Everyone has their staples for Halloween watching, like John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and “Nightmare Before Christmas.” But be forewarned, gentle reader, because your master of Scarimonies (God, I sound like the Crypt Keeper), Dukey Flyswatter, will suggest some gems and themes that may have flown drastically under your radar, like a schizophrenic Vampire Bat.
Week One: Horror Anthology Films. Often referred to in Europe and England as Portmanteau films, they contain a selection of stories during the course of a normal feature running time.
Tuesday Oct. 4: “Screams Of A Winter Night”
Dir. James L. Wilson. Stars: William Ragsdale.
“Screams of a Winter Night” is not what I would call a good movie, and the story of how all the investors were pals who shot this on 16mm, blew it up to 35mm and didn’t make a dime – even though someone acquired the rights to distribute it to the grindhouse circuit where it made a good profit – is better than the three tales we are presented here. It’s ironic that the rundown theaters with dubious clientele are where the film broke out (I saw it at The World Theater on the bad side of Hollywood on a triple bill with “Big Foot: The Mysterious Monsters” and “Journey Into The Beyond”), since they went out of their way to make this a PG family style spooker. The budget is threadbare, the sound is wobbly at times, and the acting is caffeinated High School level.
All this aside, it has a strange ambiance to it, and it was good to hear the most famous urban legends of the ’60s and early ’70s in some cockeyed form dragging their way across the bargain theater’s stained movie screen. So…. a group of college kids head out to a cursed part of the forest to spend the weekend making out and telling ghost stories, or “true” stories that happened to a friend of a friend. The first story is about a Native American (or Cajun) legend of a deadly phantom dubbed “The Moss Point Man.” The second tale is about med students dared by their peers to spend a night in an old abandoned hospital ward in search of a mysterious green light. The final yarn concerns a student who has a psychotic break following a rape on campus. Although it was originally done because they didn’t have enough actors, it was a nice touch to have the 10 geeks in the cabin also play the characters in each tale (minus the one actor initiating the swapping of chills).
This one is a bit hard to find, and its status in regards to ownership rights vs. public domain is still being debated. But you can see it on a few streaming sites like Vimeo, Daily Motion, or Youtube. You can find the VHS tape on EBay or Amazon for ridiculous prices between $89 and $300. You can also buy the DVD online from an English company called Twisted Danger.