Wednesday, 8 July 2015


The presence of godfather of gonzo Lloyd Kaufman in this indie anthology (yep, another one!) will be enough to make some of you stop reading right now while others will start frantically rubbing your hands together with glee.
The head honcho of the absolutely bonkers and wilfully trashy Troma Entertainment pretty much guarantees a distinctive flavour to a movie… and Scream Machine does not disappoint.
Fasten your seatbelts, here we go…


Dir: Scarlet Fry
Starring: Tara Carlton, Brian Carr, Brutus Carr, Ramon Castillo, Tracy Ellegard, Scarlet Fry, David C. Hayes, Paul C. Hemmes, Lloyd Kaufman, Stephen Kessen, Sam Meier, A.J. Nada, Dean Nesland, Randy Robinson, Josiah Spargo, Tom Szczepanski, Gage A. Underhill, Kim Wagner-Hemmes, Sandra E Williams, Dineta Williams-Trigg

 SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but read on at your own risk.

After a swift introduction by the always animated showman that is Lloyd Kaufman, we move on to the wraparound story set in the future after an ebola outbreak has decimated mankind. It features the plague-mask wearing Dr Fry (Um, Fry) and Dr Graves (Hemmes) a severed yet animated head. The pair are the sole remaining source of entertainment on the planet and they now air a film shared with them by an old friend before the fall of man (Kaufman).
That film consists of five ghoulish tales, each set to culminate in bloody, grisly gore…
SLEDGEHAMMER — The story of an aspiring baseball player (Fry again) who is poised to hit the big time due to his awe-inspiring fastball. However, as he shows off his incredible talent in front of scouts, tragedy strikes. Years pass and the ball player goes on to become a roaring success… but even as he reaches his career highpoint his past is set to come back to haunt him.
CANNIBAL PEN PALS: THE DAHMER OBSESSION — A hen-pecked husband (Robinson) houses a dark secret. Unbeknownst to his domineering wife, he is actually a homosexual who has become smitten with imprisoned serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. In fact, the pair have been writing to each other regularly. However, now he is set to take his love of the deranged killer to the next level… eimitation.
APRIL FOOLS PARTY — A drug dealer (Ellegard) who enjoys his own merchandise a little too much gets pranked by a group of his junkie customers. As they torment him and his paranoia increases along with his drug consumption, something has to give…. 
SEPTIC SHOCK — An ailing man (Szczepanski) finds out that his scheming wife and disloyal doctor have been plotting behind his back. The poor man finds himself dumped into a sealed septic tank in the back yard and slowly loses his grip on his sanity as he is unable to claw his way out out of the filth.
DEADLY INDIE DRIVE IN — A disturbed woman (Wagner-Hemmes) attends a drive-in movie theatre and begins to receive strange messages over the radio and from the actor onscreen telling her that she must murder her date. As the communications increase in intensity and urgency the story builds to a surprising conclusion.

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): What you get with a movie like this is bucketfuls of fun. If you want plenty of humour and gallons of viscera, that is certainly what Scream Machine delivers.
The script involves plenty of crude, sweary one-liners and enough blood and gut splatter to keep most gorehounds very happy indeed. 
Most of the humour comes from the interaction between writers Hemmes and Fry in their roles as our hosts for the evening. There are plenty of crudely offensive exchanges between the two (with Hemmes' Dr Graves especially potty-mouthed). Those of you with a South Park/Porky's style sense of humour will get a kick out of these scenes.
However, another — perhaps unexpected — source of amusement is the often cartoonish level of violence and blood that each story descends into. More Evil Dead 2 than Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the bloodletting is more Tom & Jerry-esque slapstick than frightening. The horror may well disgust, but I guarantee that most of you will be belly-laughing even as the events on screen turn stomach-churning.
The budget for Scream Machine is positively minuscule (the IMDB estimates it as a mere $15,000!), yet the one area in which the budget was not a barrier was in the delivery of the great — and practical — special effects. The effects (also carried out by Fry, believe it or not, along with Laurence Holloway) really are excellent and I must commend Fry and Holloway for their work. One of the first areas to go wrong with most low-budget indie horror flicks is the effects department — either financial constraints or a lack of skill/imagination get in the way of bringing the director's vision to life. I'm very pleased to say that is most definitely not the case here.
The stories each show some nice variety — each has a distinctly different feel and storyline. This is nice to see as too many modern anthologies end up treading the same ground over and over.
From the slasher revenge style Sledgehammer, to the decidedly more Creepshow-esque Septic Shock, to the bizarre mindfuckery of Deadly Indie Drive In, each segment in the movie has its own unique flavour.
My favourites were probably Cannibal Pen Pals, which, controversial subject matter aside, told an interesting tale with a fine central performance from Robinson. Okay, it may go a little far with the depraved acts it depicts, but it makes sense considering the source of inspiration.
I also got a real kick out of Deadly Indie Drive In and would have loved to see the story expanded upon. Credit must go to Wagner-Hemmes for her stellar work here as well in the very good Septic Shock.
I've often written about how an anthology has a difficult balancing act to perform — I find that if a horror movie runs for too long audiences can lose interest and become desensitised to the horror, while an anthology needs to dedicate enough time to its stories to ensure that they are told properly. With a mere runtime of just 71 minutes (yes, that's less than an hour and a quarter!) there is no chance that the viewers will run out of patience with this flick.
Finally, one element that absolutely shines through here is that sheer amount of love and enthusiasm that everybody working on this movie had for the project. With several members of the cast and crew taking on multiple roles (not just jack-of-all-trades Fry) you can tell that everybody was utterly dedicated to seeing Scream Machine reach completion — it's a testament to the hard-work of each of them that I'm able to write this review today. I offer my sincerest congratulations to you all.   

