Sunday, August 18, 2019

Scared to Death.. the OTHER Slithis

DISCLAIMER - My blog is an attempt to show respect to films some small minded, intellectually dishonest hipsters automatically label "bad". There is no film I discuss here that I believe to be bad at all.  The title of the blog comes from a discussion that took place some years ago when I was trying to explain the appeal of these films. The title is not meant to suggest I think these films are bad in the least.  Remember - ART IS ART!

If you've read other posts of mine, you no doubt deduced that I am a fan of the film Slithis.  Growing up in the mid-west, I loved watching films with a lot of Los Angeles area exterior shots.  They always severed to convince me Southern California was beautiful and laid back.  Every day just life in a Beach Boys song.  You can imagine my surprise when I moved to Southern California and found it hardly relaxed or laid back.  Hearing a car horn in the mid-west was somewhat of a rarity but pretty much just par for the course when driving around Los Angeles or the Inland Empire.  Given the release date for Slithis, it seems likely it was not riding the "Alien" train but was attempting to be more of a "Jaws homage".

However, released in 1980, "Scared to Death" is clearly a response to "Alien" with a Giger inspired creature stalking the dark of both the city streets and the sewers below Los Angeles.  Although it is as enjoyable as "Slithis", "Scared to Death" doesn't boast quite the amount of Los Angeles footage but, still manages to capture a moment in time before the Me Decade got underway in earnest.

The plot of the film centers on a rash of homicides...with a significant amount of what appears to be KY Jelly left behind.  As an aside - I've always wondered what posses a character in a film to so robustly put their fingers in whatever viscous fluids that tend to turn up at murder scenes. Having worked in the "custodial arts" at least twice after grad school I can tell you, emulsified fluids of any kind were more cause of concern than curiosity... and I never considered sticking an ungloved digit in the mess.  There is no mystery for the viewer, we know right away some horrific creature is responsible for the murders, the film is more about investigators and law enforcement coming to grips with the cause of the murders.

Det. Lou Capell (David Moses) desperately wants to bring in former LAPD detective, and now paperback novelist Ted Lonergan (John Stinson) on the case as brutal and bloody murder was right up his alley before departing the force.  But, Police Chief Dennis Warren (Walker Edmiston) wants the best-selling author far from the case.  So... of course Lonergan becomes involved.

There are some slow spots and some obvious padding to the make the run time, but, I've long since learned to ignore these issues in my beloved low-budget films. Sometimes it just a necessity.  Occasionally it is handled brilliantly like the opening of H.G. Lewis's "The Gruesome Twosome" and sometimes handled with a bit less aplomb like the lengthy first murder in "Scared to Death".  But, first time director William Malone can be forgiven these pacing issues.  The only way a director conquers those issues is simply be continuing to work and study so I never find them scene breakers.

"Scared to Death" is a film I've been familiar with since I was a kid.  But, only managed to see recently on Amazon Prime ( well you know me Amazon Prime).  I was really excited to see it up pop up in my recommended movies.  And, I loved something about it that might put off other viewers.  The transfer is just horrible.  The sound drops, the video appears to be dubbed from an old VHS tape and the film itself is just swimming in artifacts (see the phone screen capture).  For an old fart like me it was almost synonymous with the cracks and pops you get from vinyl when you throw the second album by The Rainmakers (or the first from The Hooters) on the old turntable.

So, if you have 93 minutes and are looking for a fun throwback film to clear your palette of the over produced CGI brain candy around today, look up Scared to Death on Amazon Prime and enjoy your trip down memory lane.

Miss you Pops!