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The American Scream (Culture Shock) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • The American Scream (Culture Shock) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Culture Shock
    Released on: February 22nd, 2022.
    Director: Mitchell Linden
    Cast: Pons Maar, Kevin Kaye, Blackie Dammett, George ‘Buck’ Flower, Matt Borlenghi, Jeanne Sapienza, Riley Weston
    Year: 1988
    Purchase From Amazon

    The American Scream – Movie Review:

    The only feature film directed by Mitchell Linden, 1988’s The American Scream follows the Benzinger family. Father Ben (Pons Maar) and his wife Barbara (Jennifer Darling) gather up their teenaged kids, Brent (Matt Borlenghi) and Bridgett (Riley Weston, credited as Kimberlee Kramer) and their two teenaged friends, Larry (Kevin Kaye) and Roxanne (Jeanne Sapienza) to head out for a little rest and relaxation in a small mountain town somewhere in California called Wilson’s Creek.

    When they arrive and stop in at the town’s only restaurant, they’re given an ominous warning by a local crazy guy named Ed Simpson (the mighty George 'Buck' Flower) who they’re told lost his mind when his wife and kids were killed some time ago. Ed talks to his stuffed dog Blue and is clearly a few cards short of a deck. The town sheriff, Sam (James Cooper), sets things right and soon enough, he and his deputy take an interest in Bridgett and Roxanne. As Ben and Barbara go about their business and have a good time, the younger visitors start to notice that they are very definitely the youngest people around for miles.

    When Larry spies someone clad in black (Blackie Dammett - Anthony Kiedis’ dad!) brandishing a knife chasing a young woman through the woods, it soon becomes clear that something is very wrong with this town and its population and the four teenagers soon find their lives in very real danger!

    Similar in plot to H.G. Lewis’ immortal 2000 Maniacs but without as much over the top gore, The American Scream is as entertaining as it is goofy. Aside from a strange and unusually dark ‘home movie’ segment inserted into the movie that feels like a found footage snuff film (and which, to be fair, definitely ties into the storyline), the tone in the rest of the movie is pretty light, as likely to play things for laughs than for scares. Not afraid to throw in some nudity (and it isn’t always good nudity) or crass humor (we get an ‘up-skirt’ sight gag in the opening scene), Linden keeps things moving at a pretty solid pace. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where the main storyline is going, but we get a few genuinely amusing twists in the film’s last half hour that help to keep things interesting and fun.

    The performances fit the tone of the movie pretty well, it doesn’t seem like anyone is taking much of anything all that seriously in the movie. Kevin Kaye is the goofiest of the bunch, seemingly there only for comic relief, with Matt Borlenghi playing the slightly cooler counterpart (though you can really only be so cool when you spend half the movie decked out in one of the most garishly decorated denim jackets you’ve ever seen!). Riley Weston and Jeanne Sapienza aren’t given as much to do as the guys in the film but they look good doing it, and Pons Maar and Jennifer Darling play the parental figures as perfectly oblivious. Blackie Dammett makes for a pretty fun heavy in the film and George 'Buck' Flower does what George 'Buck' Flower does best, playing a quirky redneck type with no small amount of wonky charm.

    Not enough? Beyond The Valley Of The Doll's Edy Williams has a brief cameo in the film as well!

    The American Scream – Blu-ray Review:

    The American Scream arrives on Region A Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation framed at 1.85.1 widescreen with the feature taking up 20GBs of space on the 25GB disc. The picture quality here is strong. There’s good detail noticeable throughout and the colors, many of which are quite garish in the way that you’d want the colors in a late eighties movie to be, are reproduced very nicely. We get strong black levels and good depth and texture while avoiding obvious compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction problems. Skin tones look good, contrast is fine and overall, this looks really good.

    English language audio options are provided in 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo with optional subtitles provided in English only. Overall, the audio quality is solid. The film’s score and bouncy soundtrack selections sound really solid here, and there are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion. The track is balanced nicely enough and the dialogue is always easy to understand and follow.

    Director Mitchell Linden offers up a quick introduction to the film as well as a full lengthy commentary where he’s paired with actor Kevin Kaye. They open by talking about why the Kevin Kaye credit was used when his name is Kevin Miller, casting the film and getting along with the other actors, using the executive producer's house to shoot the opening scene on the first day of the shoot, Linden's naivety as a director, where some of the music used in the film came from, where nods to Hitchcock and Jaws were inserted into the movie, the framing employed in certain scenes, why the toilet lid scene went wrong, when Linden got hit on by an Edy Williams, what it was like working with Flowers, how a lot of the people on camera never saw a script, how they feel about the movie years after it was made, shooting the 'home video' bit that is inserted into the movie, how they may have accidently ripped off a scene from Back To The Future, how Linden wrote the script while on his honeymoon and loads more. It's a pretty fun listen.

    Also included here is an episode of the Reel Collections with Edward Beasley podcast that covers "The Making Of The American Scream" that spends seventy minutes going over the film's history. Linden and a few others like writer Phil Hooper, production manager Joe Charbanic and actors Pons Maar and Kevin Kaye are interviewed here and they goes over how he came to make the movie, his penchant for experimenting with film as a medium, his lack of technical training, how he started doing music videos for IRS Records with Dread Zepplin and more. They also cover the casting of the movie, finding the right town to serve as the film's location, working with the art department on the film, using a lot of locals as extras, running into trouble when shooting the church scene that we see at the end of the movie, the film's low budget, the film’s release and more.

    Finishing up the extras is anm original trailer for The American Scream, a Culture Shock Releasing trailer reel, menus and chapter selection options. This release also comes packaged with some cool reversible sleeve artwork.

    The American Scream - The Final Word:

    The American Scream is an enjoyably goofy horror comedy with some really screwy ideas at play and some weirdly memorable set pieces. It won’t be for all tastes, and it’ll help to have an affinity for late eighties nostalgia, but Culture Shock has done a really nice job on the Blu-ray release and fans of the film should be pleased to see it looking as good as it does.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The American Scream Blu-ray screen caps!

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