Scream Park (2012)

Description (from wildeyereleasing.com/scream/scream.html):
The Fright Land amusement park is on the verge of closing its doors forever. But the park’s owner, Hyde (Hellraiser’s Doug Bradley), has one last plan to sell more tickets… murder. Hiring two backwoods maniacs to break into the park and hack and slash all his employees, Hyde thinks these killings will create a media sensation, but he has just unleashed a horror that no one can survive. Also featuring Skinny Puppy frontman Nivek Ogre.

Major Cast:
Nicole Beattie as Missi, Kailey Marie Harris as Carlee, Dean Jacobs as Tony, Tyler Kale as Rhodie, Ian Lemmon as Ogre, Alicia Marie Marcucci as Allison, Carrie Lee Martz as Attendant, Kyle Riordan as Roy, Steve Rudzinski as Marty, Wendy Wygant as Jennifer, Nivek Ogre as Iggy, Doug Bradley as Mr. Hyde

Special Features:
None (Screener)
For Sale Version Includes: Director Commentary, Bloopers, Trailers

Written and Directed by Cary Hill

 

SCREAM PARK has so much potential… so, so much potential. Stupid underage kids drinking, partying, and having sex where they shouldn’t be? Check. Run down dilapidated location with lots of danger of its own that happens to be locked up tight with the kids on the inside? Check. Killers in creepy masks out to slaughter? Check. 80’s throwback vibe but with a new story, instead of a remake or reimagining or sequel or prequel? Check. Doug holy-shit-I-can’t-believe-Pinhead-is-in-this Bradley? Great gaping ginormous check. So what happened?

On paper, SP sounds like something that I would love. I am a big fan of the slasher sub-genre of horror, and also its precursor the Italian giallo, because there is just something really fun about the whole premise. It’s kind of like a car accident; most people really don’t want to see people hanging out the windshield misshapen and bloodied, but we all rubberneck anyway. That’s the feeling with the slasher: we don’t really wish a camp / park / sorority / whatever to be slaughtered by one or more maniacs possibly wearing masks, but when it happens on film we’re enthralled. It also comes back to that feeling when you ride a roller coaster… you know your chances of getting hurt are infinitesimally slim, but that chance brings on the adrenaline. You know these masked monster can’t hurt you from the other side of the screen, but what if that were you trapped in that situation? The best slashers make the view take that leap into the film, and then become truly scary because of that what-if.

One of the nicer shots in SP
One of the nicer shots in SP

The problem with slashers is that if the audience doesn’t make that leap, it becomes very unintentionally silly and boring. To suspend that disbelief, to make the audience truly feel for the characters and get that sense of imposing dread, the slasher has to be made really well. Now, I’m not saying there has to be a ton of money involved (as often the slasher film is one of the most effective low-budget genres), but there does have to be talent, time, and effort. SP just did not draw me in. I never felt for the characters, and I never felt the dread, and this resulted in the movie falling way flat.

The illusion of fear begins on the production side. You can make a slasher for not a lot of money without big expensive equipment, but the equipment you do have has to be used correctly to make up for that limitation. SP felt very digital (this may be a fault of the screener copy, as I did not receive a production DVD to review) and very prosaic. The colors were muddy, and the shots were seemingly often done with autofocus on the camera, which left the images looking flat and without any depth or any way to move the eye where you want it to go. The lighting overall was not bad, with just a few exceptions of harsh shadows or weird “where did that light source come from” shots. While the video itself was not the vest quality, there were quite a few well composed shots in the film, where the images on screen were obviously put together with thought and brought something pleasing to the eye, so it wasn’t all bad. To exacerbate the visual issues, the audio was also lackluster. The music and the foley / effects were good overall, but the dialogue was hard to hear. I don’t know for sure, but based on what I saw / heard in a lot of the shots I would not be surprised to find this movie was shot with an on-camera mic… at least, that’s how it seemed.

Plague Doctor Masks: no matter how silly or exaggerated, always creepy.
Plague Doctor Masks: no matter how silly or exaggerated, always creepy.

In order to grip the audience and get their hearts pumping, the film also has to have characters that we either can relate to, or care about, and the actors create this connection. Again, SP faltered on this front. The acting ranged from awesome (well duh, Doug Bradley, for his 2 minutes of screen time), to good (Wygant’s Jennifer), to mediocre (Ogre’s hillbilly, Riordan’s Roy), to really bad (just about everyone else). A lot of the delivery felt like someone reading a line for the first time, and with others it was so bad to be laughable (in a “laughing at you” not “laughing with you” sort of way). This dichotomy on the acting abilities really made the move come even more out of that suspension of disbelief realm, as Wygant does her best to get the audience to feel for the last girl, while everyone else around her does their best to make you remember this is a really low budget movie that apparently spent all of its money on the two actors whose name you might have heard of before. That may not be true, but that’s how it felt.

Doug MF'in Bradley.  Pinhead all up in here!!!
Doug MF’in Bradley. Pinhead all up in here!!!

Finally, the slasher staples that one would expect in this sort of movie: blood and boobs. If you are a fan of this genre, you know that almost without fail a slasher is going to have some girls getting naked (often for ridiculous reasons) and it’s gonna get gory. SP does have one girl get naked (eww, gross, sex in a toilet that has obviously not been cleaned in a really long time), so that check mark is filled in. There could have been more on that front, as we are talking about drunken horny teenagers here, but they at least got a little cleavage exposed. On the gore, it’s got some, but I was not impressed. The kills in SP are nothing new whatsoever, and when they are shown the gore is amateur hour. If SP was supposed to be a parody, and not an homage, the violent effects might have been more appropriate, but that is not the tone the rest of the movie carries. It’s trying to be straight 80’s styled slasher, and with all of the leaps in makeup techniques in the last 25 years, I really expect more than this.

Hired for her acting abilities (both of them)?  Actually, she wasn't one of the worst...
Hired for her acting abilities (both of them)? Actually, she wasn’t one of the worst…

Please don’t take this as an “all bad” review, because SP is not an all-bad movie. As I mentioned earlier, it gets major props right away for not being a remake or a reimagining or a sequel or some other sort of knock off of something that has come before. While the story is not overly original, at least it does attempt at something new. While the acting was not very good overall, there were a few standouts and come on… DOUG BRADLEY. Seriously. Doug Bradley. He’s not in it enough to save it, but I always love seeing him sans makeup. While the video side of things was not great overall, there were some interesting shots and angles that made the movie fun enough to watch. SP is not a great slasher, it’s not even a very good one, but it does have heart and originality, and that puts it above most of the dreck that is coming out of the Hollywood horror system any day. I think of SP as an introduction to some talent that I think needs more time to develop but may just make a really good movie one day. One day.

 

Overall 4.5 / 10

SP on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2336104/

SP for sale (as of April 22nd): http://www.wildeyereleasing.com/scream/scream.html

SP site: http://www.screamparkmovie.com/

Scream Park (2014) DVD Cover
Scream Park (2014)
DVD Cover
Scream Park (2012) Theatrical Poster
Scream Park (2012)
Theatrical Poster
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