Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
March 1st, 2007

Blood Stains

Blood Stains
Directed by Rob Malenfant
Written by Christine Conradt
Starring Barbara Niven, Gary Hudson, Lisa Zane, Daniel J. Travanti
Produced by Stefan Wodoslawsky, Neil Bregman
93 mins

I often wonder how realtors in horror movies sleep at night. They'll sell a house that has trolls in the basement or zombies in the back yard or even a history of violent killings within its very walls and they'll sell it like nothing ever happened.

And Triple Star Realty, the folks selling the house in "Blood Stains" have plenty to answer for. This time around, Triple Star just sold a house in a neighborhood jammed to the gills with lunatics, madmen, small children, psychopaths, and now, lawyers and that most depraved subspecies of man, children's book authors.

Thus, the lawyer and the author will begin sticking their collective noses into the dark underbelly of their new neighborhood, and what they find may well kill them.

Granted, it's formulaic. Off the top of my head I can think of three or four movies almost exactly like this one with just slightly different characters and circumstances. Murder mystery / suspense buffs could probably name ten or twenty or more. There's not going to be a whole lot here that you haven't already seen somewhere else. Which isn't to say, necessarily, that it's not good. Plenty of solid plot building goes on in "Blood Stains", and a couple of nifty surprises will pop up here and there.

And yet, at the end of the day, "Blood Stains" is better suited for a Lifetime special than it is for the video store shelves. The constantly philandering husband murdered by a jealous wife who may or may not have actually done it, and then subdivisions of jealously and revenge swinging in from all sides...these are all hallmarks of a growing trend, the chick slasher flick.

Oh, and I'm definitely taking credit for that one. "Chick slasher flick"...where do I come up with this stuff? But as self-congratulatory as I'm being about this, it's also pretty apt. It builds its suspense very slowly, toward an uncertain end. It's laden with triangles in every direction, troubled pasts crop up and boil off, and love and jealousy are the primary impetus to the plot. There's not a whole lot of blood (which is a surprise for a movie called "Blood Stains") and the body count is pretty low. It's really horror lite, a kind of distilled version that focuses more on building toward a conclusion than occasionally spiking the narrative with killings.

It's an interesting departure, but in all honesty, I find it just plain dull.

The ending, finally, allows every one of the many, many loose ends this movie spawned to be tied up and laid to rest in a surprisingly bloodless fashion. In fact, this movie is so bereft of actual ACTION that less than three of the last eight minutes even really pass for suspense.

The special features include English and Spanish subtitles, and trailers for "See No Evil", "Jekyll and Hyde", "Dark Harvest 3: Scarecrow"

All in all, yawn. Genuinely, yawn--"Blood Stains" is painfully slow, and the payoff doesn't even begin to cover the investment in time and attention paid to reach the end. Worth your time only if you're into the movies Lifetime continually runs.

Silent Scream

Silent Scream

Directed by Matt Kantu, Lance KR Kawas
Written by Lance KR Kawas
Starring Scott Vickaryous, Melissa Schuman, Shanti Lowry, Peter Carey
Produced by Bob Brown
86 mins 2006

If you're looking for a movie about the evils of abortion, you're in the wrong place.

Despite the title, which I hope somebody knew was already taken, this particular "Silent Scream" has almost nothing to do with abortion, unless you're one of those who considers murder an abortion, just in something like the eighty-eighth trimester. Which is what will be happening out at a psychology professor's vacation home, way out in predictably enough the middle of nowhere.

Because after all, if this were in the middle of, say, downtown Cleveland, we'd have to find a whole new set of excuses as to why the cell phones don't work and the cops will never show up. Actually, with downtown Cleveland, that may well be excuse enough.

But anyway--jokes about Cleveland aside, we've got a whole bunch of vanishing psych students and a whole lot of mind manipulation going on here.

And I'll confess. "Silent Scream" starts out like any one of a hundred others before it--horny coeds in the middle of nowhere banging each other's brains out and then getting them cut out. Course, it really doesn't help that the guy / girl ratio is already a lousy score--there's about three girls shy of parity and one guy's getting a threesome. This pretty much ensures there's going to be problems aplenty--small wonder it's the guys who get the first kills.

Worse yet, the effects aren't exactly up to par, either. Check out the guy in the yellow coat taking the hatchet to the forehead from about fifty yards out. He actually reacts to it first, and then gets knocked back. He LOOKS at the damn handle in his face before getting knocked back! There needs to be a class for filmmakers called "Physics For Horror Movies" where you can learn that the force from that kind of hit would knock your character back before they could look at the handle in their head.

And yet, our parka-packin' wonder killer here has wildly better efficiencies than Jason ever did. He racks up as many as six kills--one is unconfirmed but pretty likely--in the first fifteen minutes alone. Granted, that leaves pretty few people left to actually carry on with the last hour of the movie, but still.

Also on the plus side for "Silent Scream" is that they don't telegraph the punch very well. With a quarter of the movie done, they've established at least three possible suspects for the parka killer. As an extra added attraction, the disjointed nature of the movie--normally a detriment--allows for the movie to actually proceed in waves. The students arrive in two groups, so the second set lands in the cowflop of trouble created by the first.

When I first saw the ending, I thought that it was actually going to be the worst kind of cheat imaginable. And it was almost enough to disgust me out of watching. At least, it was, until I kept watching. What they've actually done with the ending is a surprising form of twist ending that is very, very seldom used. In fact, the only other time I've seen it used was in a zombie flick, 1980's "Nightmare City".

The special features include audio options, English and Spanish subtitles, cast interviews, and trailers for "The Descent", "See No Evil", "Dark Fields", "Zombie Nation", and "A Dead Calling".

All in all, despite some issues with plot and special effects work, "Silent Scream" is an excellent example of the early to mid eighties slasher movie. It adds the "two-wave" concept to the slasher genre, and this is a good addition, but the extremely rare ending is "Silent Scream"s high point, and this is enough to give it sufficient respect. "Silent Scream" will definitely be worth watching.