A stepfather can be an extremely suspect proposition for a teenage girl. Sure they might want their mother happy, but there’s always a creepy suspicion that the new guy is up to something evil. Stories abound of the new “dad” doing his best to scam the wife out of the family fortune. Or there’s the creep factor that they’re really angling to live the Woody Allen fantasy with their new stepdaughter. Scream For Help explores the nasty side of remarrying from the view of a teenage girl.
Christie Cromwell (As the World Turns‘s Rachael Kelly) is a teenage girl living a life of privilege in New Rochelle, New York. She has a huge house and the preppiest of friends. But what she doesn’t like is how her mother (Slayground‘s Marie Masters) has left her dad and remarried Paul Fox (Cast Away‘s David Allen Brooks). She suspects the car salesman is up to no good. How much no good? She catches Paul coming out of the basement at night even though he claims he was working in the study. The next day, someone gets a major shock off the fuse box. Christie fears he has set a trap to kill her mother. She spies on Paul and quickly discovers he’s having an affair with a younger woman (Lolita Lorre). A series of near fatal accidents happen make Christie know that Paul is out to not only kill her mother, but her in order to get the family fortune. But her mother and the cops don’t believe her. Christie just gets deeper into things to prove that Paul is a horrible and homicidal stepfather.
Scream For Help plays like an R-rated After School Special. Right off the bat you know this isn’t a usual teen mystery since Christie walk in on her best friend getting freaky with a classmate. Later there’s a nasty homicide involving a car running over a character. Director Michael Winner had made his name directing Death Wish, The Mechanic and The Sentinel. And he brings that magic to a teenage coming of age drama turned thriller. David Allen Brooks is pretty cold blooded on the screen when he doesn’t have to fake being the perfect husband. He even gets a run for his money when Rocco Sisto (After Hours) turns up the intensity as part of his little gang to take care of the wife and daughter.
If you approach Scream For Help as a twisted after school special from 1984, this is an amazing movie. At it’s core this could be a film about the dangers of losing your virginity. Although nobody said one of those dangers was three psychopaths wanting to kill you and your mother. Sadly audiences of the time just took it as a film from the director of Death Wish and didn’t show up. The film has been rather obscure. But now it has a chance to shine.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The resolution brings out the charms of New Rochelle in 1984. The audio is English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA. The levels are fine even though John Paul Jones’ score is mixed a little high. But Winner paid to have another Led Zeppelin member compose so he wanted it noticed. The movie is subtitled.
Audio Commentary includes Justin Karswell author of Hysteria Lives!, The Slasher Movie Book and Amanda Reyes the writer of Are You In the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium.
Cruel Intentions (13:29) interviews writer Tom Holland. He isn’t too happy about how things worked out with Michael Winner. He wanted Richard Franklin to make it after working with him on Psycho II. He points out that this came out a year before The Stepfather, but has been forgotten. Winner had no idea of suspense and was all about action.
Stepfather of the Year (15:57) chats with actor David Allen Brooks. He speaks of his objective when playing the bad guy. He discusses how most of the film was shot in England. This turned out to not be good since his salary was eaten up by taxes.
Theatrical Trailer (2:40) really rocks up the tone of the film.
Scream Factory presents Scream For Help. Directed by Michael Winner. Screenplay by: Tom Holland. Starring: Rachael Kelly, Marie Masters, David Allen Brooks, Lolita Lorre and Rocco Sisto. Rated: R. Running Time: 89 minutes. Released: September 18, 2018.
Tags: Michael Winner, Scream Factory, Scream For Help