his farmer father with a combine harvester, leaving him a bloody pulp. However, the wannabe bad seed had clearly not thought his homicidal tantrum through, loosing control and falling off the heavy machinery as it careered out of control; his hand mangled in the spinning blades. Matthew is whipped away by kindly nuns to an asylum (as you do), and fitted with a handy hook. This doesn’t seem to do much for his sanity and after a few years he absconds as a surly teenager, returning to the family home to be with his dear mama. However, to his horror, she has remarried a kindly chap called Mr Parsons. She irritates him further by telling him, “You can call him Daddy!”, which doesn’t improve his mood one little bit – and he spits, “I went to hospital and they gave me a claw, like some freak. And you marry that man!”. I wonder if John Waters likes this film? I was half expecting Dawn Davenport turn sashay past in cha-cha heels!
Despite Mr Parsons trying to bond with a Matthew things don’t go well. Matthew takes to hanging around the woods at night, clutching a bloody great axe and watching his Mom and Stepfather make out. Nicely preempting the 80s slashers that followed, there are several shots of Matthew’s feet pursuing his Stepfather through the woods, the axe swinging at his side. Building family ties isn’t high on Matthew’s agenda as he chop, choppity chops up Mr Parsons. However, if Matthew thinks this will bring him closer to his Mom he’s dead wrong. Naturally, she’s horrified to find her new hubby face down in the leaves and accidentally cracks her head on a rock as she backs away from Matthew.
Not wanting to stick around to explain the mounting bodies on the homestead, Matthew hotfoots it out of town, accepting a lift from a couple of fun loving honeymooners. Unfortunately for them, whilst taking a carefree dip in a stream, their laughs trigger a further psychotic episode from Matthew, who hallucinates that they are his Mother and Stepfather come to get him. He bops the man on the head with a rock and drowns his wife. He flees with the sound of his mother ringing in his head, “Matthew, you can’t run from me!” her spectral voices taunts.
Next, Matthew comes across a flame haired prostitute called Vera (not literally you understand), who he sees dabbing away at canvas outside her apartment. She asks him what he can see in the bloody great mess of paint (she’s no Rothko), to which he cheerfully replies, “His skin is on fire … he’s in terrible pain!”. Rather than running screaming for the hills, she tells him to stick around. Matthew grows to see her as his redemption, so much so that he knocks off one of her Johns by hacking him up with her art knife! He eventually decides he has to go all out to make sure Vera will stay his friend forever …
Rather sensationalistly, the original ads for SCREAM BLOODY MURDER screamed that it was the “first motion picture to be called gore-nography”, but make no mistake, this is no FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) or even a BLOOD FEAST (1963). There’s plenty of on-screen violence, but it’s of the throw-a-bucket-of-blood at it and see what sticks variety. What it is, however, is a sick puppy like only 70s grindhouse can be. In one scene, Matthew hacks to death a black maid with a meat cleaver (on white shagpile for that extra retro feel) before smothering her elderly charge with a pillow, despite her attacking him with her crutches! And for an encore he chops off the head of the family dog (thankfully off-screen). Sadly, this outrageousness doesn’t make up for the fact that the last half of the film is rather dull, with endless scenes of Matthew keeping Vera prisoner. Something which should mean a good dose of cat n’ mouse thrills, but ultimately it all seems rather lethargic. It’s not helped either by the rather uninspiring soundtrack (which sounds like it was complied in one afternoon at the library).
It may drag, but for what SCREAM BLOODY MURDER lacks in genuine thrills it makes up for with the kind of unpredictability you only seem to get with low-budget 70s horror, where it always feels that anything might happen. Also, there are a few odd flashes of visual inspiration and almost poetic resonance, including one lingering image of Matthew who, after a murder, has the blood splashes from his victim running down his cheeks like bloody tears.
female:4 / male:7
1) Male mangled under farm machinery
2) Male hit repeatedly in the chest with an axe
3) Female hits her head on a rock
4) Male bashed over the head with a rock
5) Female drowned
6) Male stabbed with artist's knife and has throat slit
7) Female hacked to death with a meat cleaver
8) Female smothered to death with a pillow
9) Male hit on the head with statue
10) Male has his throat ripped out with hook
11) Male has stomach ripped open with hook