Wednesday, March 16, 2005

THE SCREAMING DEAD

Misty Mundae possesses genuine charisma and talent, and it’s no wonder that she’s become ei Independent Cinema’s biggest attraction (ironically, she’s probably the ei starlet with the smallest… ah, endowments). With decent material, she can actually be pretty good. For example, she also stars in one of the company’s first Shock-O-Rama horror movie releases, THE SCREAMING DEAD (2004).

Directed by Brett Piper, a Vermont-based filmmaker and FX artist who’s been writing and directing small genre films for over a decade (including the Ron Jeremy-starring fish creature flick, THEY BITE, and Tromas’ infamous NYMPHOID BARBARIAN IN DINOSAUR HELL), THE SCREAMING DEAD is actually an entertaining and occasionally creepy homage to ‘60s Euro-horror flicks. The script is witty and smart, the direction solid, and the performances are better than average for a film of this budget and breeding.

An arrogant photographer, who specializes in art photos of women being tortured and degraded, hires three young models – including Mundae – for a photo shoot in an abandoned insane asylum. Of course, it’s one of those abandoned asylums – you know, one with a history of sadism and abuse and torture, and the requisite lingering evil presence – and before long, the hidden passage to the secret dungeon is uncovered, and all hell breaks loose.

THE SCREAMING DEAD doesn’t skimp on the nudity or the gore (especially the nudity), and director Piper keeps things moving at a pretty brisk pace. The asylum (which was a real abandoned mental hospital, by the way) is a great, atmospheric location, and the story, while less than fresh, is full of lurid thrills and even a surprise or two. Piper smartly toys with his audience’s expectations of what an ei flick should be with some lesbian teasing, but refreshingly, this film stays on the horror track. Some low-budget CGI effects and amateurish-looking make-up on the film’s villain mars the climax slightly, but it doesn’t hurt the movie too badly.

It’s not a stunner, but as ei’s debut entry in their Shock-O-Rama line, it’s a promising start and a fun flick. Being shot on hi-def video, the full-frame transfer is expectedly very crisp and sharp. The sound is robust and well-balanced. The disk includes a behind-the-scenes documentary, interviews with Piper and the cast, a documentary about Ms. Mundae, and video footage of the film’s New York premiere and screening at a Fangoria convention. There’s also a still gallery, a full-color insert booklet, and the usual butt-load of ei trailers.

I’m actually a long-time fan of Piper’s work – his recent ‘50s-styled monster movie, ARACHNIA (2003, MTI Video), was a hoot – and I look forward to seeing what else he does with ei in the future.

BUY: Screaming Dead