Amicus Productions is giving Hammer a run for its money this year. As the “also ran” of British horror film houses of the 1960s and 1970s, Amicus is primarily known for their portmanteau films, but it’s not a one trick pony as it turns out. They might not have the quantity of films Hammer has, but they can make a good film when they put their minds to it. Case in point: tonight’s installment.
And Now the Screaming Starts (1973) is an unfortunate title for the film. It even surprised the movie’s stars, who thought they were making a movie called “Fengriffen,” based on the book of the same name by David Case. Clearly, producer Max Rosenberg was courting a specific audience with the rename.
Poor naming aside, Screaming is a fantastic film in the gothic vein. We’ve got a manor, a family curse, ghastly apparitions, howling out on the moors, people walking about in the dark with candelabras, and stormy nights with wind rattling the casements. We don’t get our heroine running across the moor in a nightgown as a single window glows alight in the manor’s tower, but that’s the only absence.
The plot involves the newly-married Catherine, who arrives at Fengriffen manor with her husband, Charles. For a few minutes, she’s happy with her new home and the life she’s about to begin with Charles. Then the movie hits her (and us) with a jump scare and it’s off to the gothic races! We get a lot of eyes cast pityingly in Catherine’s direction. We get a disembodied dismembered hand crawling across the carpeting. We get solicitors duty-bound to keep their employer’s secrets. We get Peter Cushing finally showing up after the movie is half over despite his star billing!
Screaming is unique among Amicus’ films as it’s the only period piece they made, but boy what a period piece. Despite its meager budget, Screaming is a textbook example of how to make a good gothic. I’m not sure if novelist David Case or screenwriter Roger Marshall is more deserving of praise, but I’d put Screaming up there with many of the other great gothic films. I think this one is a legitimate overlooked gem of a film. I have no hesitation in awarding the film 4 skulls out of 5 for being both an entertaining horror movie (I jumped, which doesn’t happen much) and a seriously good movie despite its humble origins.