Scared to Death (1980) Poster

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Average monster movie
Trooper8-229 December 2000
This film was a very typical monster movie that incorporated all of the usual dumb cliches. It's got a slow moving, fake looking monster, really stupid victims who deserve to die, and a lame story about the monster resulting from a genetic experiment gone awry. (Why did the professor even make the monster in the first place? It never really says why. I guess that's just what scientists do.) Still, this movie is an okay time-waster if you happen to enjoy bad sci-fi or horror. It's certainly not the best, but I have definitely seen worse. I give it a 5/10 rating.
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fun low budget sci flick
CLEO-829 April 2003
I thought this movie (for being so bad) was very entertaining. The main characters are the biggest geeks! Especially the male lead. I'm talking about Dorkenstein with a capital D. It was fun making fun of them while hoping the monster eats them. This film seemed to merge cheesey 50's Sci Fi elements with 80's slasher gimmick to create a movie that worked on some level. Mystery Science Theatre would have a field day on this one. I must give it props though. The creatures actually looked good and were indeed creepy.
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Good low-budget sci-fi/horror
lastliberal19 August 2008
While Star Wars Episode V and The Howling were winning awards from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, this film was also a winner as Best Low-Budget Film. Low-Budget filmmakers could do worse in watching how William Malone (House on Haunted Hill ) managed to make an interesting film with award winning special effects for $74,000.

It was Malone's first film and it starred Diana Davidson, whom I am sure no one remembers as they girl who was shot in the swimming pool in Dirty Harry. It also stars John Stinson, Jonathan David Moses, and Toni Jannotta, in her only film. Malone made sure that he had a good selection of beautiful victims to keep your interest.

The staging was good in the respect that terror was built up gradually with a lot of suspense, and the creature was only partially shown until it got towards the end. You never really knew what you were dealing with.

And, of course, when it is all over, you don't really know if you solved the problem.
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Cheap and tacky thrills
mylimbo26 January 2005
An ex-cop who's a writer now, gets brought back on the job after a string of weird murders with the killer leaving a web like substance… Is it human or not?

Really this is nothing but cheap (and that's very cheap) z-grade trash, but still 'fairly' amusing… well that's if you're in the right frame of mood. This is no more than a "Alien" rip-off, but set on earth. There are certain shots that resembled some of those from "Alien" and as well the creature looks very similar too.

The story is extra ordinary. The usual scientific creation that's on the loose killing victims and an ex-cop who's the only one that can stop it. So don't expect anything special or original. Sometimes the pacing is a bit tedious; like a slasher film.

The acting is not that bad from a bunch of nobodies... with a pretty charming and gawky heroine. Although there is one or two annoying characters which you have to deal with. Added to the film's script is some sharp humour and witty one-liners, especially from the geeky lead. A very gritty and grim atmosphere is found throughout the picture, with a lot of the film taking place in dark and dim lighting. While the special effects are hilariously shoddy and cheap, which gives it a sort of charm... well I think so.

I found this more enjoyable than the glossy, but bland "Ghost Ship (2002)" I watched before it.

This film is unoriginal, campy and cheap... but I found this schlock watchable and rather fun.

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There is little chance of being scared to death watching this film...bored to death, well maybe.
Aaron137528 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I got this movie as I love watching horror films and I normally enjoy the horror of the past a lot more than the horror of today. This one though was just not what I was expecting. I had high hopes at the beginning when the film opened up and we are greeted with a point of view shot of the monster peeking in on a girl totally nude. However, this would not be the norm in this film, and the cynical part of me thinks this scene was added in to spice things up as the quality of this movie screams television. As did the guest starring portion of the credits. Other than this scene and one where the lead character and his new lady friend hook up, there is nothing all that risqué in this film in terms of nudity or even gore.

