|Directed by||Pete Walker|
|Written by||Michael Sloan|
|Produced by||Pete Walker|
|Edited by||Alan Brett|
|Music by||Stanley Myers|
|Distributed by||Enterprise Pictures (United Kingdom) |
Lone Star Pictures (United States)
The Comeback (also known as The Day the Screaming Stopped) is a 1978 British slasher film directed by Pete Walker starring Jack Jones, Pamela Stephenson, and David Doyle. Its plot follows a successful but dormant American singer who retreats to a remote manor in Surrey to record an album; there, he is followed by a psychopath—donning a hag mask—who murdered his ex-wife.
The film was first released in the United Kingdom on 16 June 1978 and was subsequently given a theatrical showing at the Barbican Centre in London as part of a Pete Walker retrospective in November 2014.
The Comeback is considered to be more conventional than some of Walker's earlier works and has been credited along with Walker's Schizo as "foreshadowing the development of the slasher movie of the 1980s."
Gail Cooper travels to her ex-husband Nick's apartment in London in order to remove some of its more valuable items. It soon becomes apparent that while Nick (a successful singer) isn't at home, someone is clearly there. The anonymous person watches Gail take a phone call from a reporter asking about the couple's divorce and inquiring as to when Nick will release his next album, as he's been on a six-year hiatus since marrying Gail. Just as Gail is about to leave, she is attacked by a killer wearing a hag mask and a lace shawl, who hacks her to death with a sickle.
Meanwhile, Nick arrives in London from New York, where he is attempted to record a new album to satisfy his manager Webster. Nick finds some solace in Webster's secretary Linda, with whom he shares a strong mutual attraction. After some debate, Nick moves into a manor in the Surrey countryside that is overseen by the housekeeper Mrs. B and the gardener Mr. B. Soon after his arrival Nick begins to experience strange phenomena that include visions of his ex-wife Gail. Nick is unaware of Gail's death, so he's confused by her appearance at the manor. Despite this, Nick begins to work on his album and further develop his romance with Linda. His psychological state is not helped when his associate Harry goes missing and Nick discovers that Linda was formerly dating Webster. One night Nick decides to investigate some of the strange noises he's seen and ends up finding Gail's severed, decomposing head. This puts Nick into a catatonic state and he is temporarily admitted to a hospital.
Nick and Linda eventually consummate their new relationship, only for Linda to disappear the following day. This nearly devastates Nick and he's instructed by his physician to take things slowly and to re-visit his apartment, as the physician believes that all of the unexplained phenomena have been a result of Nick's distress over the divorce and the stress of recording his album. Once at the apartment Nick notices that the apartment has been thoroughly cleaned with antiseptic and the carpeting replaced, which marks him as strange since he left the apartment clean upon his departure and gave no orders to have anything replaced. He returns to the English manor and discusses this with Mrs. B, who tells him not to worry about any of this.
However soon after Nick is attacked by the masked old woman. He flees and runs into Mrs. B, who reveals that the masked old woman is Mr. B and that they have killed Gail and Harry out of insanity and revenge. They're angry with Nick, as their only daughter had been obsessed with him and had committed suicide after he announced that he'd married Gail. The murders and supposedly supernatural occurrences were to be their way of getting even with him for everything and that their final act would be to kill Nick himself after slowly driving him insane. Mr. B then tries to kill Nick again, only for Nick to duck and for Mrs. B to accidentally take the fatal wound, which stops Mr. B from further attacking in favor of cradling his dead wife's body. Webster then arrives and upon seeing what happened, calls the police. Just before they arrive, Nick hears tapping in the walls and manages to locate Linda, who the Bs had entombed in the walls with the body of their dead daughter. The two go outside and as the police cart away Mr. B, Nick sees the ghost of Gail waving at him from one of the manor's windows, showing that some of the phenomena he'd experienced had been at least partially real.
Critical reception has been mixed. Time Out panned the film, writing "Not even its brace of transvestite red herrings can help the story stand on its own feet." DVD Verdict and Twitch Film both gave mixed reviews for the film, and DVD Verdict wrote that "It's by no means a terrible film, just a soft one. There are too few jolts and too few kills. On top of that, the reveal is so out-of-left-field, it feels like a cheat." In contrast, HorrorNews.net and Steve Chibnall both praised the film, with Chibnall writing in the book British Horror Cinema that "The Comeback contains Walker's most accomplished exercises in suspense, but the film's tongue is more firmly in its cheek than ever before."