Screaming in High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era (2011)

Description (from the IMDb):
Three girls living in Los Angeles, CA in the 1980s found cult fame when they “accidentally” transitioned from models to B-movie actresses, coinciding with the major direct-to-video horror film boom of the era. Known as “The Terrifying Trio,” Linnea Quigley (The Return of the Living Dead), Brinke Stevens (The Slumber Party Massacre) and Michelle Bauer (The Tomb), headlined upwards of ten films per year, fending off men in rubber monster suits, pubescent teenage boys, and deadly showers. They joined together in campy cult films like Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-a-Rama (1988) and Nightmare Sisters (1987). They traveled all over the world, met President Reagan, and built mini-empires of trading cards, comic books, and model kits. Then it all came crashing down. This documentary remembers these actresses – and their most common collaborators – on how smart they were to play stupid.

Major Cast:
Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley, David DeCoteau, Richard Gabai, Ken Hall, Ted Newsome, Jay Richardson, Fred Olen Ray

Special Features:
None (Screener)

Written and Directed by Jason Paul Collum

Now this was a fun movie.  I’ve been into B-Movies since my friends and I rented THE TOXIC AVENGER in probably the 4th or 5th grade (luckily for us, my friend’s Dad did not take any time to see what we were renting, and back then Blockbuster didn’t suck a fat nut yet), and over the years my appreciation for camp has grown.  Video was one of the major revolutions of the movie world, probably the biggest game changer since the beginning of making movies; now you no longer had to get a distribution company to pay money to make prints of your film, and market your film, and get theaters to show your film.  A VHS tape cost a couple of bucks to duplicate, and when video first started they sold for ridiculous prices (I’m pretty sure my Dad shelled out $99.99 for a VHS of TERMINATOR 2 when it first came on video).  The next revolution that really cemented video in the indie world was the camcorder; now you could SHOOT a movie on video, so not only do you not have to pay for all those aforementioned expenses, but now you don’t need a hundred-thousand dollar camera, or films stock that costs ten bucks a minute to shoot on.  You shoot the movie on VHS, you edit the movie, then your record it back onto a fresh VHS… movies just got really accessible to make.  Not necessarily good, but accessible.

A young Linnea Quigley in one of her earliest roles, PSYCHO FROM TEXAS

SCREAMING IN HIGH HEELS: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE SCREAM QUEEN ERA is all about this magic time in moviemaking history: the late 70’s (when indie films were being made a little, but still had to get distributed to theaters), through the 80’s (the VHS revolution), and into the early 90’s (when the video stores stopped supporting indie movies).  SiHH follows the first three women to really, truly, become famous on the heels of this revolution, Brinke Stevens, Linnea Quigley, and Michelle Bauer.  If you’ve seen pretty much ANY 1980’s B-grade horror, you’ve seen at least one (if not all, as they had a few movies that all three were in) of these women’s performances.  They came from different backgrounds – Stevens was going to be a marine biologist until the science-y jobs dried up –but all ended up making their names well known on little cardboard sleeves.

Brinke Stevens in SLAVE GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY

SiHH is presented as a mix of interviews with the women, as well as a host of other notables from the pre-video and video era, inter-cut with clips from movies, clippings from magazines, and cuts from TV from the time.  Collum, obviously a fan (as the film is listed as a “Jason Paul Collum Scream Come True”), has done his homework, and has taken the time to find the people that know what went down.  He has crafted an informative, fun to watch, and fun to experience retrospective of a time that was so formative in my movie development, and important to so many others.  Not only is SiHH full of great stories from behind the scenes of this time period, it also has a nice “plot” to it, as a fan you want these filmmakers to succeed forever, but as a person you know this will have a somewhat sad end.  Unfortunately, in the early 90’s, Blockbuster (and to a lesser extent, Hollywood Video), stopped supporting the indie scene, and filmmakers once again were regulated to the “distributor” system, but now the distributors had even more leeway to screw you as they knew your movie didn’t really cost very much at all.  And now all they had to do was shell out a few bucks to make the movies, a few bucks to advertise, and then use their connections to get it where people would actually see it.  Luckily, with the dawn of digital video and the growth of the Internet and the option of print-on-demand and sites like Kickstarter, filmmakers are starting to get some power back.

Michelle Bauer in her first non-softcore movie, THE TOMB

The production quality of SiHH was very good; all of the new interviews were obviously shot HD, and there was definitely some money behind the production.  My screener was letterboxed, but I assume that the DVD you would go buy is 16:9.  The sound is really nicely recorded, and I never had any issues with any of the production.  Some of the video is pretty shoddy, but what do you expect, these are clips from VHS and TV fro the early 80’s!  The opening credits were great as well, and really set the mood for the whole film.  Plus, you have to love a documentary that has so many boob shots, but again that should be expected with the subject matter being covered!  My only real drawback with the film at all was its length; I really was surprised that it clocks in at just over an hour, and feel like there had to have been more of this story that could be covered.  The movie moves at a good clip, and I wouldn’t want more filler just for the sake of time, but it really seems like there MUST have been more interesting stories that could have been included, especially with the great cast of interviewees.

All three queens are interviewed about their “skills”

Overall, I really enjoyed SiHH.  It was a really well made documentary about a subject I hold near and dear to my heart.  Collum has truly crafted a love letter to the VHS and B-Movie revolution, and to the woman who carried that revolution on their backs, and has supported that love with a lot of good solid information to back it up.  SiHH is not just a fluff piece about how awesome these movies were, it includes a lot of behind the scenes information that made me truly feel like I understand what was going on with this revolution a lot better than I did before as just an outside observer.  I would highly recommend this film to anyone that enjoys a good documentary, and truly to anyone that rented a cheesy flick from the video store any time in the 1980’s.

Overall 8.5 / 10

SIHH on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2007995/

SIHH for sale: http://www.breakingglasspictures.com/index.php?option=com_jmovies&Itemid=2&task=detail&id=156  (releases August 28th)

SIHH site: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Screaming-in-High-Heels-The-Rise-Fall-of-the-Scream-Queen-Era-2011/108629379215279

Screaming in High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era (2011)
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