28 October 2009

Scream of Fear (1961)

Directed by: Seth Holt
Written by: Jimmy Sangster
Full credits from IMDb

Despite its histrionic title and a handful of unsettling sequences, Scream of Fear is less a horror movie than a mystery: not Carnival of Souls so much as an episode of Scooby Doo. Its alternate title, Taste of Fear, might be more accurate: just a nibble, not much more. Susan Strasberg, daughter of acting-coach legend Lee, stars as Penny, a young woman in a wheelchair who leaves Italy, after the death of her beloved nurse, to live in the South of France (rough life, kid!) with the father she hasn't spoken to in ten years. Holt begins by setting a mood of deceptive tranquility, meant to lull viewers into a calm out of which he can then unloose them: snowcapped peaks; a lakeside idyll; the swaying palms of Nice; the cricket-chirping solitude of Penny's father's baroque mountaintop manor.

That house, with its gilded moldings and ornate candelabras—all the trappings for a Victorian ghost story!—becomes the setting for Penny's unfolding and unlikely madness...

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