Mockumentary styled comedies, when done right, can use the fourth wall to great effect but other films use this handheld camera motion as just a way to dive deeper into what a character is thinking, sharing emotions and thoughts that wouldn’t be shared normally. As a dark comedy, When the Screaming Starts, excels with comedy found in looks and matter of fact-ness dialogue. But the mockumentary style muddies the blood-soaked waters and even becomes difficult to track in the final third of the film.
When the Screaming Starts follows Louis Theroux wannabe Norman Graysmith who has been invited to document the journey of aspiring serial killer Aidan Mendle as he sets out on his ‘career’. Going from bad to worse, Aidan decides to start a Charles Manson like ‘family’ cult of killers. But on the night of the family’s first kill, things don’t quite go according to plan for Aiden or Norman, who thinks he’s found the story that make his career.
The twist in events can be seen a mile off and some of the supporting characters don’t quite hit the mark in terms of comedy, coming off as genre beats in horror comedies. Then there are even scenes that are just uncomfortable and hard to watch, such as Mickey who auditions to join the family because he was brought up in care. Moments such as these are very jarring next the scenes where the family practice their killing skills. Switching back and forth between makes the film lose focus and ultimately confuse the audience. However, the film does have some merit in the form of the bloodiest and actually quite terrifying scenes in the film; the dinner party massacre and post massacre party where the ‘family’ celebrates. These are the stand out scenes most likely as there is nearly no forced comedic moments. The final scenes of the film try and replicate this atmosphere but, again, don’t quite work.
There is a lot of potential within the story and even the characters who are quite one dimensional, whether that is on purpose or not it’s unclear. But the film feels very much feels like a debut effort with a much more polished and well-rounded film to follow. Maybe be worth watching out for what the creative team does next.