02nd Sep2021

Frightfest 2021: ‘When the Screaming Starts’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Jared Rogers, Ed Hartland, Kaitlyn Reynell, Octavia Gilmore, Yasen Atour | Written by Conor Boru, Ed Hartland | Directed by Conor Boru

Written by Ed Hartland (who also stars) and Conor Boru, who also directs his first feature film here, When The Screaming Starts is a comedy-horror in which Norman Graysmith (Jared Rogers), perhaps an homage to Louis Theroux, a documentary film-maker who has made a career documenting the lives of people living on the fringes of society, is invited into the home of an aspiring serial killer, Aiden. Norman thinks this is going to be the documentary that catapults his career into orbit.

The movie doesn’t dilly-dally before revealing it’s tongue-in-cheek satyr and dry British sarcasm, with the introduction of Aiden Mendle (Hartland), the aspiring killer in question. One moment Aiden is friendly and matter-of-fact with his desire to be a successful serial killer, and then he’s staring bullet creepily in doorways. It makes for terrifying viewing. No… not terrifying, I meant hilarious. Hilarious viewing. During the “documentary” we see Aiden attempt to recruit members to his house as a “Family” like that of Charles Manson. He and his girlfriend Claire (Kaitlyn Reynell) interview a number of people in the hopes of finding other similar souls who share their desires for murder. Once the “family” is eventually formed, we witness Aiden attempt to train and teach the new members, with varying responses and results, and while his “family” go about realising their murderous ambitions, Aiden sits back and watches, thinking of himself as the leader and mind behind the actual killing. It’s all very silly and oddball, and reminded me a bit of comedy-horror hits like Wellington Paranormal and What We Do in the Shadows.

Beyond the abundance of comedy there is plenty of horror to be found here, which I was both a little surprised by and really happy to see. Sometimes horror-comedies refrain from too much of the violent or gory stuff, but When The Screaming Starts is comfortable in its own skin and willingly stabs and slashes and cuts and bludgeons with a smile on its face. The performances across the board are all really good, with Hartland, Reynell and Octavia Gilmore, as Amy, really standing out. There’s a quality to the film and to the jokes. I felt like this would have killed (pun intended) in a packed-out cinema with a bunch of people laughing along.

There’s potentially a deeper meaning at play here, perhaps regarding the lengths and depths people are willing to go to in order to find fame or success, perhaps in following your dreams, maybe in the true meaning of family, but really this is a bloody good comedy movie about a filmmaker, a bunch of psychopaths (and a guy who just wanted to take part in a yoga class). Hilarious, dark and very accessible. I think When The Screaming Starts will become something of a cult-favourite, falling in with other horror mockumentaries of a high quality.

****½  4.5/5

When The Screaming Starts screened as part of this years Arrow Video Frightfest


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