Release Date(s)1987 (April 28, 2015)
Studio(s)MGM (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A
From a Whisper to a Scream is a horror anthology film from 1987 (released in the U.S. as The Offspring). It features Vincent Price, in his final horror film role, recalling four separate stories that have taken place in the small town of Oldfield, Tennessee. His insistence that there is something evil about the town itself is personified within the different time periods that each of the four stories take place in.
From a Whisper to a Scream is certainly one of the direct predecessors to the Tales From the Crypt TV series that came later. The overall dark tone and ironies of each segment, along with the sometimes excessive use of gore, make it more of an over-the-top horror film than what the MPAA would normally have allowed to pass during the 1980’s. Most horror films during that timeframe, especially slashers, came under the censorship knife both heavily and often, yet a film From a Whisper to a Scream managed to escape its grasp relatively unscathed. It’s a powerful and somewhat unnerving film at times, especially concerning the first and last stories, both of which involve murdering women and children.
The main reason that the film has stuck around as much as it has is because of Vincent Price. His presence and persona seemed to have helped bring in an audience of people that might not have come otherwise. It’s no secret that he wasn’t exactly thrilled with the film once it was released and regretted doing it in the first place. Yet according to those who worked on the film, he never showed that kind of contempt and was very professional. Other notable actors that appear in the film include Clu Gulager, Terry Kiser, Rosalind Cash, Lawrence Tierney (more of a cameo appearance than anything), and the late in his career, low grade actor Cameron Mitchell. Mitchell is surprisingly effective in the film, giving a very chilling and underappreciated performance. Considering the types of movies he was doing in those days, it’s a bit refreshing to see him be so compelling.
From a Whisper to a Scream also had the potential of going horribly wrong during all phases of its production. If you take a look at something like Helloween, a movie that, for lack of a better description, doesn’t deliver the goods, you’ll discover that many comparisons can be made between the two. However, From a Whisper to Scream turned out to be a quality horror film. First-time director Jeff Burr and his crew should be commended for pulling it off so well. Visceral horror films are hard to come by, and From a Whisper to a Scream is certainly along them.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of the film is mostly terrific, but is a little problematical when it comes to the quality of the presentation. The strong points are with the film’s thick grain structure, which has been retained, as well as its color palette, which looks very natural and lush. Black levels are never that deep due to the grain, but contrast levels are good, and there seems to be no signs of digital tinkering. However, this release suffers from compression issues. There is some definite evidence of macroblocking on display. If Shout! Factory had been able to license this title as a Collector’s Edition release and all of the extra content could have gone onto a separate disc, then the main presentation may not have suffered for it. It’s definitely not so bad that it’s unwatchable, but it could have been a little bit better. The only audio track available is an English 2.0 LPCM track (rather than a DTS-HD track, as advertised). Dialogue is always clean and clear, but both sound effects and score sometimes jockey for position in the mix, with the score often losing out. Some of the effects sound slightly dated at times, but overall, this is a very good track with no major issues. Subtitles are also included in English for those who might need them.
This release also features a wealth of extra material, all of it definitely worth checking out. There are two audio commentaries, one with writer/director Jeff Burr and the other with writer/producer Darin Scott and writer C. Courtney Joyner; the (excellent) long-form Return to Oldfield: The Making of From a Whisper to a Scream documentary; another long-form documentary entitled A Decade Under the Innocence, which explores Jeff Burr’s early days as a filmmaker; a stills gallery; the film’s original theatrical trailer; and a set of TV spots. As I said previously, a good portion of this material could have easily fit onto a second disc, leaving the main presentation more room to breathe, but such is the ways of sub-licensing.
Scream Factory’s release of From a Whisper to a Scream offers up a film that’s definitely been hiding in the shadows for many years. It’s not exactly considered a classic or cult film, but if you’re a fan of horror anthology films, you’ll definitely want to check this one out as its one of the more effective ones out there.
- Tim Salmons