Screaming in High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era Movie Review

Written by Steve Pattee

DVD released by Vicious Circle Films

Written and directed by Jason Paul Collum
2012, 63 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on September 4th, 2012

Linnea Quigley as Herself
Brinke Stevens as Herself
Michelle Bauer as Herself
Fred Olen Ray as Himself
David DeCoteau as Himself
Kenneth J. Hall as Himself


Every time I review a documentary, I'm pretty sure I mention I love documentaries. They are a favorite genre of mine. Unfortunately, the marriage between horror and documentary is often times a dysfunctional relationship. For every Snuff: A Documentary About Killing on Camera, there are three shitty ones put out only to make a buck (see any made-for-TV "special" that usually plays around Halloween). So it's extra pleasing when something like Screaming in High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era comes along and knocks it out of the park.

Originally shown in an edited cut on Chiller TV (ironically contradicting my previous statement) earlier this year, this release of Screaming in High Heels is unrated, meaning you get the bosoms and language that was missing before. The doc tells the story of three of the original scream queens: Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, and Michelle Bauer, going into how they got their start in the business, how they got the scream queen moniker, the trials, tribulations and love of working in independent film, and so much more. And before you can say, "But they aren't the original scream queens, what about...!", don't get worked up. As explained in the film, they are the first to get that title and the women who came before them are acknowledged.

Screaming in High Heels
is packed with fascinating tidbits. In addition to exploring how the ladies got into film and exploring the movies they were in and the doors they busted open for others (like the awesome Debbie Rochon and Tiffany Shepis), it delves into the heyday of the VHS and drive-in, both of which played a key role into the scream queens' careers.

Interviews are aplenty, as well. Obviously there is much time spent with Quigley, Stevens and Bauer, but you also have David DeCoteau (Creepozoids), Richard Gabai (Nightmare Sisters), Fred Olen Ray (The Tomb), and more discussing both working with the femme fatales and the state of the scream queen today. Olen Ray is hands down the best of the bunch. I've always been a fan of his interviews because he is brutally honest, telling it like it is, feelings be damned. My favorite part is when he rants on those that call themselves scream queen today, explaining why they not only don't deserve the self-imposed title, but also why they are part of the reason why the monicker has lost much of its power. Even Brinke Stevens talks about how for a while she disliked being known as one because of the jackasses abusing the term.

Part of what makes the movie so good is it pulls no punches. The subjects interviewed are honest and forthcoming on the topics. It's compelling because the women don't shy from the questions and discuss all aspects of their careers, both the ups and the downs. Brink Stevens in particular goes into such things like how her roles have been affected with her age, how she brilliantly marketed her name, where independent film is today for women, and more.

While Screaming in High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era certainly concentrates on the women that made that name a household term, it effortlessly lives up to its title, too. From beginning to end, it's a wonderful watch even for those who may not be a fan of the '80s low-budget horror / scifi / exploitation genres. Admittedly, I haven't seen over half of the films mentioned in the doc, but the questions posed (like what is a scream queen) and the story of those that made it happen is a terrific journey.

Video, Audio and Special Features:

Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.


Movie: 4 Stars
Video: n/a
Audio: n/a
Features: n/a
Overall: 4 Stars

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Steve Pattee
US Editor, Admin
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
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