FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (1987) – the anthology film is a proud horror movie tradition and Netflix has a bunch of them on instant watch. From the best-known, like Creepshow, to the first one of them all, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, and even some hoary old chestnuts like Tales That Witness Madness, but out of all of them, my favorite is the damp and gloomy Southern shocker, From a Whisper to a Scream. Like any true horror anthology, there’s a celebrity host (Vincent Price, who hated this movie) and a wrap-around story (the incandescent Susan Tyrrell is a reporter grilling Price about the history of the sleepy Tennessee town of Oldfield), but it’s the movie’s Southern roots, and seemingly insatiable taste for gore, that makes it stand out. An execution brings Tyrrell to Oldfield where she ducks into the Historical Society and grills Vincent Price about the town’s history, and he does his best to teach her that it’s not the people who are evil, it’s the town of Oldfield itself that turns them bad. First bit of evidence, the segment that gave the movie its alternate title, The Offspring, with Return of the Living Dead’s Clu Gulager romancing a woman at the local plant who doesn’t return his feelings. He doesn’t handle it very well. Amongst all the yick on display is incest, necrophilia, and disgusting pregnancies, but the grossest special effect is Gulager playing one of the most subhumanoid, pathetic stalkers ever put onscreen.
Next up is an atmospheric bit about a crook on the run who shacks up with a conjure man in the swamp and demands the secret of eternal life. He gets it, but this segment is the first to demonstrate FAWTAS‘s obsession with gnarly human torsos, shorn of all four limbs. Then there’s a brief, romantic segment about a carnival geek who eats razor blades and broken glass and falls in love, which would be sweet except that his carnival “brothers” get pissed that he’s left them for the soft, naked embrace of a “normal” and they take a horrific revenge. The last segment is also one of the best with Union soldiers at the end of the Civil War who fall into the hands of a gang of feral children who are “playing war” and waiting for their local god, The Magistrate, to appear and tell them what to do with all the soldier men they have in the house. Featuring more torn-out eyeballs than is strictly healthy, and choking on moist and fetid atmosphere, FAWTAS is Southern 80′s filmmaking at its finest, with its strongest stories at the beginning and end, and lots, and lots, and lots of black and clotted blood running down its face. It’s not a perfectly smooth ride, and the middle two segments are very lumpy, but the fact that the transfer on Netflix Instant Watch looks like the kind of chewed up print you’d find on late night TV just adds to the generally unhealthy atmosphere. (Watch it!)