When the Screaming Starts

Director: Conor Buro

Writers: Conor Buro, Ed Hartland

Cast: Ed Hartland, Jared Rogers, Kaitlin Reynell, Octavia Gilmore, Vår Haugholt, Ronja Haughholt, Yasen Atour, Kavé Niku

Producers: Conor Boru, Ed Hartland, Jared Rogers, Dom Lenoir, Lucinda Rhodes Thakrar

Cinematographer: Adrian Musto

Editor: Alan Rae

Cert: 15 (TBC)

Running time: 88mins

Year: 2021

What’s the story: Documentary filmmaker Norman Graysmith (Rogers) smells fame and fortune when he begins filming the life of aspiring serial killer Aidan Mendle (Hartland). But, after a few botched attempts, Aidan forms a “family” that includes the more dangerously capable Amy (Gilmore).

What’s the verdict: Every time the mockumentary seems spent, along comes a film that fires a shot of adrenalin into the old format. Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask, and The Office all seem like inspirations here, but When the Screaming Start is more than a mere remix.

Director/co-writer Boru and co-writer/star Hartland load the film with dark humour and plot twists, elevating this far above a one-joke outing. Come the deliciously ironic close, targets as gonzo journalism, empty celebrity and male toxicity have been successfully stalked. And juvenile thrash metal, skewered in the form of a pastiche video from Aidan’s band Cannibal Death March. And a troublesome cat.

Wisely expanding the cast beyond Aidan soon into the runtime, the real fun begins when the misfit starts his own cult. His lieutenant is girlfriend Claire (the hilariously deadpan Reynell), serial killer obsessed and confidently declaring, “Aidan’s going to be the next Charles Manson.” “Just not racist,” the inclusivity-minded aspiring killer quickly adds.

Also in the mix are Scandi twins Veronika and Victoria (Ronja & Vår Haugholt), looking for murder and lust after a sheltered upbringing. Joining them is the geezerish Jack (Atour), and the cruel-eyed Amy (Gilmore, genuinely menacing), a woman who literally sees life for the taking. Massoud (Niku) thinks he is on a yoga retreat.

As serial killer training begins, the gags come thick and fast, and this seems more Man Pets Dog than Man Bites Dog. Kudos then to all involved for not copping out, and nimbly shifting the film into darker territory. Laughs are still there, but are joined by winces and scares. Not that this is all just jokes and jolts, there is real meat on the hatchet. When the Screaming Starts is a tale of behind every man is a woman… doing the work for which he is snatching credit. Sharp-sighted shots are also taken at the current obsession of monetising serial murder, and fame hungry wannabe celebs.

Anchoring all this are Ed Hartland as the comically delusional Aidan and Jared Rogers as the bemused Norman. Hartland has a good line in brow-furrowed confusion, while Rogers is imperiously slippery as the wannabe-Nick Broomfield. Buro plays loose with the mockumentary format, as per every other sitcom after the American version of The Office. But, visually this hits high, shifting from a lighter, comedic look into shadow as the mayhem begins.

A confident calling card for all involved, it even pulls off a cheeky “homage” to the Knives Out in its poster design. Highly recommended.

Rob Daniel
Twitter: rob_a_Daniel
Podcast: The Movie Robcast

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