When the Screaming Starts earns its horror-comedy laughs and savors its bleaker commentary on fame-driven obsessions as a sharp serial killer mockumentary

When the Screaming Starts Review


When the Screaming Starts is now streaming on ScreamBox.

Conor Boru's merciless mockumentary When the Screaming Starts exists at the intersection of Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and What We Do in the Shadows. Shades of faux documentaries about serial killers like Man Bites Dog influence Boru and co-writer Ed Hartland's screenplay about England’s next infamous serial killer family, even if the cinematography sometimes fails to maintain first-person camera rules. There's humor and satire galore in this jokey slasher ride-along, whether that's an amateur journalist profiting off innocent deaths or the allure behind becoming the next Charles Manson. Murderer-in-the-making performances are sneakily strong, Boru's assessments of modern get-famous-quick culture biting, and massacres are a right genre rollick. If you don't yet own a subscription to ScreamBox, the horror streaming service that acquired When the Screaming Starts, this is a standout point of entry.
Hartland stars as ex-death metal guitarist, current cinema usher, and hopeful true-crime icon Aidan, the subject of investigative journalist Norman's (Jared Rogers) groundbreaking documentary. Their agreement is mutually beneficial — Norman airs never-before-seen murder footage, and Aidan raises his wanted level from one to five stars overnight. Everything gravitates around the glorification of immorality, even Aidan's girlfriend, Claire (Kaitlin Reynell), who keeps a "Scrapbook of the Dead" filled with original photography of corpses (the fresher, the better). No, there's no semblance of reality to craven occurrences — hence the mockumentary designation. Boru cheekily addresses professional dilemmas of a knives-out occupation, as Aidan's haplessness becomes apparent and his knockoff Manson Family quickly sniffs out their false leader.
What We Do in the Shadows comparisons range from clueless interview asides to fish-out-of-water dynamics (serial killers doing no-killer activities), to zany disciples sharing colorful backstories. Jack (Yasen Atour) is an ex-con meat and seafood vendor who operates out of a poles-and-plastic street stall. Masoud (Kavé Niku) is a foreign yogi with a language barrier who accidentally joins Aidan's cult because he thinks it's another yoga retreat. Aidan's determination to outshine Jeffrey Dahmer is equaled by his cowardice and inability to murder anything (besides a neighbor's cat, on accident). When the Screaming Starts pits those who talk with blustery confidence against others who actually walk promised walks as frustrations within Aidan's commune thicken.
Character rivalries keep more basic themes of celebrity worship culture from deflating behind violent assassination sequences.
At the center of Aidan's conflicts is Amy (Octavia Gilmore), the poster child of "Gothic Troublemaker" who immediately challenges Aidan for leadership dominance. Behind her black lipstick, webby clothing with matching choker, and sinister smirk resides chilling unpredictability, made evident when she tours us through her cluttered manor of occult delicacies and bound ex-schoolteachers she torments for pleasure. Amy meshes well with oppressed bored-by-country-lifestyle twins Viktoria (Vår Haugholt) and Veronica (Ronja Haugholt), played like The Shining girlies grew up and chose Aidan's maniacal clan as their Rumspringa. Norman's all-seeing perspective contrasts Aidan's blind awareness against Amy's clear and present mutiny. There's a pitiful aspect to Aidan's desperation to be famously acknowledged and how he's so miserably positioned to fail while Amy looms in the wings (glaring at the camera with confident recognition).
When the screaming eventually starts, and crimson rivers flow, character rivalries keep more basic themes of celebrity worship culture from deflating behind violent assassination sequences. Norman and Aidan's relationship as Aidan becomes less valuable to the documentary, the team, and even his dagger-eyed lover sustains a tension that could explode on either end like a pull-apart Christmas popper. Boru might depend on comedy throughout When the Screaming Starts — which somehow keeps us snickering despite the story's somewhat predictable direction — but that doesn't downplay the sinister vibes in motion. Aidan may be the self-described "brain" behind killing sprees, shooting his "bullets" (what he calls his minions), but those bullets still cause plentiful harm. Octavia Gilmore's cold-to-the-world portrayal of Amy stirs chaos that Hartland's misguided Aidan cannot control, a delight for us to behold.
Although, there's one huge red flag that persists as When the Screaming Starts gets deeper into its production. When adopting found-footage or documentary subgenres, there are distinct camera rules that express why the footage is rolling and who is behind the lens. Boru forgets this rule as a single cameraman accompanies Norman, yet heated exchanges between Norman and Amy during the mock-doc’s third act contain a flurry of cuts to reveal reactions between the two arguers. Beyond nitpicks of gags that don't land and the extreme tonal emphasis on laughter over slaughter that does whimper once or twice, my biggest gripe is about forgetting the medium you've chosen as a filmmaker.
Best Horror Movies So Far In 2022<b>X</b>
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Ti West’s X is as glorious and malevolent a return to horror features that anyone could ask for from the indie filmmaker turned prolific television director. IGN’s official review gave X an 8 out of 10, which I come in a little higher on myself. West’s incorporation of countless influences from Giallo to 70s sleazeploitation makes for an artfully chaotic brand of contemporary slasher. It’s handily one of A24’s better horror films, filled with gratuitous but oh-so-slick gore and all the sweltery southern terrorization in films like The Town That Dreaded Sundown or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
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Performances across the board help make X so memorable. It’s Jenna Ortega’s year in horror without any question, but she’s only one piece to X’s blood-splattered puzzle. Brittany Snow, Kid Cudi, Mia Goth, and more play above-and-beyond parts as pornographers trying to elevate their medium. West has loads of fun comparing horror to pornography in terms of public perception, while characters are granted agency beyond easy stereotypes. What’s not to like about a sex-positive slasher that swings a big ego and delivers as promised?<b>The Black Phone</b>