The story has a creature lurking the city streets of L.A. killing its victims. Wait a minute, that sounds awfully familiar doesn't it? Oh yes, it is a lot like the film "The Dark", in fact this film could be "The Dark II: This Time it Actually looks like an Alien". Seriously, it is almost the same movie other than the fact the monster looks different. We get a kill, we get lead guy Tim doing scenes establishing him, another kill, and then more boring scenes that go nowhere and are pointless. Then a final showdown with said creature in a factory setting that is so slow and plodding. At least that portion of "The Dark" was fairly well done, here it just takes to long as there are to many monster walking toward our intrepid heroes. The only curve ball this movie throws is when they take out the lead guy's girlfriend and substitute her for this nerdy, but very cute girl. A nice upgrade, as the lead guy's girl wore way to much eye makeup and reminded me of that hooker from "Mitchell".

So there really is not much going for this movie other than a nice nude scene at the beginning and a scene with a cute couple of skater girls later. The monster gets a lot of show too, what I mean is they are not hiding it as they must be proud of it. They should be, if this were a science fiction show like Star Trek, but this thing looks to much like an alien from a science fiction show more so than a bioengineered monster. It seems to be beating people to death at first, and I also thought it may be raping its victims because the first two victims are female. However, this is not a Roger Corman film, so is not raping anyone. Even when it is sticking its tongue in its victim's mouth it is not doing anything sexual. It just has an idiotic thirst for spinal fluid. I know you are trying to be creative, but really...why not simply do blood and that way the film is at least a bit more gory.

So what we have here is a film that is trying to capitalize on the success of "Alien", but rather than following that film's format, it instead thought it should be more like "The Dark" in that it is very slow, not tense and has a television movie feel to it. The lead guy is annoying, the lead female to hooker looking and the monster would look right at home in a science fiction show, but not a monster movie. You do get to see a bit of nudity, but nothing good after the first initial scene (trust me, you do not want to see the one involving the lead guy). To much awkward flirting, not enough gore! To much monster coming down hall, not enough action! To much nerdy but cute girl screaming, and not scenes of her naked! This film just does not have enough going for it to be an entertaining film and it just has a been there, done that feel for me. It not only borrows from "Alien", "The Dark", but it does the same things countless films from this era did and it brings nothing new to the table. Unless you count watching a girl skate down an entire parking garage and then slowly dressing in more clothes while feeling threatened as something new.
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Cool humanoid creature and... uhm, that's about it.
Vomitron_G29 February 2012
William Malone didn't exactly deliver a good movie here. Far from, actually, but heck, it was his first one. Still, you'll have to tolerate some atrocious 'chop-chop' editing, some bad acting and a plot way too basic for its own good. All the events in this film move at the pace of a snail that's stuck in the mud. The whole story is played by the book, and it's one with not many pages in it (just enough to write down the premise: a murderous creature is loose in the city and two people must stop it). Surprisingly, things do remain watchable most of the time, somehow. The creature design is pretty cool, but also nothing more than a man in a rubber suit. A bit of full frontal female nudity during the opening-scene and a lack of gore throughout the entire film is what we get. But my guess is that it's still worth a watch for lovers of obscure creature features (honestly, I myself didn't mind watching it). "Scared To Death" always seemed to me a bit of a stupid, unsuitable title for this kind of film though. Given the place where the creature resides, why not dub it... "The Sewer Dweller"? Malone's first outing even got some sort of a semi-(un)official sequel nine years later, called "Syngenor" (1990). Would have been much easier if they had called that one "Syngenor 2" and this one simply "Syngenor". Aw, what the hell am I talking about.
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One of the first ever ALIEN clones
DigitalRevenantX72 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Former detective turned private eye Ted Lonergan & his girlfriend / assistant Jennifer Stanton are approached by one of Ted's former colleagues, Detective Lou Capell, to help with investigating a rash of killings where the victims fall into a coma after being drained of their spinal fluids. Jennifer manages to find a lead when a genetic scientist calls her with information but is attacked by the killer & left in a coma. Ted & the scientist discover that the killings were the work of the Syngenor (an acronym for Synthesised Genetic Organism), a genetic cyborg creature that was created by a dead scientist & that has escaped from the laboratory & is lurking in the sewers in order to feed on human spinal fluid in order to survive.

