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The American Scream

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“It’s okay! It’s not my blood!”

Descriptive plot on the hind of the box: “Everybody’s average family: Two unmanageable teens, a stress riddled, bumbling father, and his ever present whining wife – Meet the Benzigers. They think they’re taking a trouble free trip to a mountain resort… Think again! This winter wonderland is a perfect setting for the evil rituals and unorthodox traditions that take place. This is no holiday! It’s holy hell and no one has a prayer. A bloody transformation of roles turns the tortured teens into adults themselves. Some kids would kill to be adults. These kids may have to.”

Let me start off by saying that this is not the average American family they claim to be in the description and cover art. Lets dismiss the atrocious dialogue and amateur acting and skip right to the tedious characters. These are some of the dumbest characters ever portrayed on screen. We are introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Benziger (Jennifer Darling and Pons Maar) as the Magoo-ish parents and their ‘unmanageable’ teens Brent and Bridgette (Riley Weston and Matthew Borlenghi). Mrs. Benziger seems to obsesses over her hair with a stable smile while Mr. Benziger tries hard to prove he’s not Matt Frewer. Maar and Frewer share several similar characteristics. This couple takes their kids and two of their friends to a snowy resort for a relaxing vacation of sorts. On the way to this resort they pass a killer clown and a man that kills a breastfeeding baby by bashing it into the car window. The amount of blood is laughable. I’m not sure if that was intentional or unintentionally funny. The teens are horrified by this action but there’s no need to report it.

During their stay the teens witness several murders but covering up the bodies makes sense? Why report it to the police or get the hell out of there? Oh right, it’s a terrible 80s film and nobody cares.  The teens begin to show bizarre behavior. Brent’s friend Larry (Kevin Kaye,) who I find an unlikely friend because Brent is your average 80’s teen hunk whereas Larry is the Children of the Corn poster child, has completely erratic behavior before the situation elevates. Some best friend. This fruitcake is violent as he’s always threatening Brent with a knife or attacking him with a fucking snow shovel. Larry is not only weird, he’s questionably one of the most obnoxious characters in a horror film as he gaily sings after witnessing murders and per-knowledge of being on the chopping block. After the kids decide ‘growing up’ is their only way of surviving this desolate town, Larry reinvents himself as a VERY convincing priest that slightly resembles Isaac from Children of the Corn. Brent sports a mustache resembling the cop’s mustache in Sleepaway Camp.

The plot is all over the place with so many holes that are never brought to full circle. The storyline is exceptionally hard to follow. There’s a priest dressed like The Undertaker running around murdering Debra Lamb. The town’s Sheriff and side kick are a couple of pedophiles. Grizzly Adams recalls his children being murdered by the town’s citizens while he pets his taxidermy dog that’s always present, and the town residents like to stare at each others wieners in the bathroom stall. Nothing about this obscure film makes a bit of sense. Why are these teens forced to grow up? They’re what like 16, 17? So they maybe have one year before they become an adult. You know what would have worked with a bit of controversy? Using CHILDREN! Reversed Children of the Corn.

George ‘Buck’ Flower plays the grizzly man walking around with his taxidermy pet, spreading doom. I am not completely familiar with this actor’s work but I do recall him playing the bum in Back to the Future. With a plethora of acting credits the poor man’s credits consist of ‘drunk guy’ or ‘old guy’ and he also has a credit in Death Nurse 2. I haven’t seen Death Nurse 2 but I have seen the first installment and I’m sure you have all read my article on that fine VHS classic.

In 1988, horror-comedies seemed to be all the rage with titles like; 976 Evil, Brain Damage, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Night of the Demons, and Slime City. The American Scream didn’t stand a chance against these tubular titles with its bizarre and putrid aroma. Most horror fans do not have high expectations when it comes to dark comedies but there are rules to these expectancies. The American Scream breaks them all. It pains me to say that this is right up there with Troll 2 aka the worst movie ever made. This film wants to work as a horror-comedy but it fails as a horror film and it fails as a comedy. They tried to throw some gags in the dialogue with, “Holy Shepard” but it still doesn’t work.

While I am stacking all of these faults I have to ask, what the FUCK was up with that soundtrack? It’s mostly folk – out of tune – violin music along with a song that’s featured in the strip club scene that sounds like it is being performed by an 80 year old man who smokes 3 packs of cigarettes a day. Edy Williams, who is a known B-Movie actress of the past, glided across this dance floor in a silver dress while showing her crusty goods with this crusty old fart singing in the back ground. It is easily the least erotic strip club scene shown on film.

Debra Lamb has a small role where her throat is slit in a shower. For those of you who have been living under a rock, Lamb is a multi-talented scream queen who has starred and made appearances in several horror films including my favorite Stripped to Kill. She is also an incredible dancer. I sought her out to talk about this film that I was sure no one ever asks her about and this is what she had to say, “I remember working on The American Scream well. We filmed it several hours away from L.A. up in the mountains. It wasn’t Big Bear–I can’t remember the exact mountain we were on, but the location was a teeny tiny mountain town that had a great local bar, which a lot of the scenes were shot at. It just so happened that an old friend from Santa Monica High School, Kevin Kaye, was playing Larry in the film. He did a lot of musical theatre back in high school. We were in drama together. It was a lot of fun, and I got to play the archetypical “victim” that gets chased by the maniacal killer (Blackie Dammett) while wearing a negligee and ballet slippers through the snow in the forest in the dead of night, and of course I fall down, and end up in a motel shower naked wrapped in stretch wrap. Ahhh–those were the days!” At least the making of the film was a lot of fun and that’s the reason why we make and watch horror films, right? Even if it’s as good as Troll 2, the cast and crew are enjoying themselves regardless.

There’s a decent amount of blood shed and a fun decapitation scene with a wink. Then there’s an icky blood and snot combination. Neither of these things could save this film. Not even Edy Williams nor Debra Lamb. Most of these scenes were filmed in slow motion. I guess the director was trying to be artsy? I found this to be completely unnecessary. Even the camera angles and choppy editing were completely unnecessary. This was Mitchell Linden’s first and last directorial project so I have nothing to compare it to. It seems he shortly worked in the camera department on a few meaningless films, nothing special. But that ended in 1997 and he hasn’t worked since.

The American Scream is only available on VHS and it may be hard to find but there are some copies available on Ebay. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is a little pricy considering how rare it is. I was lucky enough to find a copy at the old video store for $2. This transfer can be a little blurry at times. If I was a fan of the film I would request a DVD transfer but there are not enough fans with that same request. For me, it’s one of those tapes that I will casually pop into the VCR every 5 years.

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About The Author
Rebekah Herzberg
Rebekah Herzberg

VHS collector, horror fanatic, and lover of the 80’s neon night life. I once ate a Texas BBQ burger compiled with Mac and cheese and fried green beans. I celebrate Hanukkah.

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