Friday, October 27, 2023

Ten Days of Terror!: The Shout

Film: The Shout
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

As a genre, horror encompasses a lot of possible ideas and can go in a lot of directions. It also mashes up well with other genres. The Shout is an odd little film, though. There are definite horror elements here, but this is much more a love triangle with some horror elements. It’s also a film that relies heavily on the idea of an unreliable narrator, and works in a way to help us forget that that narrator is not only unreliable, but actually exists in the context of the film.

The framing story of The Shout is a cricket match. Robert Graves (Tim Curry) is asked to be one of the scorekeepers for a cricket match. He is paired with a man named Crossley (Alan Bates), who begins telling him a story about ostensibly himself. At the very least, in the story we see unfold, it is Crossley in the role of the Crossley in the story. It’s eventually evident that the cricket match is happening at an insane asylum and it’s unclear whether or not Crossley is one of the inmates.

The story concerns a bizarre little love triangle with Crossley as one of the points. He ingratiates himself into the lives of Anthony and Rachel Fielding (John Hurt and Susannah York), Anthony is an Avant Garde composer who specializes in instruments that are more found objects or repurposed objects. Crossley, who is a transient wandering across the Devon countryside, works his way into their lives in part by telling them stories of his past living in aboriginal Australia.

Crossley presents himself as a man of mystery and as a dangerous man. Among some of the things that he claims is that the beliefs of the Australian natives allow a parent to kill their own children within a few weeks of their birth, an option he claims to have used with all of his children, wanting to leave nothing of himself behind when he left. He also claims that a shaman taught him the terror shout, a shout that has the ability to kill people who hear it unprotected. Naturally, as a musician, Anthony wants to hear this, and does so. Even with his ears partly blocked, the shout affects him terribly, making him bedridden for a time.

Ultimately, though, what is happening here is that Crossley is using whatever magic he possesses to try to supplant Anthony in the affections of Rachel. It’s not long before Rachel is finding reasons to send Anthony off on errands so that she and Crossley can make the beast with two backs. There’s a good amount of evidence that Anthony is aware of this (and it’s eventually made explicit), but he seems to be powerless to make any changes, until his own experience hearing the terror shout leads him to some way to possibly fight back.

There are a few things to unpack here. One thing that really needs to be addressed is the really upsetting ideas of cultural appropriation going on in this film. It’s the native Australians who have spooky magic powers that they can teach to the mystical white man. It’s not made better by the fact that the white man uses those powers to a nefarious end or misuses them. The idea of this kind of spirituality belonging to “other” people—and people who are going to be seen at the time as technologically backward and uncivilized—is pretty grim. There’s not a big difference between this and young women getting “in touch with their spiritual side” by adopting Native American rituals and cosplaying the spirituality of people they would never admit to thinking of as savages, but who they almost certainly think of as savages, naturally of the noble variety.

What’s done well is how easy it is to forget that all of this is coming in the form of a flashback, or in the form of a tale being told. It’s never entirely clear if the man telling the story is telling it from memory, as a story he’s made up, or as some falsely-remembered fantasy from a fevered brain. As it plays out, it’s easy to buy into what is going on in front of us.

It's also a little disappointing in the cast use. Tim Curry is barely in this despite showing up immediately. He’s just the guy hearing the story. Jim Broadbent is in this as well—he has about 10 seconds on screen and no lines. To be fair, it’s his first credited role, but still. Also worth noting that the soundtrack was done by Anthony Banks and Michael Rutherford, two-thirds of what remained of Genesis at the time, with this film coming out the same year as “…And Then There Were Three,” the band’s first album as a trio after the departure of Steve Hackett.

Why to watch The Shout: That cast is surprising.
Why not to watch: It’s a long way to go for what is essentially a weird love triangle.


  1. I might see this just for the cast and soundtrack as I do love Genesis with the Peter Gabriel years being my favorite of the bunch. I'm really excited for his new album.

    1. I think Genesis was great through Duke, and they started to taper off. The Gabriel years were fantastic--30 years ago, I'd have told you they lived and died on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Today? Selling England By the Pound is probably my favorite, although don't sell Trick of the Tail short. There are some bangers on that one.

      Peter Gabriel was my first-ever concert.

    2. Duke and Abacab are my favorite albums by Collins, Banks, and Rutherford as Genesis. They still made great music after Gabriel and Hackett left the group. Calling All Stations however is the worst Genesis album. It just sounds so generic with everything that was happening at the time.

    3. They definitely start to spiral after Abacab. Gotta ask--have you heard the Spot the Pigeon EP? Three songs, all of them great--stuff that didn't fit tonally (at least two out of the three) on Wind and Wuthering. It's the last Steve Hackett stuff with Genesis. Worth tracking down if you haven't heard them.

    4. It's not on Apple Music for some reason along with a new BBC Collection they released as those are the music I'm interested in. I don't do Spotify as I hate their sound quality and some of the things they do with Joe Rogan who is an asshole.

    5. You can find all three songs on YouTube just for a sense of what they sound like. All three are great, but Match of the Day is absolutely worth multiple listens.

  2. I chanced upon the listing for this and must admit when I saw Alan Bates, Susannah York and John Hurt's names in the cast I didn't bother to read the description before I started to watch figuring that no matter what with those three heading the film it would at least be well-acted. I was right about that and I'm not sorry I gave it a chance but I didn't enjoy it much at all and will never return to it.

    1. It's another one where the premise is better than the actual movie. This might genuinely have been better without all of the weird paranormal shouty stuff.