SCREAM (UK w/s DVD cover


4 stars
"From out of a dream he returns to stalk the living.
The Legend Lives On."

directed by: Christopher Lewis 
starring: Tom Savini, Andrea Adams, Tom Schreier, Wade Tower, Mona VanPernis

(back of video blurb):

       "A New Horror Classic is Born! (yeah right!)

       The White Chapel Murders took place on the east end of London, in 1888. For two months, the infamous murderer, Jack-The-Ripper, slasher and sliced his victims - carving a legend in the history of unsolved murders. In each case, his victim was a prostitute. Her throat was cut and each was savagely mutilated and usually disembowled with the exacting precision of a surgeon.

       There are a lot of theories as to who Jack-The-Ripper was and why he committed the murders. But the fact is that "Jack's" trail vanished and his identity has remained a mystery to this day.

       Richard Harwell, a modern day college professor is teaching a course, "Famous Crimes on Film". While recalling to his students one of the many theories about Jack-The-Ripper, his eye drawn to an illustration of a ring reportedly found at the scene of the final White Chapel murder. The ring resembled the one he'd seen just yesterday - and was now obsessed to own.

       Is it a coincidence that, once the ring is on the finger, brutal slashings begin ocurring in the small town? One of the students doesn't think so and begins to unravel the mystery of the ring attempting to end the terror.

       Tom Savini, the master of film gore - whose credits include "Friday the 13th", "Day of the Dead" and a cameo role in "Creepshow" - brings new dimension to the character in this startling version of the Ripper legend."

choice dialogue:

"Young lady, there is one thing you will learn in my class: there are no dumb questions!"

slash with panache?

        Tom Savini has thrown a lot of stones over the years about the quality of horror movies since he started out almost working on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (and actually working on a few classics along the way…) He's called one of my favorite, creepy slashers, MANIAC, "sleazy". He's denounced SCREAM entirely. Why? Because it was popular? Because it spawned some awful wannabes? Didn't HALLOWEEN? I'm not sure where his vitriol comes fromA few of the 'thespians' who populate THE RIPPER or why he's saying these things to his fans and fans of the movies themselves. I don't deny him his opinion or his credibility. I once wanted to be like him. (Until I realized I don't even have the ability to apply lipstick straight, let alone create amazingly lifelike and realistic horror effects and monsters…although I suppose I could have worked for Full Moon). Instead, I decided to get a job I was good at and devote my spare time to absorbing all the horror films I could get my hands on--the good, the bad, and THE RIPPER--which stands in a category all its own. I can only describe this as "Slasherpiece Theater"…it's not just a bad slasher VIDEO (yes, shot with someone's home video camera), it's so obviously trying to be more than its pitiful existence can handle, the whole thing collapses before the first scene is over. It can't be heavy AND a slasher film. Without even a little bit of humor (dark or not) it's just boring and sleazy (there's that word again…) Even classics like HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS had moments that were intentionally funny or so absurd one couldn't help but see humor in it. This had zero humor and was by far, the most painful video watching experience I've ever experienced. Let's just say that of all the movies I've watched, none of them took THREE DAYS to get through. I even took DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN in one soul-crushing sitting. This took me three days. By the final credits, I felt like I'd personally been mauled by the Ripper himself. So in that sense, it did a good job at being realistic.

        So how bad is it?

       "Sleazy" doesn't even begin to describe this waste of videotape. Essentially, we've got a plot that revolves around a small-town antique store with a fake-looking ring that was owned by Jack the Ripper back in Merry Olde England. Or maybe one of his victims. They never satisfactorily explain who actually owned the ring. (They never explained why Tom Savini is on the video box cover either--his whole five minute appearance doesn't come till the end…wait, I'm getting there…) Ok, so in the world's most amazing case of synchronicity (or--as I like to say--"bullshit") a college professor in the same town has started teaching a film class in which the first topic is--all together now--Jack the ...the Ripper gets to work... (as you can see thats probably not Tom Savini!)

Ripper! So guess who also gets a hold of the ring? Right. Professor Harwell is teaching his class of thirty-something teenagers all about the Ripper's murders--just as the college's women start getting killed via the Ripper's method--slashing their throats and gutting them like fish! Nothing sleazy about that! Each murder is shot up close so that no latex appliance is missed and all the corn syrup blood twinkles from the key lights. From the credits, it appears that Savini didn't work on the SFX. They seem to be the work of rank amateurs, so I would be surprised if they were his doing. He's just not capable of work this bad.

       Let's get back to our plot…So Professor Harwell is dating one of the other professors. I'm guessing she's supposed to be a dance instructor from the garish, oh-so-80's dance centerpiece we're subjected to by her "students". The hope here I guess is that throw enough hot chicks in leotards in front of the camera and maybe no one will notice how bad the dancing (or the video) itself is. After being momentarily blinded by all the headbands and legwarmers--not to mention the "rawk" song they're lurching and jiggling to--I noticed how much the dancing sucked. But there was the teacher telling them all "great!" (In that case, in her opinion I have the ability to be a great dancer…) Was she in the same movie I was just watching?

