Cry for the Strangers (1982)

September 11, 2009 - 2:09pm | EC
  Tags: 80's, Brian Keith, Cindy Pickett, cry for the strangers, ghosts, haunting, made for tv, Martin Kove, Patrick Duffy, Peter Medak

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Peter Medak
Patrick Duffy, Cindy Pickett, Brian Keith, Martin Kove

I grew up reading every bit of horror that I could get my sticky fingers on. Normally in most cases it was whatever K-Mart, Hills or other discount department stores offered in the way of skeletons in the dark. My hometown never had much in the way of specialty shops so I was never properly introduced to Richard Laymon, Hugh Cave or even Mr.Lovecraft until my twenties. My short stack of horror fiction never drifted far from Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz and John Saul, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I've read just about everything written by the above authors, with Saul's inventory weighing in at thirty or more novels. Ironically out of the last thirty plus years only one film has been made from a Saul idea; "Cry For The Strangers" from print in 1979 to the made-for-TV market in 1982.

I was finally able to track down a third generation copy of this film from an original taping off of Encore Drama. The wait was somewhat worth it in the way of atmosphere. "Cry For The Strangers" is one beefy gothic vision, heavy on storm swept cliffs and secluded seaside coves (or covens?) that are the biggest asset of the film. Secondly, the offering has a fantastic film score with tons of build up and suspense created with the heavy use of strings and big budget orchestra pieces. Even the most anti-climatic scene seems exhilarating based on score alone. I really like this type of combination of gothic sense and score, reminding me of greats like "Lady In White" and "The Haunting Of Sarah Hardy".

The movie begins with a flashback scene showing a young boy finding his parents dead on the shore in what appears to be some type of sacrifice by a tribe of dancing native Americans (it looks better than it sounds!). Fast forward to today (1982 anyway) and we see Dr. Russell (Patrick Duffy) arrive at the town of Clark's Harbor to rent a seaside house with his wife (Cindy Pickett). Once the introductions are made the viewer settles down to watch the tiny town of run the gauntlet of mysterious deaths, ghostly visions and a barrage of violent thunderstorms. Remember this is a TV movie from 1982 so most of the deaths are suggestive and performed off screen. The basis of the deaths are the supposedly haunted shores and cliffs of the town, of which they said ghosts attack any visitors or town newbies.

This type of story runs through most of Saul's novels and basic author mythology. The writer is very PG-13 when compared to the likes of Clive Barker or even King himself. I've never read "Cry For The Strangers" but I can honestly say that what transpired on the screen is par for the course of a Saul story. His creative designs are normally some sort of seaside town, a supernatural entity or event and for the most part cookie cutter characters. Even with that being said I still find Saul's works very addictive and enjoyable. This film is really no exception with enough atmosphere and character studies to make the film work for 90 minutes.

It certainly doesn't set the standard for innovative story telling but does make for a decent ghost story. The cast is very good with Brian Keith ("Hardcastle & McCormick","Family Affair"), Patrick Duffy ("Dallas","Step By Step") and....that mean karate instructor from Karate Kid. Oh, and stock TV actress Cindy Pickett is a late 70s bombshell. Director Peter Medak knows this genre well as he directed the equally atmospheric "The Changeling" from 1980 and most recently a "Masters Of Horror" episode.

"Cry For The Strangers" is a bit of a slasher meets the supernatural type of story that plays well with the great gothic sensibility and score. The film moves at a snail's pace and the deaths are off screen. The ending should throw even the most seasoned horror vet. A must see if you are a John Saul okay download for the casual horror fan.

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