When the Screaming Starts (PANIC) You’ll Probably Laugh More
Title: When the Screaming Starts
First Non-Festival Release: TBD
Director: Conor Boru
Writer: Conor Boru, Ed Hartland
Runtime: 88 Minutes
Starring: Jared Rogers, Kaitlin Reynell, Ed Hartland, Octavia Gilmore
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Panic Film Festival in 2022.
Wannabe serial killer Aidan (Ed Hartland) is contacted by a filmmaking team led by Norman (Jared Rogers) to document him achieving his dreams of becoming a murderer and ascending into the circles of the great serial killers before him. Joining him is Claire (Kaitlin Reynell), his girlfriend who is very supportive of his dreams. Unfortunately, Aidan kind of sucks at his dream. Yet to pull the trigger, or complete any sort of killing, Aidan opts to start a Charles Manson like cult so his followers can do his bidding for him. Among the group he recruits is Amy (Octavia Gilmore) who harbors true talent as a serial killer and begins to question Aidan's authority as head of the family.
An amusing journey, When the Screaming Starts offers up charming mockumentary horror comedy that is as sharp as the knives of a killer.
While it is not an original idea, the execution does offer a few nice subversions to the camera crew following a serial killer story. The more explicit comedy helps differentiate itself from the others along with the change in focus of the various subjects within the film. There are some interesting points made about the capacity to kill as well as the reasons why someone might be interested in murder or death. Of course, it is all exaggerated, but the hyperbole serves the satire of the film more than the message.
Not every joke lands in When the Screaming Starts but when they do they are exceptional. Almost every character gets their moment to shine but Kavé Niku’s Massoud takes the cake. Nearly every single monologue of his has at least one firecracker of a joke delivered with excellence both by Niku and the subtitles in the film. A breezy and lighthearted horror comedy that only drags a bit, When the Screaming Starts is guaranteed to inspire a good, deep laugh or two.
Films like When the Screaming Starts rely on strong characters to keep the pace going. Thankfully, the cast of cooky characters is enough to maintain momentum when the awkwardness sets in and presents challenges. At the center is Aidan, the down-on-his-luck aspiring serial killer, hoping to begin a Charles Manson-esque family in hopes of gaining notoriety. Now, his goal is not unique, even for this tiny sub-genre, but his execution is where it gets tricky. Aidan is not cut out to be a serial killer, so he believes he can head a murder cult instead. His repeated failures are interesting only because he inadvertently does cause quite a bit of death.
Octavia Gilmore steals the show as the wonderfully psychotic Amy. Her presence, voice, and physicality all help make Amy stand out in the ways needed. In another film, Amy would be the perfect cult follower should there be someone to adequately lead her into it. The rest of the cast does a standup job as well. Bright spots include previously mentioned Niku’s unaware and heart-ached Massoud, Vår and Ronja Haughlot’s twisted twins Viktoria and Veronika, and Reynell’s deadpan and death obsessed Claire.
One of the biggest issues of the film arises from its cinematography. There are several times within the film that the camera does not seem to be following a traditional mockumentary direction. It catches multiple angles, oftentimes mirroring what a normal film would look like. It confuses the audience to learn that the cameraman is always present despite the shooting implying otherwise. This is a deflating experience in an otherwise thought-out film.
Charming characters and a dedication to subverting the expected makes When the Screaming Starts a delightfully fun time. Perhaps it isn't quite as clever as it hopes to be, but that does not detract from the many moments it takes the viewer by surprise. Its strength lies in its casting and off-the-wall humor that creeps up behind you much like the most adept of the Mendle family cult members. It struggles in terms of pacing and its dependence on the awkward and uncomfortable Aidan makes it unpleasant at times. Overall, those who are looking for a more lovable horror comedy will find plenty to appreciate in this British outing. Hopefully the screaming starts soon enough in the States so you can see this entertaining gem of an indie film.
Overall Score? 6/10