Also known as The Captive Female and Matthew, Scream Bloody Murder was originally screened in 1973, the decade where this type of psychological horror would lead to the development of the full-on slasher movie. Co-written, produced, and directed by Marc B. Ray, the movie centers on the life of Matthew, who as a child murders his own father (Rob Max) by using a bulldozer to run him over (the film’s opening sequence). Sadly, Matthew does not know how to stop the bulldozer, so he decides to jump off, falling to one side and thus exposing his left hand. The dozer then runs over his hand, destroying it.
As a result of the murder, Matthew is locked away in a psychiatric hospital, where as a young man he learns that his mother has found love again, this time with a man named Mack Parsons (Robert Knox). At 18 years of age, Matthew (Fred Holbert) is released from the hospital, and he immediately sets for home, as he has missed his mother tremendously.
Upon discovering that his mom has married again, Matthew bides his time until he catches Mack alone. After stalking him in the dark, he murders him by using a two-headed ax. Mom finds Matthew hovering over her husband’s dead body, at which point she admits to being a sexual being (she says she likes it when Parsons touches her). Harboring strange and incestuous feelings for his mom, Matthew attempts to console her. However, she tries to pull away, falls down, and accidently hits her head on a giant rock. Horrified at the death of his mother, Matthew flees, the spectre of his mother haunting him from this point on.
The specter is so strong that Matthew cannot help but see his mother in any married woman he meets. As he hitchhikes through California, Matthew falls in with a newlywed couple, whom he murders when the woman begins to distort and look like his bloodied mom.
The bulk of the film then deals with Matthew’s infatuation with artist/prostitute Vera (Leigh Mitchell of The Incredible Melting Man), whom Matthew calls “Daisy.” Wanting to be Vera’s special friend, Matthew murders a drunken sailor (he pays for Vera’s services) in a jealous rage (he touched her!). Thinking that Vera needs security because she resorts to prostitution, he bluffs his way into a rich old woman’s mansion, where he kills the poor maid with a meat cleaver, beheads the poor dog, and smothers the old woman with a pillow. Matthew then commits petty crimes so that he can acquire funding for painting supplies, food, and fancy clothes for Vera.
Although impressed that Matthew is a “rich kid,” Vera is a free spirit and does not want to live with the kid forever, as he proposes. Rejected, Matthew grows desperate, taking her prisoner and tormenting her in an effort to become her friend. Vera tries numerous escapes, but she fails, accidently adding to the body count. The film’s climax has Vera and Matthew confronting each other one final time, with the inevitable results.
Scream Bloody Murder is a relatively bloodless film. For its time, however, the movie pushed the genre hard, incorporating facets of sex, gore, and psychological terror effectively. There’s little nudity, although it is implied, and the dialogue is provocative and somehow naive at the same time. Particularly creepy are the sequences in which Matthew uses various forms of bondage on Vera while trying to seduce her into becoming his friend. By being sexless in his approach, Matthew is overtly sexual, creating a strange tension through the length of the movie.
The principal problem with Scream Bloody Murder is the acting, which is subpar. In my opinion, I believe the actors and the director wanted to create an ambiance of gritty reality, but unfortunately that approach does not work very well. Fred Holbert is okay as Matthew, and he is particularly effective using his handicapped hand (it has a prosthetic hook) to seduce the unwary. Leigh Mitchell is the standout as Vera—Mitchell conveys the free spirit very well.
Hardcore horror fans should be on the lookout for Dr. Epstein, who comes to the mansion to give the old woman her arthritis injection. Dr. Epstein is played by none other than Angus Scrimm (under the name Rory Guy), who would later gain fame by playing The Tall Man in Phantasm.
Scream Bloody Murder should be of interest in those into psychological horror or suspense thrillers. It should also be of interest to those who would like to see the evolution of what would become the slasher movie. Although I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this flick, I cannot condemn it either. It’s good enough for one viewing.