When the Screaming Stops (1976)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

The Gorgon

Twins of Evil

The Wicker Man

When the Screaming Stops

Lava Lamp

Our rating: one LAVA® motion lamp.

When the Screaming Stops
The off-camera monster in this movie
is apparently the same one who starred in
There's Nothing Out There.
If you saw the video box for When the Screaming Stops, you might think it was a bad slasher flick. In fact, it is not a bad slasher flick. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say it's not just a bad slasher flick, but a whole lot of bad movies compressed into one Frankensteinian monstrosity. No one genre spawned this movie, but a lot of genres contribute to its ability to turn the brain matter of its viewers into so much guacamole.

When the Screaming Stops is actually the US version of a Spanish film called Las Garras de Lorelei, or the Grasp of Lorelei. This film is probably most notable for its director, Armando De Ossario, the man behind the Blind Dead films. This movie is supposed to take place in Germany, though the total absence of natural blondes betrays the Spanish cast. And as if a Spanish film set in Germany isn't warning enough, the poorly dubbed English version of the film includes (and we quote from the video box), "Red Flash Warnings to Prepare You For Explicit Horror."

Now that's a good idea. Imagine all the movie experiences that could be improved by color coded warning flashes:

Lethal Weapon films and Lethal Weapon rip-offs - A blue flash before every scene when the main characters blatantly disregard police procedure or violate a perp's civil rights, but they get results, dammit!

Batman and Robin - A pink flash every time George Clooney and Chris O'Donnel smile at each other.

Waterworld and The Postman - Green flashes every time Kevin Costner wastes another million bucks.

Basic Instinct, Showgirls and Sliver - Flesh colored flashes for every time Sharon Stone or Elizabeth Berkeley take off their clothes for no reason.

Stomp Tokyo - Yellow flashes everytime the critics blatantly steal a joke from The Simpsons or Monty Python.

When the Screaming Stops
"Please, Mr. Presley, sing 'Hunka Hunka
Burnin' Love' next!"
In any case, When the Screaming Stops is very gory indeed. Whoever put in the red flashes seems to have fallen asleep at the switch during the second half of the film, or those scenes were deemed not gory enough for a flash. All that said, we found that the flashes ruin the suspsense of the film by forecasting the fates of the characters on screen. A red flash means someone is about to die. The absence of a red flash means you can rest easy -- although the characters may get scratched up a bit, they're not going to buy the farm.

The movie opens with a naked woman (ahh, nudity in the opening moments, our old friend) who is RED FLASH horribly killed by some sort of monster who eats her heart. Like a slasher film (though this was made years before the slasher craze) the carnage is shot from the killer's perspective. Unlike a slasher film, the killer is a reptilian monster which we never get to see clearly.

Cut to the local tavern, where the mayor is buying beer for his constituents. (This is Germany, after all.) The drunken male townsfolk discuss the killings and we are introduced to several people who will die later on, including the albino scientist and the blind fiddle player. Later on, that old standby of horror movies set in Germany shows up, the torch- and pitchfork-wielding mob of peasants. It just seems like German peasants will take up torches and pitchforks and crowd the streets at the drop of the hat. We're now under the impressions that such mobs are the major political orginizations over in Germany.

When the Screaming Stops
"Priscilla, honey? Is that you?"
After the doomed people are introduced, a beautiful woman enters the bar. She is Elke, the headmistress at the local girls school. She's worried that some of her charges may fall victim to the monster, and wants some protection. The mayor agrees to set her up with a hunter "with years of experience."

Though the fact that the hunter has "years of experience" is repeated several times, nobody ever says what he's had years of experience doing. Once we see the hunter, Sirgurd (Tony Kendall, but he's far too Spanish for that to be his real name), we'd have to guess he's had years of experience at Elvis impersonation. Sirgurd arrives at the "girls'" school on a motorcycle with a gun slung over his shoulder and offers to help.

We put "girls'" in quotes because there are no girls at the school. All of the "students" are twenty-something fashion models who we never once see wear any real clothes. And we put "students" in quotes because we never see the fashion models taking classes or learning anything, other than how to be victims in a bad horror film. Quite frankly, it looks more like the Playboy mansion than a school of any sort. This kind of setting, well-stocked with disposable fashion models, would be featured in many slasher flicks, which is probably why the US distributors of Lorelei thought they could repackage it as such.

When the Screaming Stops
Tragically, this actress misinterpreted the
directions to her interview at the strip joint
and wound up in this movie instead.
The killings continue, and Sirgurd does little good. He spends most of his time coyly refusing advances by the fashion models. ("We need a watchman, not a boyfriend." "Some boyfriends are good at watching, too.") Any minute Yellow Flash we fear they will declare, "And now for the oral sex!" He also visits various doomed villagers, and begins to put together the legend of Lorelei, who is sort of a low rent harpy. The albino scientist even shows Sirgurd a dagger he has prepared that will destroy certain organisms that may have the ability to revert to previous states of evolution. Why the scientist would do this is not clear, other than that he's been watching too many old Doctor Who episodes.

Sirgurd eventually runs into a mysteriously unclad woman who has a tendency to do Bergmanesque slow motion jogs next to the moors outside town. The two of them fall in love. Okay, we weren't sure that they fell in love until we were told they did later. What they actually do in their first encounter is trade bizarre elipitical dialogue for a few minutes, until the woman passes out and is taken away by her personal creepy monk. What, you don't have your own personal creepy monk? We thought everybody did!

It develops that the creepy woman is the mythical siren Lorelei, and she lords over an underground kingdom. Okay, maybe kingdom is overdoing it. An abandoned set from a Hercules movie, two creepy monks, and three hot women in leopard-print bathing suits would be more accurate. (Leopards? In Europe?) As a matter of fact, the last half hour of When The Screaming Stops resembles an unmade Italian Hercules sequel. The title would have been Hercules' Distant Descendant In the Low Budget, Sparsely Populated Spanish Underworld.

When the Screaming Stops
They filmed our dreams!
So by the end of the film, we have elements of slasher flicks, monster films, and lowbudget sword and sandal epics. It should also be mentioned that there is graphic rubbery gore, a lesbian encounter (mostly cut from our version, or so we suspect), a cat fight between the aforementioned leopard-print wearing babes (mrrroowwwwr!), and finally, that one thing which can stop any film dead in its celluloid tracks: a boring scuba-diving sequence. Even a James Bond film suffers at the hands of a scuba scene, because a) dialogue becomes impossible and b) they're so darn hard to shoot. Our pal Armando, however, doesn't seem to realize this.

By this time, gentle reader, you understand that we really hated this movie. After all, when was the last time we wasted 1200 words on a film we liked? However, this would be a fine video with which to test your rental store's "return" policy -- after all, we can't imagine that any video clerk could watch this movie and not be pleased to refund your money in full.

Review date: 01/15/1999

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