HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Thursday, March 20, 2014

SCREAM PARK -- movie review by porfle

First-time writer/producer/director Cary Hill has done a workmanlike job with his debut feature, SCREAM PARK (2012).  Which would be enough, except that he's also managed to give his ultra-low-budget slasher flick enough extra zing to help distinguish it from the rest of the pack.

Not that it's any kind of classic, or even that much above average.  But compared to some of the utterly lackluster entries which tend to accumulate until this particular genre is bursting at the seams with boredom, it's downright invigorating.

The set-up is a simple one: a group of amusement park employees are about to be laid off and their workplace closed due to lack of interest, so they decide to stay after work one night and have one last boozy party.  Unbeknownst to them, however, their boss, Mr. Hyde (Douglas Bradley), has hired a couple of homicidal yokels to murder them all in hopes that the publicity will bring customers back to the park.

At least it's not another freakin' summer camp, right?  And this kind of setting is always interesting, especially when imbued with a last-gasp melancholy mixed with the inherent spookiness of a deserted fun park after dark.  Once the stalking starts, Hill takes good advantage of these surroundings with various action taking place on roller coasters, inside haunted houses, etc. along with behind-the-scenes facilities.

The characters are still pretty much the usual suspects but are somewhat more likable than the norm.  Wendy Wygant is Jennifer, a "final girl" finalist right off the bat because she's actually nice (we see her letting people win the ring-toss game she oversees).  Jennifer will later prove refreshingly brave and resourceful against the duo of demented goons bent on killing them all. 

Not only is Wygant a competent actress, but she also has a world-class behind, something I point out only because such things tend to enhance a film's production values.  Also adding to SCREAM PARK's sex appeal are the delightfully abundant chest of  ditzy spookhouse performer Carlee (Kailey Marie Harris) and the Goth-chick charms of Nicole Beattie as Missi.  Alicia Marie Marcucci is the film's resident blonde, Allison, another character who starts out one-dimensional but is given enough time to actually make us care about her.

As for the guys, Steve Rudzinski is Marty, the park's stick-in-the-mud manager who has a crush on Jennifer but will waver precariously between bravery and sheer cowardice when the funnel cakes hit the fan.  Dean Jacobs is Carlee's horny boyfriend Tony, who foreshadows the gore to come by running around with a fake blood-spurting wrist stump earlier in the story.

Tyler Kale is love-starved geek Rhodie, and Kyle Riordan is Allison's punky boyfriend Roy, who supplies the booze for the party and gives Marty headaches with his improper behavior.  The prominently-billed Douglas Bradley, not surprisingly, is an afterthought who appears only briefly in flashback, so if you're watching this simply because you're a fan of "Pinhead" from the HELLRAISER series you'll be disappointed.

The killers, thank goodness, are neither faceless forces of evil nor unkillable murder machines.  Both wear masks and do that Michael Myers thing where they let people get a chilling glimpse of them before ducking behind a tree or whatever.  Later, however, one of them loses the mask and reveals himself as Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy (as "Iggy"), a chatty, excitable psycho who's actually kind of interesting.  His partner (whose name, incidentally, is "Ogre") is the brawny, brainless type who's dumb enough to shrug off a butcher knife in the back and keep on comin'.

The opening titles kick off with a wonderfully robust, angular main title composition by Christian Kriegeskotte, done almost entirely with brass and woodwinds, which, if you're like me, you'll want to download from somewhere as soon as you hear it.  The opening montage of carnival shots lets us know right away that this is a very low-budget and thus very unpolished-looking film, something I can easily live with if there are talented hands at work guiding things. 

With the preliminary "getting to know the characters" scenes (which are actually rather entertaining) out of the way, Cary Hill starts to crank up the scares and suspense until  SCREAM PARK is firing on all cylinders. The gore effects are rudimentary by most standards, yet some of the kills are filmed in more imaginative style than your usual slasher flick.  And where many films of this kind tend to run out of steam as the running time runs down, this one keeps getting better and better until the last jarring shot.

I viewed a barebones screener so I can't comment on tech stuff or extras.  According to Wild Eye Releasing's press release, "the DVD release of Scream Park...will exclusively include a commentary with director Cary Hill, bloopers and trailers, available at major retailers nationwide including Best Buy and Walmart."

SCREAM PARK is a minor slasher flick done on the cheap--to say the least--so if you have a certain production-values standard that must be met before you'll watch a film, this one probably won't meet it.  Yet it's such an earnest effort, with occasional flashes of style, imagination, and even wit, that I couldn't help but find it both entertaining and a little endearing.

Buy it at


No comments: