Silent Madness 1984
aka Beautiful Screamers, The Omega Factor
Directed by: Simon Nuchtern
Starring: Belinda Montgomery, Viveca Lindfors, Solly Marx
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
In my review for The Scaremaker, I mentioned that it was one of a number of slasher flicks that were overlooked due to the barrage of releases at that time. Silent Madness is another such entry that barely gets any recognition nowadays, which I was keen to investigate once again having not watched it for a decade or so. As you are well aware, a SLASH above is always trying to hunt out hidden gems for your collections.
Recently, there has been a wealth of 3D in our cinemas, which could lead you to believe that it was something of a new invention for the humble stalk and slash category. Although effects have definitely improved, the truth is that we were treated to offerings in three dimension long before the remake of My Bloody Valentine. You are probably aware already of Friday the 13th part III, but there was also this much lower budgeted effort that launched across cinemas with the neat gimmick that you need groovy specs for.
After a blunder at a mental hospital, the staff release the mute and psychotic Howard Johns who was responsible for some sorority slashing years earlier, instead of the relatively harmless John Howard. A considerate shrink believes that he could be on his way back to the location of his previous crimes and heads there in order to stop him.
By 1984 the genre was already less of a draw for studio financing, so it’s somewhat refreshing to watch an effort that seems to have the mission statement of being played in theatres rather than aiming straight for video store shelves. It’s notably bold in that unlike the same year’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, Silent Madness makes absolutely no effort to do anything even remotely authentic and instead sticks to the formula of a dollop of Slumber Party Massacre with a bit of Halloween and Friday the 13th thrown in just for good measure. The killer is your typical muted menace with a murder lust and there’s a whole host of teenagers that he slices through and stalks using the trademark methodology.
I own two copies of this feature. One is on VHS, which is totally uncut and then I have a budget UK DVD that omits a few fun cheesy gore scenes. In their entirety, the murders are all quite creative in their delivery and I was quite impressed with the director’s imagination. One skateboarding bunny gets her head crushed in a vice and there’s a couple of other gruesome highlights that are worth a look. Watch out for the bit when a girl is slaughtered whilst playing that old arcade classic, Dragon’s Lair, which I used to spend hours trying to complete with my brother on my Commodore 64. The director pulls off the odd moment of suspense and there’s a very good jump scare here too.
What I was really impressed with was the film’s subtle political commentary. There’s a lot said about the asylum not having the budget to keep all of its patients and they are trying to release as many as possible. This is an obvious dig at the cost cutting ideas of the Reagan era when it was noted that many unfortunates were being freed too prematurely and it’s quite effective in its delivery. I also picked up on a heavy dose of obvious misogyny; not only in the maniac’s choice of victims, but in the way that the male characters approach the heroine. All the hospital workers treat her as an idiot and she is even disrespected by the orderlies (watch out of the hilarious evil laugh scene). If it weren’t for the fact that the head manager was a woman who was equally as dubious, I would have been sure that it was another subtle expression of cultural topic from the filmmakers.
The other character with a confused sense of morals is the goofball sheriff who spouts lines such as, ‘Just because the gawdamn broad is so good looking, don’t mean we all have to think with our dicks!’ In typical genre fashion, he’s a bit of a doofus and to call him ‘smart’ would be like saying that Ryan Giggs was ‘faithful’. No one really believes the Doctor when she warns them that the maniac could be on his way back to the sorority and she only has a journalist as a partner to help apprehend the murderous nut job. There’s a pretty unexpected twist that came as a surprise and in a rare move, there is no open ending so it hints that the production team were never considering a sequel even if this had have been a major success, which I doubt it was.
None of the teenage girls are given any real depth or personality and they are only there to be murdered, but the leads put in a good enough shift with what they are given. Belinda Montgomery was charming as the final ‘woman’ and Viveca Lindfors gave it her all in the smallest of parts. The momentum stagnates a tad in places and some of the dialogue scenes were fairly limp. The story has just enough to keep you hooked and I never felt the need to take my eyes off the screen.
Silent Madness is pretty much stalk and slash in its comfort zone and never manages anything out of the ordinary and plods through the clichés like a tortoise on Valium. It’s by no means a bad film, but not a diamond in the rough either. It is certainly no worse than some of its peers that it shares a release date with and I can only put it down to bad luck that it is not more often mentioned as a referential piece of slasher hokum.
If you’re a collector, I can’t think of any reason why you shouldn’t pick it up and it offers much more than the likes of Final Exam and He Knows You’re Alone. It made me want to download one of those C64 converters a have a shot at Dragon’s Lair and The Last Ninja once again…
Final Girl √√√