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  Silent Scream, The Room At The Top
Year: 1980
Director: Denny Harris
Stars: Rebecca Balding, Cameron Mitchell, Avery Schreiber, Barbara Steele, Steve Doubet, Yvonne De Carlo, Juli Andelman, Brad Rearden, John Widelock, Jack Stryker, Thelma Pelish
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Journalism student Scotty Parker (Rebecca Balding) is searching for somewhere to live before her course begins, but she's not having much luck. The college cannot help her out, and she has to traipse around a selection of properties in the area, none of which she judges to be suitable for one reason or another. Until, that is, she ends up at a large house by the beach; there doesn't seem to be anyone to answer her but she notices a girl walking up the path and approaches her. She is Doris (Juli Andelman), and tells Scotty that there is indeed a room available there - but Scotty will soon regret moving in...

For a couple of movies, that television actress with the terrible name, Rebecca Balding, looked as if she was going to be the next Jamie Lee Curtis with Silent Scream and her monster movie The Boogens the following year, but it was not to be and she retreated from the big screen soon after to carve out a career of regular guest spots - viewers of lightweight supernatural show Charmed will probably recognise her. What's sad is that she was plucky enough in her persona here to look very promising in the horror genre, but it didn't work out.

I don't know how she feels about this brief spell in the limelight, but there are still some horror fans of a certain age who fondly recall her, and watching Silent Scream you can see the appeal. For the first half, it looks like a TV movie with very little to satisfy seasoned shocker enthusiasts even if there is plenty of creeping about - and that's just the cameraman. But the sight of wooden boards being smashed through by mysterious hands in the attic points to the events to come, as we're in the territory of those sixties films such as The Beast in the Cellar or The Shuttered Room.

Yes, it's the family's guilty secret coming back to haunt them time again, although in this case the secret has never gone away. Scotty's new landlady Mrs Engels (Lily Munster herself, Yvonne De Carlo) isn't giving anything away, and neither is her polite but weird son Mason (Brad Rearden), but we can tell that things are going to turn nasty before long, even if the film is taking its own sweet time in getting there. Then one of the student boarders is murdered on the beach, and police detectives Cameron Mitchell and Avery Schreiber get involved.

As I say, for much of this it's fairly ordinary, but then director and co-writer Denny Harris (this was his only film) displays some imaginatively nasty sequences featuring borderline sick humour. When Scotty is being seduced by her new boyfriend Peter (John Widelock) she enjoys a fairly vocal orgasm, and in an appropriately ghastly development her cries of pleasure drown out the cries of terror as someone is killed off in the attic above. The only way that Harris topped that was with the ending, which piles on the revelations and has a choice role for a scream queen of an earlier vintage, Barabara Steele: she may not have any lines, but she makes her appearance count. Silent Scream is probably too derivative to stand out from the crowd for the most part, but Balding carries it and there is intelligence at work here. Music by Roger Kellaway.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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