Wichita, Kansas is not widely known for its horror output, but 1987’s Night Screams was a local slasher film produced in the area; it was created on a small budget and then saddled with some additional footage from Graduation Day and a Seka porno to pad out its runtime. This relatively unknown slasher follows the exploits of a high school class partying after a football game, adding both murderous outlaws and potential psychopathic students to the mix along with lots of hair, a dance number, and a confusingly connected early kill sequence. But the question is: does Night Screams manage to shine in the onslaught of slasher films released at the time?
Truthfully, not really. The film is certainly rough around the edges; while the actors put on a fairly good performance, it’s clear that the script is not strong enough to sustain the film’s storyline. Night Screams is quite messy with its attempts at setting up a mysterious killer, and the ending never provides a solid motive for the actions that take place. A few red herrings here and there help to keep the audience engaged and guessing, but ultimately the film’s sluggish direction – more concerned with teen romances, David’s (Joe Manno) struggles with his football scholarship, and dance parties – means the kills take a backseat for a majority of the movie.
With that said, there are a number of deaths with good practical effects later in the movie; it just takes the film too long to get there. Obvious influences from Friday the 13th abound, particularly with a grisly poker sequence. These add a fun atmosphere to Night Screams that will most likely entertain hardcore slasher fans, and for those that like to experience the lesser-known side of the late ’80s offerings, this Wichita slasher is worth at least one viewing.
It’s unfortunate, though, that the inclusion of Graduation Day inserts actually overshadows what Night Screams has to offer. Vinegar Syndrome has provided a Blu-ray version of the film attempting to remove all of the unnecessary porn and Graduation Day scenes, and this does showcase a better cut of the movie. Still, it doesn’t fix the overall pacing issues, nor does it remove the very long and unnecessary recap sequence during the end credits.
Overall, Night Screams is a mixed bag. It has a lot of unnecessary elements (like the escaped convicts) that don’t add a whole lot to storyline, and it spends far too long on setup before any payoff occurs later in the movie. But the killer’s end reveal is solid, as are the multiple gory kills that start to pick up the pace in the second half. Slasher fans will want to check this out, if only because it’s something new to experience; it’s certainly not the best the subgenre has to offer.
Full uncompressed screenshots from this 4K UHD.
Vinegar Syndrome has brought Night Screams to UHD with a new 4K scan of the original camera negative with HDR 10. The decision to release this on 4K instead of standard Blu-ray was the right one; the film looks fantastic in its 1.85:1 OAR with a medium grain presence. Details are high and the filmic elements look surprisingly strong, with very minimal noticeable damage. Here the HDR really shines, since the film does have dynamic lighting and makes use of a number of darker sequences that are well-managed by the HDR’s black levels. Overall color grading is excellent as well, and the film employs a few colorful lighting effects especially at the bar. Even the inserts look quite good. This is a great offering from Vinegar Syndrome, and it’s doubtful there will ever be a better way to watch this film. The included Blu-ray version without the Graduation Day and porn inserts looks virtually indistinguishable from the theatrical cut, too.
A DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track is included on all versions of this release, and it sounds strong with no pops, hisses, or other audio flaws. The soundtrack is strong with a catchy number and dialogue has no volume drops. English subtitles are also included, for both the theatrical and pre-release cut versions.
The extras are also enticing. A new audio commentary with director Allen Plone and cinematographer Eric Anderson is included on both the UHD and Blu-ray theatrical cuts, providing some great insight into the film’s production along with speaking at length about the additional inserts (this is basically a running theme throughout the commentary). On the Blu-ray theatrical disc, a feature-length documentary about the making of the film – effectively the same length as the movie! – includes cast and crew interviews and virtually every person who worked on the movie; it’s a great compilation of stories from the film’s production and definitely worth a watch to see the love that went into the original shooting before production meddling forced additional footage into the movie. Finally, a theatrical trailer is also included on the Blu-ray disc.
This release also gets reversible cover artwork featuring the alluring original art.
3-disc Region Free Set: 4K Ultra HD / Blu-ray x2
4K UHD presented in High-Dynamic-Range
NEW scanned & restored in 4K from its 35mm original camera negative
Includes both its Pre-Release and Standard Theatrical versions
NEW commentary track with director Allen Plone & cinematographer Eric Anderson, moderated by special features producer Ewan Cant
NEW “Blood and Chopsticks: Echoes of Night Screams” (80 min) – a brand new making-of documentary featuring interviews with its cast and crew (1080p; 1:20:06)
NEW Introduction for the Pre-Release version with executive producer Richard Caliendo and co-writer/producer Dillis L. Hart II (1080p; 0:30)
Original trailer (1080p; 2:03)
NEW Reversible sleeve artwork
English SDH subtitles
While Night Screams doesn’t compete with the bigger names in the slasher subgenre, its kills are fun enough to warrant a watch for fans. This UHD release from Vinegar Syndrome is an excellent addition to any collection, with a strong 4K scan and a feature-length documentary on the movie. Recommended.
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