From a whisper to a yawn
Anthologies are a fun concept for horror movies. They can take short stories that are unable to fit into a standard hour and a half format of regular movies and get them on the big screen. Sometimes the stories have a common theme running through them like in Tales From The Hood or Heavy Metal. Other times, they're just a few stories thrown together. What matters most is that the stories are entertaining, the acting is good, and that there are overtones of horror. Seems simple enough, right? Unfortunately, those three things are not easily attainable and can make for an unpleasant watch.
From A Whisper To A Scream (also known as The Offspring) is a 1987 horror anthology starring Vincent Price as Julian White. Julian's niece Karen is executed by the state of Tennessee for committing a murder. He is visited by Beth Chandler (Susan Tyrrell, Cry-Baby, Powder), a reporter that was present at Karen's execution. She questions Julian about his niece and he explains that though she may have committed a crime, she is not to blame. He blames her murderous actions on the town of Oldfield, Tennessee. He relates four separate tales from the town's past. The first tells the story of Stanley Burnside (Clu Gulager, The Return Of The Living Dead, The Initiation), a lonely middle-aged man caught in a mundane life caring for his sick sister. He has a crush on his co worker Grace and convinces her to go on a date. Incredibly bored, she tries to leave, but Stanley chokes her to death in a fit of rage. Unsatisfied, Stanley visits her body in the funeral home and commits the act of necrophilia on her body. 9 months later, Stanley gets a special visitor. What could it be? The second story involves a criminal named Jesse Hardwick (Terry Kiser, Weekend At Bernie's. Mask Maker) who is shot in a swamp fleeing from criminals he ripped off. Jesse is saved by and old man named Felder Evans (Harry Caesar, A Few Good Men, The Longest Yard). Jesse sees Felder practicing some sort of witchcraft late at night and investigates his belongings. He finds newspaper clippings mentiong Felder dating back to the early 1800's. Jesse surmises that his rituals have made him immortal and forces Felder to teach him the secrets. What will Felder do? The third story is about a freak show glass-eater that falls in love with a girl named Amarillis. They plan to run away, but the glass-eater is indebted to Snakewoman, who runs the freak show. How will they escape? The final story features three Union soldiers at the end of the civil war. They are captured and tortured by a group of children, orphaned by the war. Will they be able to escape? Julian finishes telling the stories of Oldfield to Beth, hoping to see if she is convinced that the town is evil. Will she believe Julian and does she have an ulterior motive for visiting him?
Vincent Price's "Bitch, please" face
When you have so many stories crammed into one feature-length movie, odds are that at least one of them has to be good. Sadly, this is not the case in From A Whisper To A Scream. The stories are all underdeveloped and lack the right amount of action to keep things interesting. They are full of half-decent ideas that go nowhere. The movie was clearly made on the cheap as the sets are woefully inadequate and dated. The direction is shoddy and many scenes are too dark to see what is happening. Vincent Price is as delightful as ever, but even he acknowledged that the movie was terrible. The sets are supposed to take place during different time periods, but some of the costumes and music don't fit. It is woefully apparent that the movie is made in the the 80's because Susan Tyrrell's character looks like she fell out of an A-Ha video.
The first story has off-pacing and the little side bit with Stanley's sister is just plain weird. I don't know if they were going with some sort of underlying incest, but whatever it was, it failed. It didn't help that they showed his elderly sister naked. The necrophilia scene made sense for the story, but it was still creepy and the end result was unintentionally ridiculous. The second story was fine, just a little boring. Terry Kiser was a bit too hammy and over-the-top for my liking. The third story is just flat-out terrible and is the weakest of all four. The plot isn't particularly clear and everything just feels forced. It doesn't help that the acting is painful to watch. The final story is essentially Children Of The Corn-lite. It is probably the best idea out of the four stories, but the execution is just no good.
Taaaaake onnnnnnn meeeeeeee....
We know that horror anthologies can be enjoyable. Creepshow and Trick R' Treat are proof. The difference between those movies and From A Whisper To A Scream is that those stories are well-crafted, there is good action, and the horror is strong. The stories in this movie just cannot hold up on their own and are not enjoyable to sit through. There is nothing particularly scary and they lack action. The acting ranges from passable to terrible, making a bad situation worse. Despite having Vincent Price involved, do yourself a favor, and avoid From A Whisper To A Scream