       To my horror, the professor and the dance instructor are the main characters. They were as appealing as cold spaghetti with ketchup. Due to an amazing coincidence, the girlfriend takes Harwell to the same antique store that has the Ripper's ring for sale, and he just happens to flip open a book about the Ripper with a picture of the ring in it soon after. Of course he becomes obsessed with the ring and buys it (after an interminable scene at the antique store--"Will he buy it?" "Will the lady who wanted to purchase it first get to the store before noon?" "Will I die of boredom from watching this garbage?"). So then the predictable story that I saw coming ten miles away can finally kick in. The vid settles into a pattern for nearly the remainder of its 400-hour running time--Harwell wears the ring, wakes up cranky and exhausted the next day, they find another dead body, and on and on. The pretension here is that we're not sure who the killer is--is it Harwell himself (not even close) or the Ripper who's come back from the dead, possesses Harwell's body, and is planning on killing his way to freedom. To…to what, kill women? Isn't he already DOING that? In top hat and tails, no less. I can buy the soul possession stuff, but where did the complete change of wardrobe come in? And how come none of the clothes are found by Harwell in the morning? These are just petty complaints mind you.

       NOTHING could save this mess…not even the belated and unsuspenseful cameo by Tom Savini at the end.

       Of course, for the nonclimax to finally commence, the girlfriend has to go looking for Harwell and everyone ends up at an old train station. Instead of Harwell, we see Tom Savini dressed as the Ripper and wearing fake contact Oh, you are offal (but I (don't) like you!) lenses that are supposed to make his eyes glow yellow but actually just make him look cross-eyed. He's not known mainly for his acting talents, and here is one reason why (although he was my favorite part of FROM DUSK 'TIL DAWN). He actually appears on camera for the first time twirling his mustache like dastardly Snidely Whiplash! If this was supposed to be a joke, it was too little, too late. I sensed I was coming into the home stretch though, so I continued to watch, despite the agony. So the audience is finally let in on the plot, which is, as I said above, the Ripper's attempt to come back from the dead to kill women, although in his own guise, not using the body of some pasty, geeky college professor. Finally, the ring is removed (in the quickest and messiest way possible), the Ripper is defeated, and the police shoot Harwell in one of the most poorly executed climaxes ever shot (no pun intended). At least it was over…mostly. I still had to sit through the tacked on "shock" ending before I could rewind the thing and never have to watch it again, ever.

       The whole thing played like a made-for-TV special put on by the local community theater troupe. There are reasons that videotape should be reserved for pornos and how-to instruction. You don't get much atmosphere with video. Then again if you're showing "hot XXX action" or demonstrating golf swings, you don't need atmosphere. With slasher and horror flicks, unless you're George Romero and can sweep the audience up in whatever your subject is

anytime and anywhere, atmosphere is everything. And THE RIPPER could have used a little atmosphere to make up for the lousy special effects, the wooden acting, and the awful dialogue. On film, maybe the result would have been different. Maybe it could have added a little depth. As an experiment in the uses of video, it pretty much proved that horror needs film (and vice versa). All video does is accentuate its shortcomings…its many, many shortcomings. What the videotape medium didn't cover up, they tried to cover up with sheer gore volume. Why do we need to show women Tom Savini shows up for his brief cameo- unfortunately that woman is in the whole of the movie... having their guts pulled out, close-up, for extended periods of time? To try and distract you from the overall sleaziness of the thing maybe? In the few instances when I could suspend disbelief and see the realism, why was I watching it? I didn't. I turned away until the next painful, plodding, interminable scene where the actors who couldn't act played everything too straight. Even the witty banter was forced and stilted. That was only there to try and make you identify with the characters, or like them, or something. So when they got killed you felt something other than "Thank God! This has to end SOON…"

       I can't imagine how Tom Savini came to be involved with this project. They played it too straight to be considered satire…as in the scene where the Ripper holds aloft the beating heart of one of his victims and fondles it directly in front of the camera. No, friends, this was serious. I suspected towards the end that they may have been trying to parody horror flicks, as when, the two lovers from Professor Harwell's class are necking in the woods (with the bodies piling up of course) and the girl says she needs some air--while sitting in a convertible! I was begging the killer to get these two. I can't make you not watch this if you feel you must. I can only try and warn you…save yourselves!

       I don't know what Mr. Savini has said about this project, although I intend to try and find out. MANIAC didn't offend me. SCREAM didn't offend me. As a woman, I was offended at the misogyny depicted in this video. As a horror fan, I was offended the thing was even made.

BODYCOUNT 6      female:5 / male:1

       1) Female has throat slashed
       2) Female has throat slashed and is gutted
       3) Female has throat slashed and is gutted
       4) Female is garroted with a telephone cord (???) and is gutted
       5) Female has throat slashed and is gutted
       6) Male shot