I’m a sucker for a good Horror movie documentary. Hearing the architects of various subgenres talk passionately and intimately about their work acts as motivation for me to revisit, or indeed enjoy for the first time, the movies being examined.

SCREAMING IN HIGH HEELS – The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era, is a new 63 minute documentary released through Breaking Glass and Vicious Circle films. The visual document is centred on three actresses who made the transition from modelling to B-Movies just as the B-Movie itself was shifting from silver screen to VHS cassette.

Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer and Brinke Stevens are the ladies in question and were the first to be affectionately referred to as "Scream Queens" due to their archetypical roles in such cinematic treats as "Return of the Living Dead", "Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers", and "The Slumber Party Massacre" respectively. While it’s possibly commonly known that "The Terrifying Trio" carved a little niche in the home video market, it is perhaps not so widely recognised just what sort of work ethic these actresses had.

NIGHTMARE SISTERS, for example, was shot in the ridiculously short time frame of a mere 4 days! As director David DeCoteau recalls, this was largely down to the three actresses whose sheer professionalism meant their scenes were shot in a budget and time welcoming single take.

In order to appreciate the ‘direct to video’ Horror boom, you have to hit rewind back to the late 1980’s. It wasn’t just the ‘Radio Star’ that video killed but the Drive In cinema experience as well.

The documentary features filmmakers associated with the so called B-Movie such as Fred Olen Ray who recalls, the demise of the Drive-In wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Not for potential filmmakers anyway. You see, distributors had an annoying habit of hiding money when the Drive in circuit was thriving. But when lurid VHS covers started to appear on the shelves of the family run "Mom ‘n Pop’ convenience stores of America it gave the likes of director Fred Olen Ray and David DeCoteau the opportunity to make a living purveying the American public’s new found lust for cheap and cheerful movies in their own homes.

It was around this time the 3 aforementioned ladies got the taste for Hollywood and a marriage in trash movie heaven was made.

SCREAMING IN HIGH HEEL’S mission is to tell that story. It contains a delightful mix of present day interviews with Stevens, Bauer and Quigley, shot exclusively for the film, along with a plethora of clips of their work. There are even a few snippets of interviews in all their fuzzy VHS picture quality glory of the actresses back when they were making the movies and accepting B-Movie best actress awards! The ladies look back at their prime with a sense of fun and honesty and are, quite rightfully, unashamedly proud of their endeavours in this era.

The film also touches on the SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT furore when certain factions of the US media and public took offence at the notion of an axe carrying Santa. ("What Next - Killer Bunnys?" screams one placard). Then there is a clip from the incredibly bizarre and unequalled LINNEA QUIGLEY’S HORROR WORKOUT (aerobics with zombies -Jane Fonda eat your heart out. NO... I mean REALLY... remove your ticker and take a chomp!)

The documentary conveys a distinct honesty. Seeing how Brinke Stevens has developed longevity into her career is intriguing, while on a more sobering note, the subject of stalkers is addressed. While the ladies were regulars at Horror conventions and answered their fan mail in person, this was the era of the infamous Rebecca Schaeffer tragedy (a mainstream sitcom TV star that was stalked for 3 years before being murdered by an obsessed ‘admirer’). As such, they speak of how they had to be switched on enough to know when to detect that 0.00001 % of so called fans that don’t know where to draw the line…

Of course what goes up, must come down, and with the emergence of mainstream home entertainment suppliers such as Blockbuster Video, it meant their era came to an end.

In summary SIHH makes for a cracking hour’s viewing and will have a few of us (me me me me!) reminiscing about how a quarter of a century ago our lust for blood, boobs and belly laughs was partially satisfied!

Review by Marc Lissenburg

Released by Breaking Glass Pictures, Vicious Circle Films
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review