Courtesy Panic Fest

In the continually growing true crime fandom, the focus of the shows went from telling stories to glorifying killers. Long ago these programs shifted away from low-budget reenactment dramas on basic cable channels to having the airwaves inundated with murder-focused podcasts and an immense amount of Netflix series that cast dreamy-looking actors as serial killers. Placing emphasis on the killer changes the narratives of these real-life crimes because while some see the stories as interesting horror tales, the reality boils down to how these stories can come off as insensitive because very real victims are becoming forgotten. Taking the fandom of true crime and turning it into a Charles Manson-inspired comedy sounds risky, but writer/director Conor Boru finds an interesting mix of dark humor, gore, and social commentary to make WHEN THE SCREAMING STARTS enjoyable.

Labeled as a mockumentary, WHEN THE SCREAMING STARTS strongly resembles What We Do In The Shadows, except instead of following the intricate lives of vampires, we see aspiring serial killers gathering under the tutelage of Adrian Mendle (Ed Hartland). Adrian does not want to actually kill anyone, but he does want the fame of true crime. Therefore, he and his cold-hearted girlfriend Julia (Katherine Bennett-Fox) hold auditions for possible ‘family’ members.

And through some amazing casting, the story brings together a bizarre group of murder-enthusiasts, who present such a unique combination of character traits WHEN THE SCREAMING STARTS might hold the possibility of becoming a tv show. The women all have murder on their minds, and the men all have a dream they want to seek out. And as a collective, Adrian and company partake in a variety of actions which range from gore-fest to buffoonery. These opening segments of establishing the characters might unsettle some because the inconsistent tone makes it hard to understand if WHEN THE SCREAMING STARTS wants to promote worshipping serial killers or not. Not everyone will find the dark humor funny but stick with Adrian because the outcome will bring the true message of the movie to the foreground.

Courtesy Panic Fest

While Adrian appears to be the subject of the film, the other important player comes from behind the camera. Documentarist Norman Graysmith (Jared Rogers) finds his career without a pulse, so he searches for the most interesting topic he can find for his newest film. He understands the blood-thirsty cravings of dedicated true crime followers, so when he meets Adrian he believes he found his golden goose. Norman believes following and interviewing Adrian will lead to the ultimate true crime experience.

One interesting facet of the introduction of Norman comes from the question, ‘What is the difference between a mockumentary and found footage film?’ Does everyone have to die for it to be a found footage? Do interviews and jokes make it a mockumentary? The exact distinction between the two become blurred in WHEN THE SCREAMING STARTS as the movie delicately balances jokes and gore, but all through the lens of a very scared cameraperson.

For fans of true crime podcasts and documentaries a lot of the traits which supposedly make a murderer appear in the masterminds portrayed on screen. All of the members of the family look like innocent men (or women), but the killer inside soon unleashes murder, mayhem, and madness as the victims realize they know the devil next door. Not everyone will appreciate the dark humor approach to serial killer fandom, but at least in this story, the victim gets the last word.

WHEN THE SCREAMING STARTS played as a part of Panic Fest 2022.

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