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The Silent Scream (released as Silent Scream)[1] is a 1979 American slasher film directed by Denny Harris, and starring Rebecca Balding, Cameron Mitchell, Barbara Steele and Yvonne De Carlo. The film follows a college student who finds rooming in a hilltop boarding house where a homicidal killer is on the loose.

The Silent Scream
Poster of the movie Silent Scream.jpg
Theatrical poster, stylized as Silent Scream
Directed byDenny Harris
Written byJim Wheat
Ken Wheat
Wallace E. Bennett
Denny Harris
StarringRebecca Balding
Barbara Steele
Cameron Mitchell
Yvonne De Carlo
Music byRoger Kellaway
CinematographyMichael D. Murphy
David Shore
Edited byEdward Salier
Distributed byAmerican Cinema Releasing
Release date
  • January 18, 1980 (1980-01-18)
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$7.9 million (rentals)[2]


Scotty Parker, a college student in Southern California, is seeking a room for the fall semester at the last-minute. She is directed to a boarding house run by the standoffish Mrs. Engels; a Victorian mansion on a cliffside overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Mrs. Engels lives in the house along with her teenage son, Mason, and several other college students, including Doris, Peter, and Jack. The four students become friends, and decide to go on a double date together. Afterward, Doris and Peter walk along the beach near the house. Peter, drunk, makes unwanted advances on her, and Doris leaves him on the beach. He falls unconscious, and is awakened by an unseen assailant who stabs him to death with a butcher knife.

Lieutenant McGiver and Sergeant Manny Rusin are assigned to investigate Peter's murder, and Lt. McGiver grows suspicious of Mrs. Engels and her son. One afternoon, Scotty and Doris meet in the basement laundry room, where Doris tells her she is planning on moving after what happened to Peter. Scotty returns to her room with Jack, and the two begin to have sex. Meanwhile, in the basement, a woman bursts out of a hidden door, stabbing Doris numerous times in the head and chest.

The woman flees through the secret door, which opens to a hidden staircase that travels along the house's air ducts, eventually leading to a room located off the main attic space. Scotty goes downstairs to get her laundry, where she finds a pool of blood, and Doris gone. She discovers the secret door, and ascends the staircase. At the top, she finds a narrow hallway with a door at the end. She attempts to open it, and is attacked by the woman, who pulls her inside. The commotion alarms Mrs. Engels, who enters the room from an access door in the attic and intervenes.

Mrs. Engels reveals that the woman, Victoria, is her daughter. Mason chastises his mother for having taken in boarders at the house, knowing of Victoria's violent outbursts. Mrs. Engels then reveals to Mason that Victoria is in fact his mother: After a suicide attempt, she gave birth to him, but was left mute and homicidal after undergoing a botched lobotomy at a psychiatric hospital. Meanwhile, Jack searches for Scotty throughout the house, but is unable to find her. He is confronted by Mason downstairs, who knocks him unconscious.

At the police station, Sgt. Rusin uncovers a file on Victoria's past and determines she has been living in the Engels home after being taken out of the psychiatrist hospital; he and Lt. McGiver promptly leave to go to the boarding house. Meanwhile, with Scotty bound and gagged in a closet, Mrs. Engels attempts to console the childlike Victoria. Mason obtains a gun from his bedroom and returns to the attic, attempting to kill Victoria. In a struggle, he inadvertently shoots Mrs. Engels through the chest, killing her. With his back turned, Victoria approaches Mason. He turns around, and she stares at him blankly, moving closer with a knife. Cornered against a window, he shoots her, and then shoots himself in the head.

Scotty manages to free herself, but finds Victoria has survived the gunshot; she attacks Scotty with the knife. Jack awakens just as Lt. McGiver and Sgt. Rusin arrive at the house. They enter the attic and find Victoria collapsed with a knife in her stomach. Jack consoles Scotty as Victoria dies on the floor.


  • Rebecca Balding as Scotty Parker
  • Cameron Mitchell as Lt. Sandy McGiver
  • Avery Schreiber as Sgt. Manny Rusin
  • Barbara Steele as Victoria Engels
  • Steve Doubet as Jack Towne
  • Brad Rearden as Mason Engels
  • John Widelock as Peter Ranson
  • Juli Andelman as Doris Pritchard
  • Yvonne De Carlo as Mrs. Engels
  • Jack Stryker as Police Chief
  • Thelma Pelish as Housing Lady
  • Tina Tyler as Victoria at 16
  • Jason Zahler as Mason at 3
  • Annabella Price as TV Rape Victim
  • Joe Pronto as TV Rapist
  • Joan Lemmo as Rooming House Lady
  • Ernie Potvin as Boarding House Husband
  • Virginia Rose as Boarding House Wife
  • Ina Gould as Landlady
  • Rachel Bard as Nurse in Psycho Ward


The film had a tumultuous post-production process where a large portion of the film was re-shot.[3] Diane McBain recalled that she was cast as a police detective in September 1977 when the film began shooting in the Smith Estate, Highland Park, Los Angeles, Eagle Rock, Los Angeles and Occidental College with the film written and directed by Denny Harris. The film was considered un-releasable. Harris brought in brothers Jim and Ken Wheat who rewrote the script. In early 1978 a new series of actors including Yvonne De Carlo, Barbara Steele and Cameron Mitchell were brought in for new shooting. Only 15% of the original footage remained in the film. McBain was told that her character of a female police detective was "unbelievable" with her role reshot with Mitchell as the detective.[4]


The film was released theatrically by American Cinema Releasing; it was released in limited theaters in November 23, 1979 in Victor, Texas,[citation needed] and in January 30, 1980 in Bismarck, North Dakota. Outside of being limited in cinemas in the United States, the film screened regionally throughout 1980.[5][better source needed] It grossed an estimated $15,800,000 at the box office.[6] According to the chart book by Leonidas Fragias, it was a number one film in cinemas for the weekend of 6 February, 1980. The silent is usually known by its shortened title.

The film was released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment and Video Treasures.

The film was released by Scorpion Releasing on DVD in 2009 and on Blu-ray in 2017.[7]



  1. ^ a b "Silent Scream (1979)". American Film Institute. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
  2. ^ Nowell, Richard (December 23, 2010). Blood Money: A History of the First Teen Slasher Film Cycle. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 257. ISBN 978-1-441-12496-8.
  3. ^ "Silent Scream (1980)". Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  4. ^ p. 285 Mc Bain, Diane & Michaud, Michael Gregg Famous Enough - A Hollywood Memoir 2014 BearManor Media
  5. ^ "Company Credits for The Silent Scream". Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  6. ^ "Silent Scream (1980)". Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  7. ^ "Silent Scream (DVD)". Retrieved April 13, 2011.

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