First off the title makes no sense, even though the tagline is “Terror so sudden there is no time to scream.” The tag is not only clunky, it’s also inaccurate, since a lot of the victims have time to be afraid and even scream. Its not a movie that takes place in one night and kills everyone off before the last survivor knows anything is wrong. There are police (Cameron Mitchell) involved so pretty much everyone on the victims’ college campus has time to scream too. Although it occurs to me now that Mitchell had no scenes with Barbara Steele or Yvonne DeCarlo, so it’s almost like he’s in a cop TV show that you flip to while there’s a commercial break in the movie.
The other big problem here is the music. The big sweeping bright action chase music doesn’t go with the stab action, but I could do without the Psycho theme rip off too. With a different soundtrack a DVD might do better.
Let’s forget all those cheesy red flags though. How will you feel when you’re watching this movie? Like you’ve been transported back to 1981, at least the time capsule movie version of it we remember. Drinking, casual sex, a Porsche, a funny guy who gets killed (John Widelock), a thick girl with a good personality (Juli Andelman), a pretty, ineffective hunk (Steve Doubet), and a final girl (Rebecca Balding). Dorothy Hamill hair. Awful soundtrack music that you probably thought was cool when you watched this on Cinemax in 83. It’s not a bad place to go back to, the thrill of watching scary movies as a kid.
I’m sure the stars of the movie were appealing to the young viewers at the time, but the villain is the one who carries this picture. We have to wait until halfway through the movie for her to appear and, without one line of dialogue, steal the rest of the movie. Barbara Steele, one of the hottest homicidal maniacs ever to grace the drive-in, is all hips and eyes and a twelve inch knife. As she fixes those wild eyes on her victim and studies her, emotionless like Jason or Michael Myers, you can believe that this woman does not recognize anyone around her as human. Everything is either prey or not prey; she has no other thoughts.
It’s too bad Steele’s maniac couldn’t have gone into a better quality slasher. The Silent Scream is typical genre of the era, but worth watching for the visual nostalgia. Yvonne DeCarlo as Steele’s mother and Brad Rearden as her brother make a good ensemble with Steele in a family brawl that erupts in deadly violence near the end of the movie. If you can go with the flow of the first half, the second half of the movie is worth seeing. Just remember: never rent a house from a weird minor and don’t get a lobotomy.