REVIEW: When The Screaming Starts (2021)

dir. Conor Boru

Considering that the film’s poster brings to mind Knives Out one would be forgiven for expecting a murder-mystery akin to Rian Johnson’s cracking whodunnit, yet that would be a mistake: Conor Boru’s feature debut may have murder at the heart of an off-kilter family, but the result is more Man Bites Dog-meets-The Office.

When he’s invited to the home of aspiring serial killer Aidan (Ed Hartland), filmmaker Norman (Jared Rogers) believes he has the subject for a documentary which could make his career. A wannabe Louis Theroux who believes in the potential of his work, Norman spirals into obsession as he lets real killings slide so long as he has the footage.

As the subject of Norman’s film, Aidan’s introduced as somebody with dark aspirations but whose methods of reaching them are less effective. Sharing his vision is girlfriend Claire (Kaitlin Reynell), who uses flowery language to describe her own macabre desires. In-between games of serial killer Guess Who, the pair decide to start a “family” in the vein of Charles Manson.

Auditions are held which attract many people, including a pretentious type who calls the Bubonic Plague his favourite serial-killer and an unsuccessful applicant who’s humorously treated like an X-Factor sob story. The best performance though comes from Octavia Gilmore as Amy, somebody with a vicious past and violent ambitions. Her initiative causes a power struggle in the family, as her willingness to get her hands dirty contrasts with Aiden’s preference to be an attention-grabbing ringleader.

With a screenplay co-written with Hartland, Boru’s direction delivers an interesting if mixed concoction. The soundtrack choices feel intrusive, whilst the humour can be hit-and-miss, highlighted by a tired recurring gag about one character’s inability to speak English being misconstrued by others. Despite covering familiar material which has be tackled more successfully elsewhere, what’s most effective is the comment made on how far someone will go to make a name for themselves, a point mirrored in the way our media fetishizes murderers whilst ignoring their victims.

⭐⭐⭐

James Rodrigues

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