Frozen Scream (1981)

Originally published in Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.

If there is any justice in this world, Renee Harmon is now sitting on a cloud next to God.

Writer-producer-actor Harmon had a hand in some of the most remarkably defective American genre films of all time. From her association with director James Bryan (Lady Streetfighter, Jungle Trap) to her late 80s dip into SOV (Night Of Terror), any film with her name on it is worth watching six or ten times before you die. A thick German accent prevents her from being completely understood, yet she typically casts herself as the lead. Her scripts seem to be assembled by a committee of dementia patients. She attacks her roles with the raw energy of a person waiting for a bus. Frozen Scream is Harmon’s debut film, in which she served as actress, producer, co-director, and writer. It’s also the inexplicable trash-horror film of your all-time greatest dreams.

Renee Harmon is a scientist. She attaches computer chips to people’s necks with Velcro. Then, they become immortal zombies. The zombies have large mustaches and sleep standing up in someone’s broom closet. Are these experiments for “love or immortality”? I have no idea, but everyone keeps asking that question. Once in awhile, the zombies attack people with axes and knives, leading to some rubbery gore on par with something you’d see in The Slayer. Meanwhile, Renee invades the dreams of a woman named Ann. Ann’s husband might be a zombie. Kevin is a cop. He loves Ann, but he is not her husband. Everyone goes to a warehouse party. They dance to a 1950s-styled rock band that sings “Jack Around the Shack” instead of “Rock Around The Clock.” In a flashback on Halloween night, a priest asks Ann, “This thing about immortality — do you think that’s Pagan?” A sluggish woman dances naked. A black-hooded executioner with a skull face appears in a window. Then, it all doesn’t come together.

Frozen Scream had a script. There’s a copy in the archives of the library of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. I’ve leafed through it. And yet, I still refuse to believe that a script existed when the film was shot. There’s no story to speak of. There’s no beginning, no middle, and no end. Deadpan narration serves as a connecting thread, but it connects to nothing. Scene selection and order were obviously chosen at random by someone who had never watched a movie all the way through. The editing follows suit. For example, a zombie chases Ann out of a house. Then, when she reaches the exterior, the zombie has disappeared. Ann walks around for a few seconds and looks at the sky.

No matter how many times you watch it, Frozen Scream makes very little sense. But not much in life ever does. That’s the beauty of Renee Harmon’s cinema.

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