Society’s macabre fascination with murder is given the mockumentary treatment in “When the Screaming Starts,” a very funny (and very unsettling) comedy-horror film from director Conor Boru. This sick and twisted story about a struggling documentary filmmaker and his quest to make an award-winning film about an aspiring serial killer will make you laugh, but its dramatic shift in tone will also horrify.
Norman (Jared Rogers) is on a quest to finally get his career off the ground. Armed with a camera, he visits the home of ultimate serial killer fanboy, Aidan (Ed Hartland). Aidan and his bizarre photographer girlfriend Claire (Kaitlin Reynell) are obsessed with all things related to death, and they come up with the idea to start their own Manson Family killer cult. After interviewing for the perfect crew to train in the art of murder, Aidan assembles a team of like-minded, misfit psychos who eventually go around town with one goal: spilling as much blood as possible.
The film gets the tone right, especially in the laughter department. Early on, this plays like a straight-up dark comedy, with a dry and wry, British style. The jokes are plentiful and sophisticated and if you are a fan of smart visual and verbal humor, you’ll love this film. About halfway through, this feels like a completely different movie. Boru balances the tone reasonably well until a dramatic shift that jolts from comedy to horror. The story goes to some very dark (and unexpected) places and is bloody and disturbing.
The mockumentary format is an effective way to tell the story (co-written by Boru and Hartland), and it raises some difficult questions about how horrific crimes often make the killer famous while the victims are quickly forgotten. “When the Screaming Starts” is clever, distressing, and offers a piercing commentary on the world we live in. It’s also bloody hilarious.