Scream Blacula Scream (1973)

William Marshall and Pam Grier star in AIP's Blaxploitation sequel. Optimum UK R2 DVD

The Film

After the death of their leader, a voodoo cult in a contemporary American city becomes fractured over the choice of a new leader. One of the contenders, Willis, son of the deceased leader, enlists the help of a powerful witch doctor who tells him to perform a ceremony that will give him great power - instead, Willis restores to life Blacula (William Marshall) and is entered into the world of the undead. Upset about having been brought back to life, Blacula turns to the only woman with enough power to help him, Lisa (Pam Grier), but her friend Justin is suspicious after a series of animalistic killings, and is on Blacula's trail...

From the same writers as Blacula (1972), this sequel follows on indirectly - although there is nothing to stop the storyline flowing between the two parts, no mention is made of any of the events of the first film and Blacula's flashback only shows the prologue Count Dracula sequences of that production which therefore could allow this to work as a standalone film. Most of the ideas are continued however, Blacula being an African Prince, the vampires he creates being zombie-like and a himself taking on werewolf-like appearance when he becomes bloodthirsty. It is this final theme that gets explored more thoroughly here than previously, as Blacula seeks help to rid him from the 'curse' - a common storyline in werewolf films but more unusual in vampire lore.

Rather less effective is the complete recycling of the earlier film's human characters: a black hero who has links with the victims as well as with the police force and its white captain, who does some background reading into the killings and begins to suspect that a vampire might be involved, who meets with Blacula in person and discusses the ideas with him and who has to convince the skeptical police captain of his ideas to get him to act... Fortunately this is only a relatively minor part of the storyline in the sequel and so the repetition never becomes too jarring but some more originality might have given the film a boost.

The most prominent new idea in the script is the link to voodoo, a contrast to the Christian environment in which vampires usually appear (hence why crucifixes have power against them and which seemed to be the case in the first film when a crucifix was used several times - it is noticeable in this sequel though that no Christian imagery ever appears). Although never going into any real detail of the ceremonies and worship, the script makes it clear that the voodoo has genuine power and is practised by real believers, not just experimenting college kids. Unfortunately the seemingly key plot point about the battle for control of the group is forgotten early on as Willis becomes a vampire.

As with Blacula, the general tone of the film is more akin to the classic 1960s gothic horror films than the exploitation '70s horrors, so the film lacks any real gore and there is no sex or nudity at all - however there are a couple of good jump scares and the atmosphere in several of the sequences is genuinely tense and scary. As a 'Blaxploitation' film, Scream Blacula Scream still doesn't quite manage to tap into the urban scene (the voodoo community setting in particular makes these characters rather different to most of the target audience). The pacing is quite brisk and the film builds up to a particularly tense climax with a quite unique finalé. As a character, Blacula avoids the boogeyman status of the Hammer Dracula sequels and gets plenty of screentime, moreso even than in the first film, along with some juicy dialogue - his meeting with Justin has a wonderful underlying tension.

Director Bob Kelljan had already helmed Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) and its sequel and was the obvious choice to work on this film, replacing the rather tepid direction of William Crain from the first. The voodoo ceremonies in particular are filmed with flair and he manages to build up some good atmosphere in the horror scenes. Fortunately the awful looking face-paint of the vampires in the first film is not repeated here and the production is generally solid. Although boasting the requisite 'funky' opening soundtrack, much of the score is a more appropriate horror theme and Blacula's appearances are often heralded by a very creepy electronic chord.

Fortunately for all concerned, thespian William Marshall was willing to reprise the titual role a second time - his incredible presence and baritone readings give the film a superb backing and belie its exploitation roots. Don Mitchell takes a rare break from Ironside to head up the human cast, alongside Pam Grier who had already made a name in Blaxploitation and women-in-prison films - although to the disappointment of fans, she stays fully clad this time around. Richard Lawson (Poltergeist (1982)) and Michael Conrad (Un flic (1972)) provide solid support.

Some interesting new ideas and more interesting direction mean that Scream Blacula Scream is more enjoyable than its predecessor. It still doesn't manage to get onto the exploitation wagon and so fans looking for the all out Grindhouse experience should probably stay away, but if you enjoy the 1960s gothic horrors and want to see something offering a new twist on the genre, then this will certainly prove enjoyable. Recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? William Marshall - an American born actor best who also appeared in the first Blacula (1972)
Directed by anyone interesting? Bob Kelljan - an American director who usually worked in television, but also helmed the contemporary vampire twist Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) and its sequel The Return of Count Yorga (1971)
Any gore or violence? Some blood, nothing vivid.
Any sex or nudity? None.
Who is it for? Fans of the 1960s gothic horrors who enjoy a good twist.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
Generally good, some specking and light grain. Detail is good, despite the often very dark settings.
Audio English mono, sounds fine.
Subtitles None
Extras The disc includes:
  • Original theatrical trailer
Availability Only available as part of a double-pack with Blacula
Region Region 2 (UK and Europe) - PAL
Other regions? Also available in the US from MGM - includes the trailer, with English, French and Spanish subs.
Cuts? Fully uncut. The print used here is English.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 21st September 2008.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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