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  Scream for Help Diabolical Dad
Year: 1984
Director: Michael Winner
Stars: Rachael Kelly, Marie Masters, David Allen Brooks, Lolita Lorre, Rocco Sisto, Corey Parker, Sandra Clark, Tony Sibbald, David Baxt, Bruce Boa
Genre: Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ever since the mother of Christie Cromwell (Rachael Kelly) remarried, her daughter has been suspicious of her new stepfather (David Allen Brooks), but hasn't been able to prove any wrongdoings he may be up to. Christie's mother (Marie Masters) is a rich woman, and the girl believes that her husband is after her fortune, to the point that he's willing to kill for it. This belief is only strengthened when Christie returns home from school to find that the wiring in the house suddenly gone faulty and electrocuted a handyman, making her think her stepdad was trying to electrocute her mother, and that's not the only plan she thinks he has up his sleeve...

Michael Winner does Alfred Hitchcock in Scream for Help, and by "does" I mean makes a mockery of his style and plotting to conjure up this laughable would-be thriller, which was scripted by Tom Holland, the future creator of Fright Night. There are parallels between the vampire story and this one as they both have a teenage protagonist who leaves the grownups unconvinced when they say there are potential dangers afoot thanks to someone they know, but while that outright horror film had a nice line in humour, the laughs here stem from the generally ridiculous tone and frequent plot developments that we are asked to swallow.

Of course, there was one eighties movie where the killer stepfather idea went like a dream - or a nightmare - and that was, well, The Stepfather, but this is definitely not in that league. Winner was well into his phase of crassness by this time, and between his Death Wish sequels he took the same dunderheaded approach to what might have been an atmospheric little chiller. It's not all his fault, as England doubles unconvincingly for America, the cast seem all at sea and go for outright caricature when all else fails, and the script has a wealth of lunacies that when filmed in the cold light of day simply appear ludicrous, such as when Christie's best friend is deliberately run over and killed after admitting she is pregnant.

Evidently this type of movie's equivalent of the cop thriller's policeman with one day left to go before he retires, there. For some reason the police in this don't find anything suspicious about the friend's demise, not even when Christie tells them she knows who did it: stepfather Paul, naturally. In spite of mounting evidence to the contrary, everyone over the age of eighteen is sure of his innocence, although the girl goes to great lengths to prove otherwise and eventually discovers that Paul is part of a gang of three, with two scuzzy individuals, Brenda (Lolita Lorre) and her husband posing as her brother Lacey (Rocco Sisto). This trio go to quite some effort to secure the cash, to the point where it would be impossible for them to get away with the crime.

So the last half hour of this is Christie and her mother being terrorised by the gang in their own home, apparently not thinking to pick up the phone to the law when they noticed them walking up the driveway. If you were being generous you could say that as we are seeing everything from Christie's point of view, so events are exaggerated to the stage where the adults are conspiring against her, but really there's not evidence we should be taking this on anything but face value. Still, there is the mayhem to appreciate, with the teen relying on her ingenuity to best the baddies, as Winner's relish for violence had by this decade descended into self-parody. What is not quite so satisfying is the scene where her best friend's boyfriend painfully relieves her of her virginity - and he's supposed to be sympathetic. Missteps like that abound, so you do tend to be rolling your eyes as much as much as laughing, but Scream for Help is just stupid enough to be entertaining for bad movie connoisseurs. The music by John Paul Jones, let's say, is an acquired taste.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Michael Winner  (1935 - 2013)

Opinionated British producer-director whose early comedies - You Must Be Joking, The Jokers, I'll Never Forget Whatsisname - were promising enough, but come the seventies he had settled into a pattern of overblown thrillers.

Of these, Death Wish was a huge hit, and Winner directed two similar sequels. Other films included horrors (The Nightcomers, The Sentinel), Westerns (Lawman, Chato's Land), thrillers (Scorpio, Dirty Weekend) and disastrous comedies (Bullseye!). Also a restaurant critic.

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