Believe it or not, Scared to Death is probably one of the very first ALIEN templaters to have come out in the 1980s, alongside other similar films such as THE INTRUDER WITHIN & the el bizarro British entry XTRO. The film was the debut of director William Malone, a makeup effects artist who has designed the mask of serial killer Michael Myers from the Halloween films whilst working at Don Post Studios. Malone raised $74,000 in order to make the film & co-wrote the story with another effects wizard, Robert Short.

Scared to Death is an interesting film, although nowhere even near the stature of the original Alien – while the Syngenor looks a bit like a H.R. Giger creation, it still is kept to the shadows to disguise its shortcomings (although the creature's body suit looks quite impressive). The rest of the film is basically Alien melded with Friday the 13th – plenty of undressing girls & shenanigans going on in the dark. The idea of a genetic cyborg (a being made from synthetic DNA) is quite good – indeed the film's attempt at setting the template on Earth & providing a reasonable explanation for the monster's nature earns full marks for being innovative despite the ultra-low budget. The only problem being that Malone is nowhere even near the skill set & vision of Ridley Scott, with his handling frequently turning the film's pace into a hard slog & having no idea on how to create suspense. Still, it was one of the earliest Alien templaters & the Syngenor still looks cool, enough for a sequel-remake to come out a decade later.
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Typical regional low budget horror filmmaking
William22 July 2000
This is your typical regional horror sci-fi filmaking from the late 70's early 80's period, the ones without any "names", with slow pacing, foggy cameras, poor lighting, and music that can actually put you to sleep! In fact it reminds me of another small town sci-fi film called ALIEN FACTOR! This creature, SYNGENOR, is actually cool looking, so cool someone made another film with the syngenor titled, what else, SYNGENOR, but with a better budget, and a professional cast (not sure why William Malone didn't get involved in this one.). This film the violence is very tame, not really scarely, the random act of attacks by the creature to nameless victim is few and far between, in between you get a boring cop and his partner trying to solve the crime, losts of talk, overall a slow film that probably bored the audeince to tears! This film actually got a decent release back in 82, but didnt play here in Seattle, but was playing in Oregon as a double bill with SCREAMER! The creature is really cool looking for its time, so I don't know why they didn;t show it more often.`
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Pretty boring, even if you like bad movies
darkblood5516 September 2007
(Warning: I'm not fully bilingual, so please forgive me for my poor English vocabulary) This one was awful from start to finish! There was no notable action: the main characters were in a big investigation, full of dull dialogues, and the creature was just wandering around in the sewers doing some cheap kills once in a while, nothing too original, entertaining or gory.

Not absolutely painful, just plain boring.

If you want to see something a little better with the same creature, try Syngenor instead. I'm a big fan of the genre, especially the "so bad it's good" sub-genre, but this one is definitely not in that league. Avoid.
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Cool movie, dumb title
lordzedd-321 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The year is 1981 and most people are making slasher movies, but SCARED TO DEATH is a twist on the serial killer, slasher type movie. Even though it has got to be the dumbest movie title ever. But the creature in the movie is cool and unique. The story is somewhat a-typical, but predictable doesn't always mean bad. All the jumps are all in the right place and all the kills are all in the right place. Basically it's pretty cool movie, once you overlook the stupid title. The characters are a little on the weak side, and the film quality could have been much better, even for the time period. But all and all the style of the movie, the look of the creature and the characters all make the movie worth while. I give SCARED TO DEATH 9 STARS.
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An uninspired man-made monster movie.
BA_Harrison10 December 2017
Rather than use his scientific genius to benefit mankind, a genetics expert creates a vicious synthesised life-form that uses its forked tongue to drain the spinal fluid of its victims. Why? I dunno… must've seemed like a good idea at the time, I suppose. Cop turned novelist Ted Lonergan (John Stinson) helps his police pal Lou (David Moses) to investigate.

This one starts out in classic B-movie monster mode with a naked blonde babe slipping into sexy, silky red underwear before becoming another victim of the Syngenor (Synthesised Genetic Organism). Its a fun, trashy way to kick things off, but the rest of the film offers very little to get excited about: lots of dull chit chat, a few gore-free deaths, and some roller-skating, all leading to the inevitable showdown between Ted and the incredibly slow moving H.R.Giger-style creature in a factory (an ending that might possibly have influenced The Terminator!).

