A dinner party becomes a bloodbath in When The Screaming Starts, which made its debut at FrightFest 2021 on Saturday, August 28, 2021 thanks to Riotous Films, Little Narwhal Films, and Four Plus10 Films.
The film marks the feature-length directorial debut of Conor Boru (Showtime short 2016, Forever Eddie short 2018), who co-wrote the screenplay alongside Ed Hartland (If It Bleeds It Leads short 2015, An Actor’s Life for Me short 2020). Their story revolves around award-winning documentary filmmaker Norman Graysmith (Jared Rogers: Fubar 2018, The Kindred 2021) and his latest controversial project: a serial killer documentary. In a world where very few ideas are truly new or unique, Norman’s groundbreaking presentation will showcase a criminal’s “unfolding” from mild-mannered cinema usher to full-fledged killer.
His star, Aidan (Hartland), is an aspiring murderer who enjoys reciting Edgar Allan Poe prose while donning a raven mask, and shares a “mutual appreciation for murder” with the love of his life, Claire (Kaitlin Reynell). With Norman’s cameras rolling as Aidan gets his first taste of the kill (poor Richard!), the couple are inspired to begin a corkboard listing of potential victims that titillates them into deciding to start a family. (It makes sense in the movie, we promise!)
Now joined by twins Viktoria (Vår Haugholt: The King’s Man 2021) and Veronika (Ronja Haugholt: The King’s Man 2021), fishmonger Jack (Yasen Atour: Young Wallander series, The Witcher series), pony-loving, cliché-loathing Amy (Octavia Gilmore: If Apps Existed 500 Years Ago short 2017, For Sale short 2020), and a very confused yoga enthusiast named Masoud (Kavé Niku: The Bureau series, Black Mirror series), Aidan and Claire begin to plot their unprecedented first crime.
Obviously, this film is not intended for everyone: the easily offended who are nauseated at the thought of bumbling killers as comedy need not apply. Likewise, those who are looking for graphic Horror will be disappointed, as the film’s focus leans more toward the awkwardly comedic rather than graphic bloodshed. For those with an open mind, its blackened British humor offers plenty of non-PC chuckles thanks to its morbid sense of (subtle) humor. Much of which is offered in the form of casual quips from a myriad of awkward characters, although there is a ridiculously amusing scene in the back of a moving van between Hartland and Daniel Collard (X Company series, Echoes of the Past 2021).
At 88 minutes runtime, When The Screaming Starts has plenty to offer besides its yucks. A rocking soundtrack from Michael Palmer provides a sturdy backbone, one that features Green Lung and Los Charly’s Orchestra, as well as Cannibal Death March, who star in an intentionally goofy ’80s-inspired music video within the film. However, the cast is the true highlight here, as they work within their differing roles to bring the asinine to life with a light-hearted laugh.
In the starring roles, Rogers and Hartland initially lead the pack, playing off their characters’ quirks as they meet, form a rapport, and begin to make murder into art. In supporting their co-stars, the Haugholt twins give a solid performance as their lusty doppelgangers, while Atour holds his own as the energetic Jack. Impressively, Reynell manages to deliver an entirely stone-faced, apathetic Claire with grace, and Gilmore’s Amy is downright cold in the very best way. But it is Niku’s perpetually confused Masoud who provides more than his fair share of comedic moments. How the actor didn’t ruin every take with laughter, we’re still unsure!
So what’s the point of all this bloody insanity? When The Screaming Starts is a morally precarious yet amusing film experience, one that will definitely teach a few moviegoers about perseverance and failure, as well as the finer skills necessary in committing a multiple homicide. As sardonic entertainment, it serves as a well-crafted reminder that serial killers hide in plain sight. On its most sophisticated level, the story is reminder to heed the words of Nietzsche, who once mused: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”
Oh, and if you want a difficult job done right the first time, ask a woman! Otherwise, someone’s favorite stuffed cat is going to get slaughtered for no reason. For its well-crafted splattering of laughter along with its provocative content, Cryptic Rock gives When The Screaming Starts 3.5 of 5 stars. Stay through the credits!