Ray Bradbury Theater – The Screaming Woman (02/22/86)

Drew Barrymore is in bed screaming.  Unfortunately, this is 1986, not 1996; and she is reading a copy of Tales from the Crypt.

Unlike her real childhood, she apparently has parents in this episode.  Her mother sends 11 year old Drew to get some ice cream.  To avoid a DUI, she takes her bike.  She rides through the standard ET / Poltergeist neighborhood of the type that you won’t be seeing much more of on RBT (i.e. American).

We see her buying ice cream at Baskin-Robbins, which is probably product placement by Dairy Queen.  She is next reading her TFTC inside a construction pipe.  This is also a shot of the type that you will not be seeing much more of on RBT — well composed and executed.  But what happened to the ice cream?  Oh, the humanity!

She faintly hears a woman screaming and goes into the woods to investigate.  The sound seems to be coming from underground.  Drew is spooked and rushes home.  She runs into the kitchen screaming, “There’s a woman screaming!  A screaming woman!”  Her mother blames it on the pulps she is reading, and the cocaine.  Her father says if she cleans her plate, he will go back with her to check it out.  So either a) he doesn’t believe her, or 2) he does believe her, but is leaving the woman in peril until Drew finishes her supper and has a smoke.

Drew and her father go back to the woods after dinner, but there is no sign or sound of the woman.  Undeterred, she finds a couple of shovels and recruits her dippy friend Chubby, no her chubby friend Dippy, to help.  They go back to the woods.  They start digging, but before they get far, the owner of the land, Mr. Kelly, chases them off.

Drew decides it is probably Mrs. Nesbitt screaming.  Her parents had talked about how much the Nesbitts fight.  They also said it had been quiet lately.  She goes to the Nesbitt’s house and Mr. Nesbitt answers the door. She nervously makes up a story about Mrs. Nesbitt offering to give her the recipe for peach pie.

Mr. Nesbitt asks her to come inside and wait.  Drew not only goes into house of the murder suspect who is swilling scotch, she tells him about the titular screaming woman on Mr. Kelly’s land.  He chuckles nervously and says, “You certainly have a weird imagination.  How about a drink?”  When he goes to the kitchen to get the vodka, she gets scared and runs back to the woods.

Yada yada, Drew goes back home, hums a song Mrs. Nesbitt wrote, and returns to the woods.  That night, her father remembers where he heard that song, then finds her bed is empty.  Mr. Nesbitt attacks her in the woods.  Her father heroically shows up and brains him.  The cops start digging.

Sure enough, they find a large wooden crate, larger than a casket.  They open it up, and after a few seconds, fingers appear grasping the side.  Yea!  Drew has saved the day!

Not to nitpick, but that must not have been the first scotch Mr. Nesbitt drank that week:

  1. So he kills his wife; let’s even give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was premeditated.  He built or bought this big-ass crate in preparation.  Didn’t his wife question what it was for?  Maybe that was the trigger — “You spent $300 on a big-ass crate, you idiot?”
  2. After killing her, he hauled this giant crate out to the woods by himself with no one seeing him?  Or when he bought it, did he tell Home Depot [1] to deliver it to the woods?
  3. Why not just wrap her in a carpet or blanket?  That big box would store way too much oxygen.  Scorpio didn’t leave his victim that much air.
  4. Which wouldn’t have been a problem if, ya know, he had not done such a half-assed job of killing her.
  5. Why dump her body on Mr. Kelly’s land?  Seeing how he quickly caught Drew and Dippy, he clearly keeps an eye on it.
  6. And, as I am tired of pointing out every few episodes:  A dumpy middle-aged guy is not going bury a 3 x 3 x 6 box a few feet down without a backhoe.
  7. Most nit-picky of all, there was no sign of fresh digging, or a 3 x 3 x 6 pile of displaced earth.  Maybe he had a second 3 x 3 x 6 crate that he put the dirt into and carried it away on his f***n’ back.

But none of this matters in a good episode; and this was a good episode.  It really doesn’t take much to satisfy me.  Drew Barrymore was not a natural young actress, but she really does light up and energize a scene.  I got the sense that the director knew exactly what to do with her, too.

Further kudos to the director for some good locations and imaginative shots.  Much of this was probably due to higher budgets in RBT’s first season.  Still, I think he transcended what he was given.  Good stuff.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Or maybe Crate & Barrel, heyyyooooo!
  • The episode is strangely bookended with unnecessary (but not necessarily unwelcome) vignettes.  In the opening, Bradbury does some acting as he leaves his “magician’s workshop” in search of a story.
  • There is a scene at the end in which Drew mentions Mrs. Goodbody and some boys raising giant mushrooms in their cellars.  I take this as a cryptic reference to the future RBT episode Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar!  How very Lost-ian to lay the groundwork for a future episode.  Maybe there was supposed to be a Ray Bradbury Expanded Universe.
  • These first season episodes have ranged from OK to pretty good, so I’m not sure why I bailed on the series.  I think it might have had to do with the next episode which I recall as being dreadful.
  • See you in September!

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