Monday, December 4, 2023

Brad Sykes' Scream Queen

Cody checks out a "lost" Linnea Quigley movie that's now on Blu-ray, courtesy of Visual Vengeance.

Last year, Visual Vengeance gave a Blu-ray release to the horror film Heartland of Darkness, which was shot in 1989, then got “lost in obscurity and distribution false starts” for over thirty years, despite the fact that it starred the legendary scream queen Linnea Quigley. Now Visual Vengeance has rescued another Quigley project that slipped through the cracks, a film called Scream Queen – a very fitting title, given the star. As Visual Vengeance explains, “This super obscurity was shot in 1998 by indie horror stalwart Brad Sykes and finally finished in 2002.” Then, for twenty years, it was considered to be “lost”. Thankfully, we can now see what we’ve been missing out on.

By now, we’re used to bait and switch marketing where a movie is sold on the name of a popular actor, then that actor turns out to have very little screen time. When you start watching Scream Queen, you might fear early on that you’ve fallen for that trick again. Linnea Quigley’s character is genre icon Malicia Tombs, who is introduced while working on the set of her latest movie – a film she has also written the screenplay for. Malicia’s out-of-control ego leads to an argument on set, which ends with her storming off and driving away... and she hasn’t gotten very far before her car goes up in flames. Malicia is presumed dead, even though a body couldn’t be located in the burnt-out wreckage. And for a few minutes, it seems like we’ve seen all we’re going to see of Quigley in Scream Queen. Even though Malicia’s apparent death scene is followed by a much-appreciated music video for a song called “This Chainsaw Is Made for Cuttin'”, sung (by Quigley) to the tune of “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”.

Thankfully, Malicia is still a presence in the film after the opening credits have played out. At first, it’s through footage from the unfinished film she was working on. Then it’s revealed that she’s actually still alive, and she has gathered cast and crew from her movie - Jarrod Robbins as director Eric Orloff, Nicole West and Josh Matthews as co-stars Christine and Bud, Nova Sheppard and Emilie Jo Tisdale as costumers Devon and Jenni, and Bryan Cooper as FX artist Squib – together at a mansion to make an offer: if they stay at the mansion for one week, which will be spent finishing production on the movie, they’ll each receive $10,000. If they walk out, they forfeit their salary. Everyone agrees to stay at the mansion with Malicia and her servant Runyon (Kurt Levee).

From that point on, which is about half of the film’s 74 minute running time, we’re witness to these characters making their way around the “old dark house” – which is represented in exterior shots by an awesome miniature – and, yes, getting picked off one-by-one.

Scream Queen isn’t going to appeal to every horror fan. Not even every fan of Quigley’s from her roles in The Return of the Living Dead, Night of the Demons, or Silent Night, Deadly Night will be able to go along with this one. That’s because it’s an extremely low budget movie that was shot on video. The picture doesn’t look great, even upgraded for Blu-ray, and there are sound issues that can make it difficult to follow the story that’s being told through dialogue exchanges. Beyond the budgetary and technical limitations, it also has an awkward structure and pace. There were times in the first half when the sound and pace were working together to test my patience. But things picked up once the characters met with Malicia in the mansion, and I enjoyed the movie a lot more in the second half.

If you can tolerate the ‘90s shot-on-video style and want to add to your knowledge of Linnea Quigley’s filmography, give Scream Queen a chance. I wasn’t blown away by it, but it has its entertaining moments and Quigley did a great job as Malicia Tombs. I’m glad the movie has been unearthed and given a Blu-ray release, because twenty years is too long for any film to be “lost”.

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