Scream For Help (1984) Review

Christie (Rachael Kelly) is sure her new step-father, Paul Fox (David Brooks), is trying to kill her mother but none of her friends or family take her warnings seriously. The suspicious teen stalks her step-father and his lover, Brenda (Lolita Lorre), in an attempt to gather evidence proving Fox’s evil intentions. Eventually, Christie convinces her mother that Paul is a cad and has him tossed out of the mansion. The happy ending is ruined later that evening when Paul, Brenda, and the psychotic Lacy (Rocco Sisto) invade the house to murder mother and daughter so Paul can inherit the family fortune. Three desperate killers face off against one angry girl armed with quick wits and a butcher knife in the bloody, suspenseful final reel.

The most impressive element concerning Scream for Help is the major talent working behind the camera. Irwin (Halloween, Hell Night, Fade to Black) Yablans acted as executive producer and Michael (Death Wish) Winner directed. Tom Holland, already a slasher screenplay veteran with Psycho II, provided the script before creating the Fright Night series and Child’s Play franchises. Former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones wrote the synth score that pounces on the viewer whenever a bit of nastiness is about to occur.

Holland’s script, besides featuring several nail-biting sequences, is very subversive. Having the sweet, innocent heroine perform the stalking and slashing under cuts the criticism from mainstream critics that slasher films are nothing more than scenes of evil men harming helpless women. Christie spills more blood and racks up a higher body count than the three villains. Holland also taps into and exploits the universal fear of a wicked step-parent. Adults are blind to Paul Fox’s evil but a step-child can easily see past his handsome facade.

The most recognizable face in the film is Corey Parker, best known for taking a crap in the woods while his buddy is eating a road flare in Friday the 13th V. Parker plays a horny boyfriend who’s always too busy getting busy to notice his lady is in danger. At times Rocco Sisto comes across as a poor man’s David Hess, yet he gives the best performance in the film. Lolita Lorre is well cast as the seductive Brenda. Lorre alternates between electric sexuality and cold, smoldering cruelty.

Scream for Help is a suspenseful little slasher with a good pedigree. The forces behind this film made something different from the average slasher flooding theaters back in 1984. Sometimes Scream for Help plays like an after school special on crack with serious teenage topics being discussed shortly before the shocking sex and mayhem kicks in. Those watching the Lorimar VHS edition of Scream for Help should check out the three trailers following the closing credits. American Anthem looks pretty generic but the extended Max Headroom preview and the theatrical trailer for Maximum Overdrive featuring Stephen King provide a real nostalgic blast from the past.

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