A.J.’s Big ’80s Horrorthon #15: “From a Whisper to a Scream” (1987)
by A.J. Hakari
Bless the horror genre for continuing to crank out anthology films, even if it can’t seem to get them just right. Sure, Trick ‘r Treat was quite good, and Creepshow has a sizable fanbase (of which I’m no member), but more often than not, movies containing multiple tales of terror err on the side of underwhelming. A best-case scenario has maybe one really cool vignette, with the others holding various ranks of blah. From a Whisper to a Scream (also known as The Offspring) holds such a distinction, with a selection of mainly forgettable stories that still aren’t as limp-wristed as director Jeff Burr’s attempts to tie them all together.
As our picture begins, the town of Oldfield, Tennessee is at last executing Katherine White (Martine Beswick) for a decades-long murder spree. But she’s not the only product of Oldfield to develop a taste for blood, as her uncle Julian (Vincent Price), the local librarian, relates to a reporter (Susan Tyrrell) in four anecdotes from the town’s horrible past. The first features a mild-mannered loser (Clu Gulager) whose obsession with a co-worker persists even after he strangles her to death. After that, we see a crook on the run (Terry Kiser) who stumbles on a hermit (Harry Caesar) who may have the secret to immortality. Third at bat is the tragic tale of a glass eater (Ron Brooks) trapped in a supernatural carnival act, while the fourth story closes us out with kids exacting violent vengeance on a unit of soldiers in the Civil War.
On their own, the segments of From a Whisper to a Scream aren’t by any means awful. They basically share the same nondescript routine of steadily ramping up the grotesque imagery until arriving at twists that won’t win them any originality awards. The acting is alright, the cinematography is okay (if a little too muddy at times), and the scares are all very boilerplate. The segment with the thug and the voodoo man is easily the best, boasting the better performances and most deliciously ironic denouement of the whole lot. They’re all passable, but Burr (who helped kneecap the Pumpkinhead franchise with Blood Wings) is unusually insistent on using the idea that Oldfield itself is the real villain to connect the shorts. It’s a poorly-executed concept that never comes to fruition, even worse off than The House That Dripped Blood trying to make us scared of a mansion that barely figured into any of its own stories.
Save for underutilizing the great Vincent Price to an almost shameful degree, From a Whisper to a Scream is guilty of no crimes against cinema. It comes in, trots out the odd mutilated corpse and fetus monster, then allows all parties involved to move onto better (and worse) phases of their respective careers. From a Whisper to a Scream is bearable, but for something that’s upstaged by Creepshow 2, you know it could’ve tried harder.