Tuesday, May 5, 2015

British Spotlight Amicus: And Now the Screaming Starts

The second film in our series to Spotlight British Horror is another Amicus film.

Title: And Now the Screaming Starts

Year: 1973

Written By: Roger Marshall and David Case

Directed By: Roy Ward Baker

Plot: The year is 1795; England. Charles Fengriffen and his brand new bride to be move into his Castle estate. She is interested drawn to a series of family portraits. One in particular seems to catch her eye, that of Charles Grandfather Henry Fengriffen. It seems to cast some sort of evil possession over her. The two marry and what should be the happy ending to their fairy tale is just the beginning of a nightmare that includes being sexually assaulted by a evil spirit.  

The early sixties through mid seventies were a turning point in horror cinema in both America and Britain. With films like Psycho (1960 US) Peeping Tom (1960 UK) Repulsion (1965 UK) Monsters and ghosts were no longer in vogue; now ticket buyers wanted to see real life boogeymen. "And Now the Screaming Starts" goes way against the budding psycho thriller genre (and soon to morph into the slasher sub genre) and hearkens back to a more moody Gothic style period film which Hammer did so well themselves in the 40s-60`s.  I only recommend this film for those who like these types of films. For those horror fans only looking for gore and tits, this will not entertain you. Even though I love the splatter film as much as the next, I do also enjoy these types of films that sadly are rarely if ever made anymore. So with that out of the way lets get into the review! 

Its not often when you have a film about a ghost that rapes a woman, due to a revenge curse. Even by today's standards its a pretty far out plot.What could easily have been a hot mess thrives under the helm of veteran director Roy Ward Baker. He never once hams it up and keeps everything dead pan. It also helps that you have a clever script by Roger Marshall and David Case (uncredited) They weave a mystery with a horror twist that keeps the audience guessing until the end. There is never a dull moment to be had. 

I`m always so floored by how these British productions could really make a film look great on a small budget. This is no exception. The amount of detail in the sets is just stunning and it really makes you feel like your in that time and place. 

The effects are pretty impressive for 1973. For example through out the film there is a crawling hand. It might seem very low tech but think about it, this was pre-CGI when you had to come up with everything live. I think its very effective in being creepy. The ghost of Henry Fengriffen is pretty damn freaky looking without going super silly. 

Denys N. Coop the legendary D.P of such films as "The Third Man" & "Lolita"lends his skills to this film and the results is some very inventive camera work that really helps ground and give polish to a very strange script. Also It just adds to the feeling of spooky dread layered through the story. It also helps when you have such an amazing cast. Screaming has a wonderful collection of English character actors. Peter Cushing, Patrick Magee (Clockwork Orange,Barry Lyndon) Hebert Lom (Pink Panther movies) Guy Rolfe (Dolls, Mr. Sardonicus) Janet Key (The Vampire Lovers,Dracula A.D 1972) just to name a few. Its always great when a film can cram this many great actors into one project. That alone makes it a must see for fans of British horror. It is sad that Peter Cushing's character is not used more, but even still his time on the screen is always powerful. 

And The Screaming Starts can be seen as a sort of time capsule of a film. It is one of the last great Gothic period films, with moonlit nights, castles, creepy cemeteries etc. To give you perspective, it would be a mere year later when the "face" of horror would change forever with Tobe Hooper's horror opus "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974) and 4 years after that "Halloween" (1978) It may not be as sexy and bloody as some of the later revival Hammer period films, but it is a interesting story with a great cast which I still fill holds up well after more than 40 years. 

TRIVA: If the Fengriffin Castle looks familiar it was used in many horror films but most famously in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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