Missable stuff, unless you absolutely have to see every movie inspired in some way by Ridley Scott's Alien.
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Atmospheric low budget monster flick
Leofwine_draca2 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
SCARED TO DEATH is a nice little monster flick from director William Malone, shot on a very low budget in Los Angeles. Despite the lack of money and technical prowess, this has a cheap and scuzzy vibe, a kind of spooky atmosphere which works really well. In addition, there's much more interesting plotting than in a typical slasher film of the era, so even when the monster isn't around it's still interesting. The hero is a former cop turned writer who is reluctantly called in to help when a number of murders are committed by an apparent serial killer. The monster itself is no great shakes - merely a man in a suit, inspired by ALIEN as so many were - but the kills are gruesome and the climax may have inspired THE TERMINATOR.
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A really likable and enjoyable low-budget earthbound "ALIEN" clone
Woodyanders26 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
A lethal scientific mistake called a Syngenor (an acronym for Synthetic Genetic Organism) makes its home in the Los Angeles sewer system and occasionally comes out to either stick its slimy forked tongue down people's throats so it can feast on their spinal fluid or drag various unfortunate folks underground to feed its grotesque shellfish-like offspring. Dorky ex-cop turned bestselling novelist Ted Lonergan (an engaging performance by John Stinson) and attractive genetics student Sherry Carpenter (the fetching Toni Janotta, who resembles a young Barbara Steele) go after the malevolent humanoid reptilian monster (Kermit Eller in a nifty rubber suit) while the police make fools out of themselves trying to figure out the baffling clues. This really fun and lively earthbound "ALIEN" clone starts out rather sluggishly, but still winds up delivering the satisfying creature feature goods with an especially stirring and suspenseful conclusion. Writer/director William Malone, who went on to helm the big budget "House on Haunted Hill" remake and the dreadful "FearDotCom," keeps the pace moving at a reasonably brisk clip, only slowing things down for a few dreary dialogue scenes and a boring romance between Lonergan and girlfriend Jennifer Stanton (the lovely Diana Davidson) that are sandwiched between the pleasingly snappy and fairly gruesome beast attack set pieces. Moreover, the sequences in the sewer have a genuinely creepy and claustrophobic atmosphere to them, the monster is very cool, and the film overall has a certain earnest quality to it that's both endearing and entertaining.
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Surely they meant "BORED to Death"?
Coventry22 September 2007
Cheesy & low-budgeted 80's monster movies form a truly peculiar cinema breed. A small selection of them is so bad they become good again (or at least very amusing), but most of them are so bad they're just plain awful, period. "Scared to Death" represents a category on its own, namely the absolute worst of the worst. Besides being badly written, poorly acted, weakly directed and cheesy, this film is also unimaginably boring! Horror fans, myself included - are generally quite tolerant when it comes to 80's junk, but one thing nobody can stand is a mixture of cheese and boredom. The building up towards the killings takes far too long (up to seven minutes even) and when the creature finally strikes, we see absolutely nothing and the action promptly swifts to another scene. What's that all about? The story is also pretty non-existent and incoherent as hell. It's some kind of earthbound "Alien" rip-off, with a murderous monster dwelling around the sewers and occasionally perpetrating a lonely woman's house or car in order to kill her. One incompetent cop and one pathetic ex-cop slowly (better make that VERY slowly) discover the creature is a genetic experiment that went a little awry and got dumped in the sewers by its creators. They call it a Syngenor, which stand for Synthetic Genetic Organism, and apparently it has a large appetite and a preference for young chicks on roller blades. The sub plot about the ex-cop's beautiful romance with a lady whose car he accidentally hit is totally irrelevant and dreadful. There isn't the slightest bit of suspense or any attempt to create an atmosphere; all the potentially interesting sequences are dimly lit and when we finally catch a decent glimpse of the monster it looks like a poor imitation of "Alien". The cast members are a bunch of untalented nobodies and William Malone's direction is weak and uninspired. William Malone? Wasn't he also responsible for the more recent but equally stinking pile of garbage "Feardotcom"? Twenty years later and still a lousy director, practice doesn't always makes perfect. However, his other cheesy & low-budgeted 80's monster movie "Creature" (starring Klaus Kinski!) does qualify as so bad it's good!
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Scared to Death
Scarecrow-887 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Genetically created asexual lifeform(syngenor), whose tongue enters into the victim's throat removing spinal fluid(..and in turn causing epileptic seizure and rendering the person comatose if not dead), is using LA as a hunting ground, lurking in the dark, moving undetected by police(..who believe they are seeking a dangerous psychopath) through the underground sewer system. It leaves behind a slimy residue at the crime scenes and has reproduced creatures( cocoons)which are being housed in an area within the sewers, feeding from the spinal fluid of living humans. The syngenor, at times, lets out a high pitch squeal which signifies it's presence. A trash novelist, Ted(John Stinson), once a detective before alcoholism stifled his career, is pulled into the case by long time pal, Detective Lou Capell(Jonathan David Moses) who is puzzled by the strange circumstances surrounding these peculiar deaths. Ted, through a chance encounter thanks to an accidental crash, has found love with a sophisticated business woman, Jennifer(Diana Davidson). Jennifer begins getting involved with Ted's everyday life, finding herself at a crime scene after he decides, thanks in part to Lou's constant pleas for help, to assist his friend in such a baffling mystery. Jennifer finds herself in the clutches of the syngenor when a woman who has information on the killer flees the scene in fear leaving her to a possible death. Jennifer, unconscious and comatose, with what the medical staff considers a brain tumor, lies in a hospital bed in grave condition as Ted seeks out the monster with the help of Sherry Carpenter(Toni Jannotta)..Sherry was the woman who was supposed to meet with Jennifer and chickened out. Informing Ted and Lou of her former( deceased)employer, a geneticist who had planned on killing the beast before it could escape onto a world with no knowledge of it's existence, they will have to search for it without the police's assistance. Lou explains to Ted that his superiors have closed the case after a shootout with a suspect they believed was the psycho on the loose. Ted and Jennifer will brave the darkened, cold sewer system in search of the syngenor hoping to stop it so that the killing will cease.

