Either Christmas is fast approaching, or mankind really should have been my business, or Tiny Tim REALLY needs that operation, or something, because The Ghost Of Horror Past has visited me yet again. This time around the spirit has taken the form of Breaking Glass Pictures. As I look around, I realize that I have been whisked away to the days of big box VHS, slasher flicks, and scream queens. Yes folks, we’re headed to the 80’s. Please spirit, show me more…
Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, and Michelle Bauer. What do these three women have in common? If you said that they all participated in my What Halloween Means To Me event…well, you’d be wrong. Only Brinke Stevens and Linnea Quigley did that, but hey, two out of three ain’t bad. Unfortunately, Michelle Bauer never got back to me. Maybe next year. Anyway, the answer that I was looking for is that these three women are the lovely subjects of a documentary entitled Screaming in High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era. Yes Cellmates, these are the women that defined what it meant to be a scream queen, and they’re finally being given their proper respect. The flick follows the careers of the gruesome threesome from their beginnings in the film industry, some by design and some by accident, through their glory days in the 80’s, through the “scream queen dark ages” of the late 90’s, and into their resurgence in popularity today.
If you grew up on 80’s horror cinema, then the three afore mentioned ladies need no introduction. The flicks they’ve been in read like a “Must See” list from the video store era. Nightmare Sisters and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-rama may be the only two movies to feature all three of them, but Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Silent Night Deadly Night, Haunting Fear, Return of the Living Dead, Demonwarp, Evil Toons, Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity, Night of the Demons, and literally hundreds more feature at least one of these ladies. We’ve seen them die, we’ve seen them kill, and for many of us growing up in the days of VHS, we became men watching them undress.
The documentary is very well done. The three actresses are, of course, interviewed extensively. They’re all very candid, not only talking about their glory days, but also holding nothing back on subjects like the effects of aging on their careers and those that they feel are merely pretenders to the “scream queen” title. Additional interviews with filmmakers like David DeCoteau and Fred Olen Ray (another What Halloween Means To Me alumni) are very informative, shedding a lot of light on the way these films were made. There are plenty of clips from the movies themselves (offering up the prerequisite blood and boobs), as well as some cool footage of the ladies at conventions, accepting awards, being on the news, and meeting heads of state.
This isn’t the first time that director Jason Paul Collum has taken on the subject of women in horror. In 2003 he made another documentary about horror actresses called Something to Scream About, hosted by Brinke Stevens. While I do like that documentary (aside from one of the worst closing credits songs in the history of closing credits), this one shows a lot of growth from him. While STSA followed the “Brinke introduces a topic, the talking heads sound off on it, repeat” format, Screaming in High Heels carries a really nice through line. I don’t know about the current availability of his earlier documentary, but I have it on one of those cheap Brentwood 4 movie collections called Skinned Alive. Its “disc-mate” is the infamous, hilarious, and only-watchable-when-heavily-intoxicated Midnight Skater. You know, I need to review that sometime. It’s Suburban Sasquatch bad.
Just like Something to Scream About, Screaming in High Heels is short, running just over an hour. I keep debating with myself over whether or not this constitutes a valid gripe with the flick. When it was over, I was left a little unsatisfied just because I wanted more. The problem is, the doc is so well paced and constructed, and the subject is so thoroughly covered, that I don’t know what else could have been included that wouldn’t have stuck out as filler. On the one hand, I think it’s the perfect length to tell this story, but I was disappointed that it was over so soon. At least there is additional interview footage included as DVD extras to prolong your pleasure.Some of my favorite horror discs to be released in the last few years has come out of this wave of really good horror documentaries that’s been going on lately. Screaming in High Heels is a fun trip, albeit a quick one, that definitely deserves a place in the “nonfiction” section of your genre collection. If you’ve followed Brinke, Linnea, and Michelle’s careers, or 80’s horror in general, there’s not a lot here that you don’t already know, but it’s cool to hear the stories first hand. In a world where every chick with one z-movie and a headshot to her credit thinks she’s a Scream Queen, Screaming in High Heels reminds us of who really wears the crown. Long live the true Queens. One and a half severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.