As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up at a time when the home video revolution was taking place all across America. Mom & pop video stores were cropping up on every corner, and the latest greatest schlock was available for a mere 99 cents (if even). So very much of what hit those shelves was largely forgettable garbage – the kind of thing that looked dynamic on the packaging but once you got home you realized it was shot with one shaky camera in some abandoned warehouse in South L.A. But one of the things this revolution did was provide a wealth of talented ladies the chance to show up and scream for dear life whether they were running from monsters, aliens, or slashers. They were called ‘scream queens,’ and nothing in the cinema has even been like them ever since.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on ...)
From the product packaging: “Invasion of the Scream Queens takes you back to a time when the term ‘Scream Queen’ was brand new and promised the hottest actresses in the best horror movies. Directed by cult horror icon Donald Farmer and featuring interviews with legendary Scream Queens Michelle Bauer, Brinke Stevens, Mary Woronov, Melissa Moore, Elizabeth Kaitan and more.”
Of course, there’s more to the product synopsis, but methinks you get the picture. If you were there and you experienced the revolution firsthand, you know exactly what it is you’re about to get with this 20th anniversary release (the original production hit the marketplace in 1992). This issuance is the first time it’s available for larger consumption on DVD, and, as such, it does come with a bevy of special features.
As for the movie? It’s a lean, 85-minute exploration of that memorable trend in home video. To be perfectly honest, it doesn’t hold up quite that well stylistically; it was no doubt shot on video, and I’m not sure if the master hasn’t been preserved or so much of the hazing and graininess was a directorial choice. (Personally, I think the former and less the latter.) Still, there’s something almost wholesome about a celebration of VHS schlock looking, sounding, and playing like itself is a piece of the same schlock, so maybe it’s artistic.
What the picture actually does quite well is it opens a window back to the time when these ladies – who were more than willing to show some skin along the way – reigned supreme in the home video market. Through these various interviews (most of which were taped against the same production backdrop highlighting some of the more famous releases), the viewer learns about the process each of them underwent to break into the entertainment business; and there’s even some interesting reflections about what they did as well as minor commentary on the nature of sex and violence in film if you’re listening closely.
It’s a shame it doesn’t look better, but – as they say – it is what it is.
INVASION OF THE SCREAM QUEENS: 20th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION (2014) is produced by VHS Hitfest (name changed slightly to make it Amazon.com-friendly). DVD distribution is being handled by the reliable Wild Eye Releasing. As for the technical specifications? Meh. I’ve pretty much covered that above, but – if you’re showing up late to the game – this video hasn’t quite aged as well as I would’ve liked. (The audio is still good, but some of the images flicker and break up.) Lastly – if it’s special features you want – then you have the following to look forward to: there’s a brief newly taped introduction from Director Farmer; an interview with the same; some deleted interviews; a very brief photo gallery; and an excerpt from the out-of-print “Invasion of the Scream Queens” book by Linnea Quigley.
RECOMMENDED. If you’re a fan of this genre, then you’re in store for some fun. If you’re just discovering it, then you might not be best served with INVASION OF THE SCREAM QUEENS. I’d encourage you to watch a few of the flicks you can get your paws on first as that experience will no doubt amplify the enjoyment available for those seeking the scholarship here. A good effort, just not all that grand, nor did it hold up as well as I would’ve liked.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Wild Eye Releasing provided me with a DVD copy of INVASION OF THE SCREAM QUEENS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.
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