Every generation of horror fans has a specific era that they grew up with. Naturally there is a nice transitional overlap from what came before and after, but at the heart of it all there is about a decade of time that sits comfortably in the center of what each fan considers "the good ol' days." For me, personally, that time period would be the 1980s. Not only did I get the overlap of the mid-to-late '70s, but I also watched as horror evolved, and often devolved, into what might be the strangest (and most entertaining) time in horror cinema with the early 1990s. That entire time period from the mid-'70s to the mid-'90s is as gory good as it gets, and the main factor for it being such an awesome time for the genre is the bridge in between.
Horror boomed big time in the '80s, and there are a number of factors for this, most notably being the VHS format. VHS took film out of the cinemas and ushered in an era of home video that caused movie fans to go completely bananas, and at the forefront of it all was the horror genre. There was an evolution that genre cinema went through because of home video, and home video itself evolved due in large part to the popularity of genre cinema on the format. As a result, a very specific formula began to prove immensely successful (i.e. profitable) for "non-Hollywood" production companies. Video goers began to yearn for something specific from their rentals; they wanted blood and monsters; they wanted fun and entertainment; they wanted a pair of nice tits on a beautiful woman. And like a perfect storm, all of these things came together and combined to result in the birth of the Scream Queen era.
It is the almighty Scream Queen and the time in which they ruled that is the focus of 2011's Screaming in High Heels: The Rise & Fall of the Scream Queen Era, a documentary that, as promises, looks at the rise and fall of a specific group of extremely popular genre actresses: Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer. Often considered some of most notable and certainly three of the most popular horror actresses of the era, "The Terrifying Trio" of Stevens, Bauer and Quigley made a major splash on the home video scene throughout the '80s and much of the '90s, completely changing the landscape of the role women played in low-budget horror. These were the women who went from being the faceless but very "healthy" background babes to being the main selling point of a slew of B-Movies in the '80s and early '90s.
Directed by Jason Paul Collum, Screaming in High Heels follows the typical talking head format that seems to be the gold standard for a majority of film related docs. Outside of the three Scream Queens and their generous insights, interviews come in the form of subject relevant film folk such as Fred Olen Ray, David DeCoteau, Kenneth J. Hall, and a handful of other people who were a part of the scene, all of whom deliver plenty of interesting stories and tidbits for the viewer to chew on. The doc runs the gamut of numerous interesting subjects that cover the era from start to finish, as each Scream Queen speaks of the incredible highs that came with their popularity as well as the negative effects that came along with doing the "types of films" the women were doing. Some of which has followed them up until this very day. The price of fame, I suppose.
For the record, I am a huge fan of film documentaries, particularly ones that are about specific genres or eras of cinema, and outside of the insightful interviews, the doc is chockfull of great movie clips, something that is often a highlight of any film documentary. Also enjoyable is seeing things like television appearances that the girls had made as well as the many ways in which they "busted" their way into pop culture.
Screaming in High Heels certainly delivers the goods by covering a lot of ground; however, while the doc is overall very satisfying, there are two problems that I have with it, one being the runtime (I like 'em long, baby!) and the other being the lack of a fanboy perspective. Now, when I say fanboy perspective, what I mean is Screaming in High Heels could have used some commentary from a celebrity horror fan like an Eli Roth, an Adam Green or whoever could step to the plate and bring that solid fanboy perspective that I, as a fan, can relate to. And in doing so, the runtime of just over 60 min would be stretched out a solid 15-20 min, making the doc's length less of a problem for me.
Regardless of these minor issues, I thoroughly enjoyed Screaming in High Heels: The Rise & Fall of the Scream Queen Era and have no qualms about recommending it to anyone who loves Scream Queens as well as anyone who enjoys this specific time in horror cinema.
If you'd like to check out Screaming in High Heels for yourself, the horror cable network Chiller shows it from time-to-time, but if you want to see the unedited version, then Breaking Glass Pictures is releasing it on DVD on August 28th. And, depending on your sexual preference, you might want to see this one unedited. *cough-cough lots-of-boobs cough-cough!*