A silly but strangely satisfying creature feature, “Scared to Death” is a hidden 80’s gem about an action hero author and an “Alien” inspired monster.
There are some common horror tropes that seem to have been done to death: the deformed, bullied kid who turns into a bloodthirsty slasher, and the pot smoking, sex-starved college coeds he targets; the dark house with a dark secret that the young family moves into; the creepy doll with the dead eyes; or the mutant radioactive monster living in the sewers that devours human flesh.
This week’s Tubi Tuesday, Scared to Death, does have a radioactive monster. But it also utilizes another common trope: authors as superheroes.
Throughout the history of horror, we’ve seen a litany of authors as main characters. This includes classics like The Shining, In the Mouth of Madness, 1408, Misery, Sinister, and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.
In each of these movies, the author character possesses an extraordinary ability to put together eloquent sentences. But often, these characters are also detectives searching for clues to mysterious disappearances. Sometimes they even become action heroes who have to arm themselves and run into battle against the forces of evil. Perhaps it is authors’ ability to write themselves into stories, or the convenience of the work from home life, that make them perfect protagonists for horror stories.
Whatever the appeal, the author-turned-hero trope has been employed for decades, but never more egregiously than in 1980’s Scared to Death.
After the mysterious death of a bunch of women at the hands of a mutated sewer monster, the local police find themselves with no other option to find the killer than reaching out to local author Ted Lonergan.
Now Ted is no normal author. He is a suave, debonair man of mystery. We first meet Ted as he is smooth talking a woman after causing a car crash. Later, when the woman comes to his house to discuss the incident, he is seen beating another man handily at chess. He then tosses the woman a couple thousand dollars to buy a new car and sleeps with her.
His over-the-top bravado is absolutely hilarious as he breaks women’s hearts, outsmarts the cops and oozes swag all over the screen. It’s just too bad the acting wasn’t better, because the whole thing seems forced and ends up being more awkward than cool.
At first, he is reluctant to help look for the mysterious killer. But once his love interest is taken by the beast, he joins the task force to find the killer, aided by a scientist who appears out of nowhere. This scientist, who Ted also wines and dines, explains that the creature is the Syngenor, which is short for Synthetic Genetic Organism.
For the first half of the film, this creature is just a POV camera and a pair of hands that rips people limb from limb.
Once it is revealed in full, it begins to appear more similar to the Xenomorphs from Alien — sticking its mutant tongue in women’s mouths to impregnate them and spread its monster seed.
Overall this film is cheap, cheesy and sleazy . But it’s also well worth the watch.
The gross, excessive machismo of the main character Ted is comical enough to keep you entertained for the runtime, and the creature effects will make you glad you stayed.
Check out this low budget creature feature today, streaming for free on Tubi.