Scared to Death – USA, 1980

‘If you’re frightened by the unknown… wait ’till you face reality!’

Scared to Death is a 1980 science fiction horror feature film written and directed by William Malone (previously chief designer at the Don Post mask studio), based on a storyline co-written with Robert Short (The Scream Team). The Lone Star Pictures production stars John Stinson, Diana Davidson, David Moses and Toni Jannotta.

In 1990, a belated sequel titled Syngenor was released. Malone has also directed Creature aka Titan Find; House on Haunted Hill (1999) and Parasomnia.

Plot:

A monster stalks Los Angeles as a Bio-Engineered creature called a Syngenor (which stands for SYNthesized GENetic ORgansism) takes refuge in the city’s sewer system and then hits the streets at night in search of human spinal fluid…

SCARED TO DEATH BRITISH AVATAR VHS SLEEVE

Reviews:

“William Malone’s maiden monster movie is nothing overly special, but does have some good qualities and a nicely constructed, if derivative monster. A few moments of suspense, a decent score (also derivative) and a good lead performance add up to a minor footnote in 80’s creature features.” Cool Ass Cinema

“Climax takes place in a factory and finally the film becomes harrowing. The characters, unfortunately, are all contrived and boring.” John Stanley, Creature Features

“One thing Creature did have going for it was far better visual direction. The camera angles, direction, and editing in Scared to Death are appallingly bad.” E.C. McMullen Jr, FeoAmante.com

“Most of the acting and dialogue is terrible and one can certainly do without all the “homages” to well-known names in the genre […] Still, the killings here are inventive and nasty, and that silver-eyed monster is scary enough to warrant a sequel.” John Kenneth Muir, Horror Films of the 1980s, McFarland, 2007

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“I can imagine that some will have a problem with the pacing which is kinda slow but I liked it. The sewer setting is pretty creepy and claustrophobic. The violence is lame and there’s no gore in this. The creature FX design is cool and I love that it’s a man in suit design.” Independent Flicks

“As a novice director, Malone’s directorial style is crude and far removed from the masterful suspense generated by Ridley Scott. He draws the suspense scenes out in over-obvious ways and lets the film plod in between. Indeed, the opening scene with a camera peeping in on a girl undressing, hearing noises and the lights going out gives you the impression that you are watching a slasher film rather than a monster movie.” Richard Scheib, Moria

“The production values are also low, given the budget this is understandable, but it gives the film a shoddy look, not helped by the fact that everything is so dark. Plus it’s dull. The promise of monster action is a false one as you’re cheated out of getting anything gory or half-way exciting.” Andrew Smith, Popcorn Pictures

“So we have the expected long sequences setting up potential victims, including a bit of nudity, a long rollerskating sequence (really), a monster that looks like a cheap version of one of Giger’s Aliens, right down to the extra thingy in its mouth that comes out when it’s planning to feed and a lot of monster cam, complete with heavy breathing.” Mark Cole, Rivets on the Poster

British poster artwork by Tom Chantrell

scared to death

Cast and characters:

  • John Stinson … Ted Lonergan
  • Diana Davidson … Jennifer Stanton
  • David Moses … Detective Lou Capell (as Jonathan David Moses)
  • Toni Jannotta … Sherry Carpenter
  • Walker Edmiston … Police Chief Dennis Warren
  • Pamela Bowman … Janie Richter
  • Mike Muscat … Howard Tindall (as Michael Muscat)
  • Freddie Dawson … Virgil Watson
  • Tracy Weddle … Kathy Sperry
  • Joleen Porcaro … Kelly – Victim #5
  • David Daniels … Michael, roller skater (as Joseph Daniels)
  • Stephen Fanning … Scott, roller skater
  • Greer Justin … Sandy, rollerskater
  • Johnny Crear … Victor Colter
  • John Moskal … Police Lab Man (as John Moskal Jr.)

Filming locations:

Los Angeles, California

Technical credits:

93 minutes | 1.85: 1

Alternate titles:

Originally known as The Aberdeen Experiment and also released as Scared to Death: Syngenor 

Release:

Scared to Death was shown at the Paris Festival of Fantastic Films in November 1980. It was released theatrically in March 1981.

In the UK, the film was passed uncut by the BBFC censorship body with an ‘X’ certificate and a running time of 87m 25s on 21 May 1981.

In the US, Retromedia released Scared to Death on DVD in a widescreen 16×9 anamorphic transfer from 35mm on April 22, 2008.

Related:

Syngenor – USA, 1990

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4 Comments on “Scared to Death – USA, 1980”

  1. Very underrated flick. Good storyline and FX were cool for that period. Enjoyed it a loro.
    And now for Syngenor 1990 !!

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