FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

May 19, 2006

Ghost Week Day 9: The Screaming Woman

All right, I need to get this out of the way up front: there are no ghosts in The Screaming Woman. I thought there would be, but alas, no.

Phew...there. Now hopefully when we get to the end of this thing you won't be as disappointed as I was.

The Screaming Woman is the title of an episode of Ray Bradbury Theatre...a show I loved to death when it was on in the mid-late 80s. I found a DVD with about 15 episodes from various seasons, and I figured The Screaming Woman would be good for some supernatural fun. Oh, how wrong I was.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, Ray Bradbury Theatre was simply that: each episode was an adaptation of a Bradbury story, usually featuring guest stars the likes of William Shatner and James Coco. The intro to each episode was virtually the same: Bradbury himself, in his cluttered-beyond-belief office, would pick up an object of "story inspiration"- then it'd fade right into that episode's story.

Somehow, Bradbury's item of choice for The Screaming Woman was a dousing rod, given to him by some random crazy old guy whilst Bradbury was out...presumably birdwatching. Yeah, it's a stretch, but you know writers- where do they get their ideas?!

Drew Barrymore (in that post-ET, pre-comeback era) stars as Heather, an easily distracted young girl who spends her time reading EC comics and imagining that the monsters and such found on the four-color pages are real. Whilst parked on her butt reading comics one afternoon (instead of buying ice cream, like she should be), Heather hears the faint sounds of a woman screaming coming from the nearby woods. She follows the sounds into the trees and stops when she hears ghostly cries and feels a ghostly wind on her ghostly face.

Heather tells everyone she knows- her parents, her friends- about the voice in the woods, but no one believes her. At dinner, her mother notes that speaking of screaming, their neighbors the Nesbitts were yelling at each other again last night. Then, the screaming stopped!

Golly, I wonder where this is going.

That night, Heather gets her Encyclopedia Brown on and calls on Mr Nesbitt. He'e sorta sweaty, and acts real nervous when Heather inquires as to the whereabouts of the missus. Mr Nesbitt offers Heather a drink, and she rightly hightails it outta there.

Even later that night, Heather sneaks out of bed and heads back into the woods. She hears the ghostly screams again- and she's tackled by Mr Nesbitt! I never saw it coming! Luckily, Heather's father followed her into the woods- he konks the evil Mr Nesbitt on the head with a flashlight, and everything is OK.

The po-po are called in and start digging where Heather heard the screams- gasp! There's a wooden coffin! Gasp Part 2! Mrs Nesbitt is inside- still alive! Heather has saved the day. Bully for her.

Maybe I'm too grown-up and jaded for Ray Bradbury Theatre now...or maybe The Screaming Woman was simply a stinker of an episode. Time will tell. Had I written this, however, the last act would've gone like this:

Heather gets out of bed and goes to the spot in the woods. Mr Nesbitt attacks her, but Mrs Nesbitt- who is actually dead; I mean, who goes through the trouble of putting someone in a big coffin, hauling it out to the woods and burying it- and not even killing her? If you're going to bury her alive, just bury her in the dirt- why put her in a coffin and give her all that air? Just get it over with, dude!

Err...anyway...yes. Mrs Nesbitt claws her way out of the earth as a zombie, kills Mr Nesbitt, and...I don't know. Then she explodes.

Boo on this one, Ray Bradbury! I give it 3 out of 10 my ending is better!s.


David Lee Ingersoll said...

Two things I learned watching this series -

1. Ray Bradbury is no Rod Serling. Mr. Bradbury may be a great writer but he lacks the presence to be a narrator. His intros were the weakest parts each show. Fortunately he didn't do many of them.

2. Bradbury's prose is one of the strongest aspects of his stories. Strip that away and too many of the stories come out flat. Very few of the actors (or directors) managed to bring enough to the stories to make the episodes seem very interesting.

I've got the full series on DVD and we haven't made it past the first disk yet.

Anonymous said...

I read the story this was based on back in junior high because it was on the dramatic readings list for a drama competition. I haven't read it in a long time but I remember it being spookier than this. It sounds like they tried to put a little more action into it. The story is mostly the same but I don't remember anything about anyone being tackled in the woods. It's possible the version I read wasn't the full story though.

The Retropolitan said...

That was one of the stinkers of the show. Not that the rest was great, but better.

Stacie Ponder said...

Mr Lee, I believe you hit the nail on the head. This stories just don't have the same impact when they're onscreen as when you're reading Bradbury's words.

Not even playing "Is Drew drunk? Is he coked out? She's so young!" could save this one. Bleh.

Anonymous said...

I'm still snickering about "Heather gets her Encyclopedia Brown on"... and your ending has way more OOMPH!

David Lee Ingersoll said...

How sad. It appears that watching this disappointing episode has killed Stacie. Let's have a moment of loud hysterical howling.

The Retropolitan said...

Someone got directed to my blog based on a search for the mythical killer in Bloody Murder. I think that means I've made it in the blogosphere.

Anonymous said...


Please come back to the living!!!


Anonymous said...

There is another "Screaming Woman" which is a 70s Made for TV Movie starring Olivia DeHavilland (sp?). It's not a ghost story but is quite good and Olivia brings just that much more class to it.

As for this one... Never Heard of it! ;)

Amanda By Night