“The Movie of the Musical about other Movies!” The Saenger Theater, home to many a classic horror film over the years, is celebrating its swan song on the eve before it is to be torn down, with a marathon film festival. Unbeknownst to the audience, the movie house is haunted, and does not want to be condemned. Faster than you can say “Purple Rose of Cairo”, the theater has drawn an unlikely quartet into the films: Tobe (Wentsel), George (Alvarez), Tobe’s sister Shelley (Hudson) and the evil theater owner, Mr. Friedkin (Calhoun). Once inside, they jump from one horror movie to the next, the three virtuous ones pursued by the evil Capitalist and “The Count” (director and co-writer JimmyO Burril). As they take on each scene, they also sing! Madness, mayhem, and a dizzying array of songs and film styles ensue.
Based on the stage play Burrill co-wrote with James M. Taylor, “Silver Scream” is a musical group hug for all things horror. The movie takes the audience from the silent age of Murnau and Lang all the way up to modern slasher films. The filmmakers paid very close attention to the film styles of each genre—not just the look of things, but the angles, the acting, etc—and applied a song to match. Not all the songs work, of course, and there are times when the voices are drowned out in the mix, but only the nitpicker with the hardest of hearts could fail to be entertained by this movie.
Throughout “Silver Scream”, I sat watching with a goofy grin plastered to my face. The highlights—and there are many—include “The Bates Motel” homage to “Psycho” and its infamous shower scene, “Tonight We Live” and its take on “Night of the Living Dead” and “Baby Sitter Blues”, which takes on the “Halloween” films, among others. Even if you hate and utterly despise musicals (Philistine that you are), there will be something in “Silver Scream” that will resonate with you. It’s a movie that absolutely and completely loves horror movies (how many movies give you a musical tribute to Hershel Gordon Lewis?) and if that’s how you feel about the red wet genre, then “Silver Scream” is for you.