THE SILENT SCREAM (1979) Reviews and overview


‘Terror so sudden there is no time to scream.’

The Silent Scream is a 1979 American horror film about a young female co-ed student that moves into a creepy old house with a secret. It was promoted as Silent Scream

Directed by Denny Harris – his sole credit – from a screenplay co-written by co-producers Ken Wheat, Jim Wheat (Pitch Black; The Fly II; A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master; The Return) plus Wallace C. Bennett (The Philadelphia Experiment; Welcome to Arrow Beach).

The movie stars Rebecca Balding (The Boogens), Cameron Mitchell (Raw Force; Cataclysm; The Toolbox Murders; Blood and Black Lace), Avery Schreiber (Dracula: Dead and Loving It; Saturday the 14th Strikes Back; Galaxina), Barbara Steele (Piranha; Shivers; Castle of Blood; Black Sunday) and Yvonne De Carlo (American Gothic; Satan’s Cheerleaders; The Munsters).


Young co-ed Scotty (Rebecca Balding) is unable to find housing on the campus. She finds a vacancy at the Engels’ mansion, now a boarding house for college students. Mrs Engels (Yvonne De Carlo) and her son seem pleasant enough, but it becomes clear to Scotty that something is not right at her new residence.

When Scotty’s fellow boarders begin dying, two detectives (Cameron Mitchell and Avery Schreiber) must solve the mystery of the Engels’ boarding house before the body count rises…

Blu-ray release:

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Audio commentary by actress Rebecca Balding and writers Ken and Jim Wheat
Audio commentary by actress Barbara Steele (Blu-ray only)
Director Denny Harris’ final audio interview
Scream of Success – 30 Years Later featurette
Silent Scream – The Original Script featurette
The Wheat Brothers: A Look Back featurette
Interview with actress Rebecca Balding
TV spot
Theatrical trailer


” …does take a little bit of time to get going but once it does, proves to be a pretty entertaining horror picture. It dabbles in slasher movie elements and owes more than a little bit of a debt to Psycho, but still manages to do enough on its own to keep things interesting and unique enough to hold our attention.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

“The film does have some blood, but it’s hardly a gory movie. It instead relies more on a sense of unease and tension, and it milks said tension for all it’s worth. It also helps that the acting is good as well. Mitchell dials it down, and gives a decent (but slight) performance, while Rearden has a seriously creepy turn as the disturbed Mason.” Talk of Horrors

“Certainly Silent Scream must rank as one of the better-underplayed slashers from the early ’80s, an atmospheric murderfest well served by its old school plotting, restrained pacing and atmospheric buildup. It’s a solid effort worthy of appreciation.” The Terror Trap

“So much more than your typical horror flick, with minimal gore making way for maximum tension, Silent Scream is an interesting and creepy entry in the teen slasher cycle and one that I can happily revisit. Deliberately paced and well-acted by the cast, I think it’s one of the better genre entries and worthy of reappraisal.” Tina Aumont’s Eyes

“Good characters played by a rather exceptional cast distinguish this slow-burn affair, which features creepy murders (albeit very few of them) and a surprising finale in which Victoria isn’t the only one to lose her sh*t. A higher body count would’ve helped but as it is, Silent Scream does its job well with more class than most of the post-Carpenter efforts.” Vegan Voorhees

The Silent Scream has some devoted fans out there. To me though, it was too slow-moving and dull to pack a punch.  The first death is pretty cool (the body gets hidden inside of a sandcastle on the beach), but it takes half an hour before it occurs. The ending tries in vain to make up for the lackadaisical pacing by piling on plot twist after plot twist.” The Video Vacuum

“Bridging together existing scenes with clearer motivations, stronger relationships, and a linear progression that slowly builds drama, The Silent Scream is a low key slasher easily lost among the more traditional murderfests of the 1980s like Sleepaway Camp and Friday the 13th because of its less frenetic, more television-styled direction.” Zombos’ Closet of Horror

Contemporary reviews:

“In spite of its obvious flaws, Silent Scream is the best low-budget horror film since Halloween. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, so be it.” The Boston Globe

” …despite indulgences in improbable plotting and predictable gore, The Silent Scream is a scary, stylish Grand Guignol horror movie,” adding that director Harris “rarely miscalculates his shocks, and his quiet moments are even better.” Los Angeles Times

“The only frightening thing about Silent Scream is that there are people who will pay $5 to see it… Everything about the production is repulsively amateurish, and it is saddening to see performers like Yvonne De Carlo and Cameron Mitchell reduced to appearing in it.” The New York Times

” …crude and ineffective for the apparent reason that Harris is so absorbed in technique—in how a grasping hand or wielded knife is to be filmed—that he has ignored just about every other aspect of making a film.” The Philadelphia Inquirer

Cast and characters:

Rebecca Balding … Scotty Parker
Cameron Mitchell … Lieutenant Sandy McGiver
Avery Schreiber … Sergeant Manny Ruggin
Barbara Steele … Victoria Engels
Steve Doubet … Jack Towne
Brad Rearden … Mason Engels
John Widelock … Peter Ransom
Jack Stryker … Police Chief
Thelma Pelish … Housing Lady
Tina Tyler … Victoria at sixteen
Yvonne De Carlo … Mrs Engels
Juli Andelman … Doris Pritchard – Blood Cult
Annabella Price … TV Victim
Joe Pronto … TV Attacker
Jason Zahler … Mason at Three
Joan Lemmo … Rooming House Lady
Ernie Potvin … Boarding House Husband
Virginia Rose … Boarding House Wife
Ina Gould … Landlady
Rachel Bard … Nurse in Psycho Ward

Filming locations:

Downtown, Los Angeles, California
Occidental College -1600 Campus Road, Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, California
Santa Monica, California
Smith Estate – El Mio Drive, Highland Park, Los Angeles, California

Technical details:

87 minutes
Audio: Mono
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1

Production problems:

The Silent Scream had an extremely troubled production and most of the initial footage was re-shot. Director Denny Harris wrote the original screenplay but the footage he shot was considered unusable. Harris brought in brothers Jim and Ken Wheat who rewrote the script entirely. In early 1978 a new series of actors including Yvonne De Carlo, Barbara Steele and Cameron Mitchell were brought in for additional shooting. Apparently, only 15% of the original footage remained in the film.

Actress Diane McBain recalled that she was cast as a police detective in September 1977 when the film began shooting. She was later told that her character of a female police detective was “unbelievable” so her role was reshot with Cameron Mitchell as the main cop.


The Silent Scream was released theatrically by American Cinema Releasing on a limited regional release, opening in Tulare, California on November 15th 1979 and Honolulu, Hawaii on November 19th 1979. The movie performed positively at the box office, which prompted an expansion to 131 theatres throughout California in January 1980. It went on to become one of the most financially successful independent horror films of the 1970s taking $7.9 million.

Suggested double-bill:

The Boogens (1981)

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