Cheap Thrills: Scared To Death

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An ex-cop is called out of retirement to help investigate a string of deaths that are revealed to be the work of a monster stalking Los Angeles. A Bio-Engineered creature called a Syngenor in search of human spinal fluid to feed on.

Also released as The Aberdeen Experiment & Scared To Death : Syngentor

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You know me and a good 80s slasher movie – how could you go wrong with something called SCARED TO DEATH that also cane out at the height of the slasher craze. Read on and find out. Starting off with the usual pretty woman, breast shot and unexplained death we are in familiar territory. However it’s from here it goes downhill, a terrible script that is poorly acted fully of cringworthy dialogue and a soundtrack lifted from a porn movie.

When we get to victim number two we get our first glimpse of the killer and veering away from the usual slasher movie bad guys, our killer in SCARED TO DEATH looks like he’s from outer space, I’m not quite sure what look they were trying to go for with this but it just looks cheap, tacky in not in the slightest scary. As the film progresses and the body count mounts up the police officer leading the case ropes in his old friend Ted (John Stinson) and they discover that the creature was created in a laboratory and is killing its victims by sucking spinal fluid out of their bodies and making it appear that the victims have fallen into a coma or had an epileptic fit. What has been created is a syngenor – a synthesized, genetic organism which has escaped out of its laboratory and is now living in the sewers beneath the city. An interesting idea if poorly executed.

So what makes it so bad? Well for a horror film it fails to be scary, the few tense moments are let down by no violence or gruesomeness or gore and we see the creature approach its victim and then it cuts to the next scene. I get the low budget-ness of this but it just doesn’t do it for me as a horror fan and if this had been worked on it would have made for a better movie. I used to watch this stuff for the bad guys and the gore and this movie doesn’t tick either of those boxes.

That said it isn’t terrible, it’s a different addition to the genre that pilfers heavily from movies before it with a liberal dash of Alien thrown in to boot. There is a certain something about this film that redeems it from being terrible but it just feels like it was all done on the cheap but it was done too cheaply. For what I paid I can’t complain and it took me back to the sort of movies I loved when we first got a VHS player. Now where can I get a copy of Syngenor – the follow up to SCARED TO DEATH…


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Oh Joy, another Cheap Thrills movie,  This one stemming from 1980. Entitled Scared To Death, the directorial debut of William Malone (who is claimed to of designed the mask for Halloween….. though you could argue that was William Shatner’s parents).

A washed up ex alcoholic detective chasing down a genetically created monster who feeds on spinal fluid in the sewers, with the help of a woman he crashed his car into….. High art here folks!  Supposedly the lead was to be (a then unknown) Rick Springfield, who was replaced with John Stinson, an actor who in every closeup appears to be reading something (Que. cards?). The rest of the cast really don’t really fair much better.

This film is low budget in pretty much every aspect. B-movie of the worst kind in almost every imaginable department – acting, script, idea, dialogue and also sound and lighting. It hasn’t got any saving graces, it just doesn’t work.  For the most part its a detective movie in which the detective (for some reason) is chasing a monster through the streets…. A monster made by someone who blatantly saw Alien at the cinema.   As usual with low budget productions, the curse of the ‘omni directional’ microphone raises its ugly head. The sound is hard to hear in places, others fine, complete with stomping feet and plywood echos. Its not helping the film that it docent sound great.   The picture quality is also horrific (surprise!), it looks like a bad film to tape transfer compounded by a bad tape to DVD. It has that gaussian blur to it you get with film thats been badly transferred which makes the darker scenes a little confusing to watch (and there are quite a few). For this reason its had to tell what the film may of looked like on the screen 35 years ago.

Like a lot of cheap monster movies, the man in the rubber suit is seen very little, (considering Malones background you would expect the opposite). In the dark it appears to be a cross between Alien, The Creature From The Black Lagoon and Dan Akroyd’s Beldar. Due to the dark nature of the lighting, it looks a little kooky in the handful of appearances it makes and moves with the style and grace of a Sleestak. Thanks to the poor image quality, we don’t get to see enough of the suit and latex work which might be a good thing. That said in the photos it looked pretty cool, well – cool enough for a sequel.

That is correct, Scared to Death, actually spawned a sequel…. well the monster did, reappearing a decade after the original. Aside from the latex clad Syngentor there isn’t much connecting the two.  It did marginally better than the original, maybe that might be worth a watch.

To be honest, its a pretty hokey premise and a bit of a convoluted  and complicated story for the budget. Even with a better cast and some more money, I doubt they could of saved the film. It never gains a momentum and lacks the charm other ‘low budget classics’ have.
The sequel seems to have a fan base, this not so much.


Final-Score

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