THE WORST BITS (minor spoiler warning): It honestly feels unsporting to criticise a low-budget, trashy Troma-style horror movie for its shortcomings, especially those imposed by its lower levels of funding, but sometimes I have to.
As a microbudget flick this one is pretty good, but it does still fall prey to plenty of troubles that having less financial clout can bring.
With several of the cast having not much in the way of experience, I'm afraid that solid line delivery and convincing reactions come only intermittently. What's more, with several of the cast performing in multiple roles this problem is heightened throughout.
Of course, I'm not expecting Royal Shakespeare Company levels of thespian talent (that certainly isn't why most people sit down with this sort of flick!), so I'm prepared to give the guys behind a Scream Machine a little leeway, but it's worth reiterating that they definitely need it.
There are also times when the picture and sound quality dips. It's not terrible by any stretch but there are also times when it's most definitely not very good either. Again, these things are to be expected when the filmmaker has less money and time to spend in post-production, so it's not too big of a deal, but if you've become accustomed to big budget Michael Bay blockbusters, you won't be able to help but notice that this is a lot less polished.
Finally, you may remember that earlier I mentioned the tricky tightrope an anthology picture has to walk — too far one way and it becomes bloated and the audience can become fidgety, too far the other and the segments can become a little malnourished. At just 71 minutes, unfortunately a couple of the segments feel underdeveloped. It's a shame because, given a lot longer to tell their story and expand on their basic premise, every single one of these tales has a ton of potential and originality that you certainly don't see from the average cookie-cutter generic crap that gets churned out by the big studios. However, these stories are pared right down to the bare bones. The simplicity of story telling is refreshing but it means that each becomes very linear — a short series of events that culminate in a big bloody punchline. WIth a little more flavour and elaboration, all of them could have been well and truly special — Sledgehammer could have made a kickass slasher flick, especially with that extremely cool mask and killing method. Maybe if we're lucky Fry and co will expand upon it? If so you can definitely count me in!

THE VERDICT: If you enjoy the gonzo insanity of the likes of Troma's Toxic Avenger or Class of Nuke 'em High THIS is the anthology for you. Cheap and nasty, it's also great fun made by a group of filmmakers who have thrown their all into giving you a grim, gory and at times very, very funny little ride. For the most part, they have succeeded. Sure, it's pretty simplistic and basically consists of a series of exceptionally well-executed gore gags at the end of some pretty amusing dark tales. For some of you, that will be enough. If you want a bit more depth and polish, Scream Machine may not hit the mark, but if you want to laugh and shriek at a movie with some buddies and a pizza, you could do a hell of a lot worse than starting right here. I have seen more than enough here to ensure that I'll be watching out for Fry and co's next effort — if it's half as much fun it'll be worth a look.

If you want to check out the movie, it is available to pre-order at Amazon right here. If you'd like a bit more info, check out the official Scream Machine Facebook page here. Give it a like while you're at it, these guys deserve some recognition for all their hard work!

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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