Friday, 30 January 2015


When I reviewed Dorchester's Revenge: The Return of Crinoline Head last year, I praised the film for its throwback feel to the heyday of slasher flicks.
I think there is a real demand for unapologetic slasher movies today — a lot of horror fans were raised in the mid-Eighties, the glory days of the sub-genre. There is a real affection and nostalgia for some of these films.
Also, since horror became saturated with movies featuring masked killers picking off cookie-cutter characters on certain dates, the slasher has tailed off somewhat. The spate of teen-friendly slashers that followed in the wake of Scream were widely derided for being too toothless (or more precisely, too bloodless) while the more recent trend for torture p0rn movies has left slasher fans cold due to their meanness, a lack of fun and suspense.
So with that in mind, I was intrigued when I head about Scream Park. It boasts an old school slasher premise, using its setting as a hook and boasting a big cast of characters that should all be eerily familiar to fans of the sub-genre.
Is this another classic along the lines of The Burning? Or are we looking at another cheap modern attempt to cash in a la Valentine?
Read on...


Dir: Cary Hill
Starring: Wendy Wygant, Steve Rudzinski, Tyler Kale, Nicole Beattie, Kyle Riordan, Alicia Marie Marcucci, Dean Jacobs, Kailey Marie Harris, Nivek Ogre, Ian Lemmon, Doug Bradley

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

Fright Land, a small local theme park, is winding down for closure following plummeting attendances. The staff are going through the motions, collecting their last few paycheques before the gates shut forever.
As the park closes one night we are introduced to the eclectic mix of characters that work there: fun-loving, busty Carlee (Harris); her boyfriend, lunkish jock Tony (Jacobs); disinterested, goth Missi (Beattie); cute blonde Allison (Marcucci); geeky loner Rhodie (Kale); sweet and good-hearted Jennifer (Wygant) and their uptight boss Marty (Rudzinski). Allison and Carlee use their feminine wiles to convince Marty to allow them the throw a staff party after hours on site. After Allison’s bad-boy, punk boyfriend Roy (Riordan) arrives with booze, hi-jinx ensue.
However, it isn’t long before two sinister masked figures are spotted roaming the park — and then the bodycount starts to mount.
Who are these masked maniacs? What do they want? And who, if anybody, will survive the night?

THE BEST BITS (minor spoiler warning): One of the problems with imitating the classic films of yesteryear with a limited budget is that sometimes the means do not match the vision. Amazingly, director Cary Hill has created a fantastic throwback that never feels compromised. This was obviously helped no end by the fact that the crew were able to shoot in a real theme park. The park makes for a great setting and doesn't just serve as a cool hook, it also has a purpose in the storyline too. It isn't just a gimmick, it's a legitimate plot device! 

This plot is decent enough by slasher standards but the real strength of the writing is in the dialogue and characterisation. Yes, the characters do fit into neat slasher archetypes, but they have more depth to them than most. They manage to be sympathetic, adding a level of realism to the roles that many of their slasher forebears would neglect to include. The writing is wonderful but the excellent cast certainly do contribute to the film's most successful moments.
The girls are all undoubtedly very attractive (this has to be one of the most unfeasibly good-looking casts I have ever seen) but they and their male co-stars are also all extremely talented performers. It's tough to pick any standout performers from what is an exceptional standard throughout, but if I had to single anybody out for praise I would say that the superb Wygant (who was all too easy to fall for), Beattie (who was cool, spiky yet very likeable) and Kale (whose dead-on performance meant that you couldn't help but root for him) are definitely names to look out for in the future. Each was genuinely brilliant.
Of course, if we are discussing the impressive thespians featuring in Scream Park it would be remiss to overlook the legendary Doug Bradley. The always awesome Bradley has a small but key role in the proceedings and chews the scenery with devilish relish. The man is a legitimate genre treasure and once again proves what a phenomenal, charismatic acting powerhouse he is while barely breaking a sweat. Upon securing Bradley's services I imagine Hill et al would have been jumping for joy for very, very good reason.
Speaking of Hill, he really impressed me with his work. Not just in disguising the movie's budgetary restrictions, but for the genuine skill he displayed with his assured direction. Some of the shots in Scream Park were amazing, especially that waterside shot of the monstrous Ogre. Hill knows his stuff and I cannot wait to see more from him in the future.
Hill's wonderfully lit and framed visuals are perfectly backed by the great soundtrack, which has a suitably Eighties vibe. Very cool!
Finally a quick word on the stuff that most slasher fans are looking for - gore and scares. The character design and vicious MO of the deranged killers is very creepy indeed and provides plenty of chills throughout. There are some imaginative deaths, plus one particularly shocking one that seemingly comes from nowhere, so the film also delivers on that count.

