By David Dent
Conor Boru’s spirited first comedy feature, a cheeky titular riff on the 1973 movie ‘And Now the Screaming Starts!’ (but with no narrative connection to that film) finds Norman Graysmith (Jared Rogers), a Louis Theroux type video journalist, shadowing serial killer wannabe Aidan Mendle (Ed Hartland) as he prepares to perpetrate mass murder across London.
Mendle takes his craft seriously; he has a collection of knives and guns, reads Poe aloud while wearing a raven’s head, and has it in for the neighbour’s cat, Richard, who he accidentally shoots.
Mendle decides to take the Charles Manson route to deadly mayhem, all lovingly recorded by Graysmith; with his serial killer loving partner Claire (Kaitlynn Reynell) (whom he met attending the aftermath of a hit and run accident), he interviews and assembles a ‘family’ of would be maniacs, including a restaurant critic desperate to taste human flesh; she doesn’t make the shortlist. Aidan houses the motley crew he’s put together in a disused warehouse, and trains them in preparation for their first slaughter, the target unexpectedly turning out to be the wealthy family of one of his disciples, posh Amy (Octavia Gilmore).
But Aidan lacks Charlie’s charisma; before long there’s infighting among the group, leadership challenges, and the wheels come off his plans for notoriety. Can he regain control and get his murderous scheme back on track?
For the first half of the film, ‘When the Screaming Starts’ is an amiable and occasionally funny movie very much in the observational mode of a lot of contemporary TV comedy (favourite line: “Too IRA?” Aidan asks as he models one of the ‘looks’ he’s planning to wear on his murder sprees, a balaclava and combat jacket outfit).
So the first slaughter, when it arrives, is somewhat jarring and authentically nasty; sadly from here on in the movie loses its focus, as if, having set up its shtick, Boru doesn’t really know what to do with it. There are some interestingly satirical observations on power and leadership, and a fine turn from Gilmore as the mean as a snake Amy, but interest quickly faded for me after a promising start.
When the Screaming Starts has its world premiere at Arrow Video Frightfest today.