Screams of a Winter Night (1979) poster

Screams of a Winter Night (1979)


USA. 1979.


Director – James L. Wilson, Screenplay – Richard H. Wadsack, Producers – Richard H. Wadsack & James L. Wilson, Photography – Robert E. Rogers, Music – Don Zimmers, Special Effects – William T. Cherry, III. Production Company – Full Moon Pictures.


Matt Borel (John/Ron), Gil Glasgow (Steve/Parker), Ray Gaspard (Harper/Billy), Beverly Allen (Jookie/Crazy Anne), Patrick Byers (Cal), Mary Agen Cox (Elaine), Robin Bradley (Sally/Anne’s Roommate), Brandy Barrett (Liz), Charles Rucker (Alan), Jan Norton (Laurie), William Ragsdale (The Kid)


A group of ten friends head up to a cabin in the woods for the weekend. John is fascinated by legends of the supernatural Shitaka Wind that is reputed to have driven everybody away from the area. That night, the group sit around the cabin telling horror stories. 1:- Ron and Elaine go out on a date but the car runs out of gas on a lonely country road. Ron sets out walking to get more gas, leaving Elaine behind in the car. However, something is lurking in the woods. 2:- Three guys are made to spend the night in an old abandoned, reportedly haunted hotel as part of a fraternity initiation rite. 3:- After going on a date with a guy and he attempts to molest her, Annie snaps and kills him. She gains the reputation around the town as Crazy Annie. As she goes on to university, her psychopathic tendencies still lurk.

Screams of a Winter Night was the one and only film ever directed by Louisiana filmmaker James L. Wilson. The film enjoyed modest success on the drive-in circuit of the day. Wilson was apparently inspired by the success of Charles B. Pierce with The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) and sought to create a regionally-made horror film in a similar vein, employing the anthology format. Wilson’s production company was called Full Moon Productions – not to be confused with the prolific B-budget horror producing company set up by Charles Band in the 1990s.

Screams of a Winter Night is not a terribly good film. Wilson is not very good at creating interest, humour or characters. During the introductory scenes with the group going to the cabin in the woods, things drag on forever – about the only thing that peppers the tedium up in anyway is Matt Borel and his hijinks.

Things do perk up with the first story. James L. Wilson fails to sustain much atmosphere to the piece even though it has great possibilities. There may be creatures flitting around the woods (although we never clearly see them and it is never explained what they are). The episode however does come with a kicker of an ending – one where Matt Borel walks to town to get more gas, leaving Mary Agen Cox in the car who huddles terrified as there is a scraping on the roof – only to emerge and find that the scraping is the body of Borel who has been hung from the tree branch above the car.

The second episode concerns a fraternity initiation ritual where three guys have to spend the night in an abandoned, haunted hotel. This is a story utterly lacking in even rudimentary atmosphere – I can’t think of any other haunted house work I have seen that is made so little in the way of directorial skill. (The three guys are all played by actors from the framing story – the same is the case with all of the other segments where the narrating actors play different roles).

The third episode is better polished. It concerns a girl who snaps and starts killing people after being molested on a date. The politics of this would not be acceptable today – she is out on a date and the guy keeps pressing her for sex then forces himself on her despite her repeatedly saying no. The film never seems to take much objection to this on his part and sees her response to the situation as symptomatic of unbalanced behaviour.

Trailer here

Full film available here

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