THE WORST BITS (minor spoiler warning): There's not much to find fault with in Scream Park but there were a couple of minor issues.
First, a pet peeve of mine. Doug Bradley's name is all over the packaging for this film, yet his screentime totals less than five minutes. What you do get is awesome but I want to warn hardcore Pinhead fans that the marketing team here may have been a little overzealous with their use of Bradley's name. I understand why they've done it, of course, but only thought it fair to clue you guys in.
I liked the interesting plot of the movie, but on closer inspection there are some quite major plot holes in the villains' plan. I shall try to remain deliberately vague here but I'll add a spoiler warning just in case, SPOILERS********** While sound(ish) in theory, it doesn't quite hold up when real world rules and regulations, not to mention the outrage of morality campaigners, are taken into account SPOILERS END********** Of course, as a throwback to retro slasher classics this can be overlooked as these regularly featured decidedly iffy storylines. In fact, compared to some of the silliness of some of the sub-genre's finest Scream Park fares very well indeed!
Some people might also find the flick a little predictable. It has easily the most telegraphed final girl I've seen in a long time, but this is part of the movie's throwback charm. If you know your slasher films you KNOW what distinguishes a survivor from blade-fodder, so why not embrace that wholeheartedly? As a celebration of a sub-genre it seems pretty obvious that the movie should adhere to that genres rules and for that I applaud it.
Speaking of the storyline somebody somewhere needs to sort out the plot description for the movie over at its IMDB page — it completely spoils the biggest plot twist! What the hell man?
I know I praised the acting throughout but I did have one teensy tiny gripe. I thought the fantastically creepy Nivek Ogre completely nailed all of his character's unsettling physical ticks and mannerisms, but on some (very rare) occasions his redneck accent slipped into becoming a little too cartoonish for my liking. Once again, if this was a deliberate thing, a shoutout to the OTT hillbillies of the slasher heyday, he did a fine job. Either way it certainly wasn't enough to ruin my enjoyment of the film or his performance as a believably psychotic antagonist.
Finally, while the flick delivered some cool scares and a couple of nice scenes of splatter, a film with this high a body count could have done with some more blood and guts. It wasn't disappointing by any stretch of the imagination and I understand that this was the area in which the pinch of a lower budget was more acutely felt, but I think a couple more gruesome moments could have propelled an already very good slasher flick even higher.

VERDICT: What a great find this one was! In case you hadn't guessed I LOVE slasher films and this gave me everything I could ask for from one: a cracking, fast paced story, pretty faces putting in incredible performances, mean as hell villains, witty dialogue, quality filmmaking, a groovy soundtrack and characters I could actually give a hoot about. Hill and his team absolutely nailed it. This is another easy recommendation to my fellow fans of stalk 'n' slash cinema.
And if that's not enough, I've been reliably informed that a sequel is on the way — and with a significantly higher budget. I was pretty impressed with what the team pulled out of the bag this time round, so I'm very excited to see what they can achieve with even more funds to play with.
If you want to learn more about this sequel, check Scream Park's official Facebook page for updates. While you're there, give it a big old Like too. These guys rock so they deserve it!

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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