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Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill strike horror gold again with The Black Phone. IGN’s official review dials in a 9 out of 10, as Amelia concludes, “The Black Phone mixes the supernatural with relatable horrors in ways that will leave you both terrified and hopeful.” It’s that hopefulness that I wasn’t expecting because Ethan Hawke’s child kidnapper “The Grabber” sure is a nasty son-of-a-gun. Child actors Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw play their parts so tremendously well, it's impossible not to leave thinking the kids will be alright.
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Direction goes a long way for The Black Phone because Derrickson shows a confident and transformative command of The Grabber’s basement. It feels massive when Thames’ victim searches around for escape clues and claustrophobic when The Grabber comes downstairs to enhance sensations of chilly isolation. Add in a few paranormal scares and killer mask designs by Tom Savini, and you’ve got a definitive crowd-pleasing horror film worth acclaim. Not like that’s anything new for the team behind Sinister.<b>Nope</b>
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Jordan Peele’s no stranger to “Best of” horror lists between Get Out and Us — and Nope is no different. It’s Peele having a blast with Twilight Zone influences on a Speilbergian sci-fi scale. We don’t toss around the term “Event Horror” anymore (used to describe blockbuster horror flicks that devour the screen) but Peele has become a champion for such spectacle filmmaking now for a third time with Nope. Audiences will find an immensely entertaining UFO mystery with laughs and chills — but that’s just on the surface.
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Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, and Steven Yeun explore the nasty histories of minorities being tossed aside and forgotten by Hollywood. Our ugly relationship with spectacles is put on display while Peele still manages to keep us in awe of the overarching alien threat. Peele operates outside the more overt social commentaries of Get Out and Us, without ditching a directorial voice that’s arguably the most unique in contemporary horror cinema. In Peele we trust, and there’s a reason IGN gave the film a 9 out of 10 in our official review.<b>Scream</b>
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Radio Silence’s Scream sequel does right by franchise creators Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson. It’s a requel that plays into all the tropes and decades-later revamps that have tried tirelessly to revive franchises gasping for air. IGN’s Amelia Emberwing gave the film a 9 out of 10, saying, “All of the performances are pitch-perfect, the kills are gnarly, and no version of toxic fandom is left unmocked.” I agree with those words, since the film so lovingly pays homage to multiple threads from Williamson’s original script with all the sharp genre commentary Craven loved to exploit.
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The year of “Jenna Ortega: Our Scream Queen” continues since she stars alongside Melissa Barrera as slasher surviving sisters, meeting franchise favorites like Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courteney Cox. There’s no chip on the shoulders of Radio Silence as they direct through another massacre that’s the most violent and relentless to date, yet comedy thrives as Jasmin Savoy Brown becomes the Meeks we deserve. Scream (2022) channels Craven, guts “Horror Twitter” with scathing commentary against gatekeepers, and feels comfortably at home in the franchise. That’s all Scream fans can ask for, shake ups and all.<b>The Innocents</b>
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In my IGN review for The Innocents, I conclude, “The Innocents is a slow-burner that stars a majority small-fry cast and yet is far more poised and impactful than those descriptions suggest.” What’s so stunning about this dark Norwegian take on children with superpowers is how mature the film treats its subjects. There’s never a desire to water-down dire consequences because wee younglings are in charge. If anything, the screenplay amplifies concepts around children not understanding the harm they can cause and how quickly some are forced to grow up.
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It’s a playground metaphor for unchecked aggression and the corruption of unlimited powers. Kids start levitating rocks and realizing they’re far more special than their parents ever imagined — both a blessing and a curse. Horror elements interfere when one child uses his abilities in hurtful ways, as the other powered children wonder how to stop his rein of terror. It’s an impactful film about choices and how quickly humans succumb to their worst impulses, made immensely more impactful given the age of all players involved.<b>Watcher</b>
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I liked Watcher a tad more than IGN’s Amelia Emberwing, whose 7 out of 10 review says, “The story will linger too long for some, but anyone willing to stick with it is in for a treat.” Chloe Okuno’s feature debut needs nothing more than a woman abroad and the man whose eyes are always locked on said woman’s figure. It’s highlighting horrors of the outside world, as society repeatedly tells women they’re perfectly safe and to stop overreacting, right before another innocent life is taken by some dude who stalked another innocent soul home late one night.
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Maika Monroe stars as the American wife of a businessman who relocates to Bucharest, Romania. Even without Burn Gorman’s insidious neighbor who ends up being the “Watcher,” Okuno does well to accentuate the loneliness of a partner doing right by their spouse through sacrifice and discomfort. Then the social commentary and voyeuristic unrest take over as both Maika and Burn do their best on the respective sides of an invasive, grossly vulnerable stalker scenario that uses reality as the utmost impetus for horror cinema. Why create imaginary monsters when our lives are filled with real ones?
This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Matt Donato

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