Director – Rufus Butler Seder
Cast – Rufus Butler Seder, Eugene Seder, Basil J. Bova, Cheryl Hirshman, James McCann, George Cordeiro, Clif Sears, George Kuchar, Johanna Wagner, Lonny McDougall
Release Year – 1985
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I came across Screamplay one day while searching for used DVDs at a local video shop. I had never heard nor read of Screamplay before, but after learning the plot and seeing that it was distributed by none other than Troma Entertainment I thought “what the hell?” and picked it up for purchase. Well, after giving this one a watch I can say that it is a truly unique film that may turn off those who do not enter it with the right mindset, and that is exactly what I enjoyed about this flick.
This one stars its very own director, Rufus Butler Seder, as Edgar Allen, a promising screenwriter who moves to Hollywood to capture his dreams. While working on a murder film, Edgar’s imagination becomes so vivid it seems the scenes he writes are actually coming true…and they are. As more and more of the people around him are murdered due to what he types on his typewriter, a pair of detectives catch on to Edgar, which threatens his dreams and sets him up for Hollywood failure.
You can probably tell just from the plot alone that this flick has a lot to do with Hollywood, and most of the Hollywood references are not pleasant. It seems co-writer/director/actor Rufus Butler Seder played heavily on a screenwriter’s experience with the Hollywood scene and culture. From shady overzealous producers to the weird cookoo’s you wind up living across the hall from in your small run-down apartment, Rufus creates a fun watch with little at hand. But wait, there’s more! Fans of German expressionist film will be heavily pleased to see many influences from popular expressionist films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which Edgar Allen highly pays homeage to during the scenes in which he gets a little too “into” his script.
Seder’s direction really brings out the expressionist tone in this flick, and I must commend him for doing a whole lot with very little at hand. It is obvious that this film’s budget is very low, but it seems Seder took that and ran with it and used it to his advantage by giving this a really “old” feel that left me flabbergasted that this flick debuted in 1985. I know the 80s are not the staple for high-quality filmmaking, but if I did not know any better I would say that this came from the 1940s, not 1985, a year before Cronenberg defined director capability with The Fly. This film’s crappy yet beautifully shot sets give this a fun atmosphere that will leave you chuckling at the cheeziness, but appreciative of the art involved. Plus, we get some pretty sweet kills that I did not see coming due to this flick’s budget, which is always a plus.
The rest of the storyline outside of what I have already mentioned is fun and zany, and you must be prepared for that. I assume some will be put off by the look and feel of this flick, and the quirky dialogue and surreal influence on many elements in the story were an acquired taste to me at first, but only because I was not entirely sure of what to expect with this one. At times this film does tend to drag, and that is the biggest reason why this did not receive a higher rating. The symbolism and shout-outs incorporated were awesome to watch, but poor pacing at too many instances showed that the screenplay from Screamplay could use some work.
Overall, this is a cool watch that is sure to be unlike most films we get in the horror genre, especially from the year of 1985. Fans of German expressionist and surrealist films should find this an enjoyable film to marvel at, but those who have no interest in such things should stay away from this one.