Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Review - Scream... And Die! (1973)

Val (the astonishingly beautiful Andrea Allan) is a model, whose latest job is cut short when she refuses to do any nude shots. “Are you suggesting I’m porn?” asks the affronted photographer. “Just a bit lurid,” comes the reply.
She’s picked up by her boyfriend Terry (Alex Leppard), who takes her out into the countryside to “pick up a few things”, but they get lost in the fog-shrouded, atmospheric woods and end up stumbling into the grounds of an out-of-the-way cottage. Before you can say “illegal entry”, Terry has broken into the building, and Val follows. They have a bit of a poke around and unearth dozens of passports belonging to young, foreign women (“Bit dodgy, innit?”), but their search is stopped when they hear someone else arrive.
It’s another couple, and Val and Terry watch as the girl strips and mounts the unseen man. Things suddenly take a turn for the horrible as the man picks up a knife and proceeds to slash her to pieces.
Val takes to her high heels, and is followed through the woods and into a scrap yard, finally managing to lose her pursuer and getting a lift back to London. Back at home she notices that Terry’s car is parked outside her flat, but there’s no sign of him. Later on she visits a friend’s house, where she wastes no time in telling them all about her experience. “All I know is… that’s when he attacked her with a knife!” she deadpans. “Must be impotent!” cracks a sensitive male friend (it’s worth pointing out her that no-one – not Val, not the bloke, not the naked girl with the monkey who just happens to be there, has mentioned going to the police about this).
Obviously deciding that the best thing to do would be to forget all about any silly murders or missing boyfriends, Val goes back to work – but is troubled by a number of strange occurrences. A weirdo called Paul (Karl Lanchbury) tries to sell her a mask in the studio, and her landlady informs her that she’s let the downstairs flat to a glove-wearing man who keeps pigeons (cue obligatory “pigeon in the face” shock). After a trip out to the scrapyard with her friends where they succeed in finding Terry’s car (again), Val decides to go and visit the mask seller, Paul, who she’s taken a bit of a shine to. He lives and works with his elderly Aunt Susanna (Maggie Walker).
That night, as Val taker her time getting ready for bed, we’re treated to the retina-searing view of Paul and Susanna’s home life, as the pair of them get extremely close indeed. Yes, just in case we hadn’t guessed, all is not well up at the mask shop…
That night, an intruder breaks into Val’s flat and rapes and kills her flatmate, Lorna. This latest outrage prompts the girl to go to the police, but this being a British horror film, she doesn’t have a great deal of luck. Paul offers her a weekend away and they drive off into the fog, arriving at a little out-of-the-way house. As soon as he’s through the front door, Paul starts behaving a bit odd (“A lot of people dislike… old country houses”), but this doesn’t stop her from jumping into bed with him. However, when Val wakes up alone the next morning, the penny finally drops about where she is (“Oh no! It’s not possible!”)…
Scream And Die! is a strange entry into the world of British horror, more of an Italian giallo-style movie than a typically British horror film. It’s livened up by a few shocks and some very sexy scenes, but is an ultimately flat and uninvolving experience. As a lead actress, Allan is highly decorative, but sleepwalks through the whole film, seemingly unimpressed at the carnage going on all around her. Worth watching for the lovely backgrounds and the dress-dropping activities of the female cast, but the double-bluff plot (in which the sweaty psychotic-looking bloke is the one wot done it) is hardly a bonce-scratcher.

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