I will admit that I was hoping for Monster carnage, but director William Malone(feardotcom;House on Haunted Hill;Creature)opts for building suspense instead. I was hoping to see the creature's tongue inserting into a victim's mouth, enabling the viewer to see just how it removes spinal fluid, but Malone's budget( obvious from the dark, gritty cinematography)was perhaps just too small to elaborate such grisly details. And, perhaps to prevent us from realizing the fact that the creature is merely a monster suit with a stuntman inside, Malone doesn't allow true visibility of the syngenor lifeform until the very end..and even at the end, Malone carefully blankets it in darkness. But, we get to see those slobbery, sharp teeth with a serpentine tongue as it slithers from the mouth towards a poor female victim, face clutched within it's long fingers, feet high off the ground, frightened out of her wits. Malone spends a great deal of time showing potential victims unaware of what's in store for them( girl is actually attacked in her home). The creepiest scene, besides a well executed jump scene concerning a missing construction worker, takes place in the sewer when Ted and Sherry discover that innocent people have become life-support for the syngenor's cocooned offspring, drinking their spinal fluid through a type of umbilical cord! The search through the sewers is probably Malone's greatest triumph because he's able to build a dread in such a hostile environment where the monster considers home. There's a Carrie-type of jolt sequence at the end to cap off Malone's nightmare scenario of a creature hiding in the dark. Malone moves the pace rather slow in the early going, developing his small group of characters, while also establishing the prey, at night oblivious to their predator. The lack of gore was really what bummed me out, but Malone was making a different kind of film than the one I was expecting. A bit ugly and rough-around-the-edges(..a bit too murky for it's own good), Malone's film shows he was a pup learning his craft, but the final chase through the sewers into a machine shop displays potential. I've seen a lot worse shot on a shoestring budget, and this film certainly shows promise..a promise, I don't feel he's capitalized yet, despite the visual polish of his nightmarish urban hell of "feardotcom". The syngenor itself favors the alien walker in ALIEN quite a bit, perhaps fueling the mockery of those who detest filmmakers who attempt to cash in on the success of another.
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