Writers: Conor Boru and Ed Hartland
Director: Conor Boru
The faux documentary format is a godsend to filmmakers on a limited budget allowing the use of a narrator to explain plot points and justifying a fragmented film. Director Conor Boru makes full use of the style in the dark comedyWhen The Screaming Starts.
Norman Graysmith (Jared Rogers) aspires to make a documentary in the style of Louis Theroux. Aidan Mendle (Ed Hartland who co-authored the film with director Boru) wants to be a serial killer and Claire (Kaitlin Reynell) his voyeuristic and emotionally remote girlfriend enjoys photographing scenes of death. The couple seem an ideal subject for a controversial documentary that will make Graysmith’s reputation, but actual events are disappointing.
Even a casual viewer can see Aidan is more fantasist than killer and his first attempt at murder does not go to plan. The inept couple decide, therefore, to form a commune of killers in the style of Charles Manson’s Family. The interviewing of candidates is suitably shambolic but there is the growing sense of things getting out of hand when the manipulative Amy (Octavia Gilmore) arrives. Amy may be the real deal- after all she keeps one of her old schoolteachers locked in a closet- and has strong opinions on how to deal with people who have offended her in the past including, it turns out, her parents.
Director Boru takes a straight-faced approach drawing humour (and indeed horror) from background details. A painfully sincere effort by Aidan to make a death metal music video is undermined by a clearly visible dog walker. A pair of guests arrive at a dinner party complaining about traffic delays not noticing the celebration has descended into a slaughterhouse.
It is obvious the blank-faced Clare rather than the motormouthed Aidan (who at one point pretentiously quotes Poe while wearing a raven mask) is the true degenerate in the relationship. Ed Hartland brings an element of David Brent style comedy of embarrassment to the film. He awkwardly reassures prospective members the cult they are applying to join is inclusive and should not be considered racist just because it uses Charles Manson as a role model. Aidan is oblivious to the fact one of his ‘family’ trying to kill another genuinely is motivated by racism.
Straightforward gags are not overlooked with a non-English speaking member of the cult being under the impression he has joined a yoga commune.
There are the inevitable inconsistencies arising from the documentary format- scenes somehow being filmed without the documentarian being present. But these are kept to a minimum and there is a cheeky nod to the Marvel movie universe with a series of post-credit scenes giving updates on the fate of the participants.
The horror aspects ofWhen The Screaming Startsarenot as effective as the comedy. This is not due to an absence or gore or tension but simply because the theme of ‘’if you look into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you’’ is well-worn and not shocking or even surprising. Taken as a blend of horror and humour, however,When The Screaming Startsis bloody funny.
Signature Entertainment presentsWhen the Screaming Startson Digital Platforms 26th September.