Cary Hill's SCREAM PARK takes the time honored (shopworn?) premise of the throwback slasher film for a spin with an entertaining 90 minutes that features masked maniacs, unleashed breasts and the occasional special effect to liven up the ride. While it may not be the 5 Star Octopus Loop-Dee-Loop of modern slashers, it steers clear of ending up in the spinning tea cups section as well.
The elements of the plot are all there: a group of employees getting ready to shut down FRIGHT LAND as it rides off into the darkness of bankruptcy and fading consumer interest decides it would be fun to have one last night of drinking, hanging out and cussing together before the bitter end. But the end will come sooner for them! But... how? And, why? Well, I'm not going to spoil those questions - even though the geniuses at Wild Eye Releasing marketing sucked all the last second turns out of the film by spoiling it ON THE BACK OF THE DVD! So, don't read that if you can avoid it. OK? OK.
We have the usual merry band of misfits here, the punk rock dude (who has some continuity stubble issues) who brings the booze! The smart girl that has FRIDAY THE 13th Vintage Hair who could wear a FINAL t-shirt and be more subtle about survival. The slightly weird manager of the park that goes from creepy to nerdy to spooky over the running time. The attractive ladies. The guys that either get them out of their clothes or WANT to get them out of their clothes. And they are all doing just fine here as a likeable core of victims about to go for the last ride. After a first half that is boosted by some good location shooting at an actual dilapidated amusement park and a sharp script with some great dialogue ("Nothing like a little peer pressure, especially from a cum dumpster and a future homemaker. Smoke?") things pick up as a pair of masked maniacs arrive and start offing the crew. Death on the Rollercoaster! Guts splatting like a toddler's dropped ice cream! French Fried Face being served up at the concession stand... let's all go to the lobby! And the beats go on...
Once the main plot twist (again DON'T READ THE BOX!) is revealed I was struck by just how cool the entire thing is. Or better yet, could have been, because even with the entertainment value, which is really all I ask for, SCREAM PARK never ratchets things up that extra little hump into a corkscrew and instead just rolls to it's inevitable conclusion. Not a bad ride by any stretch, but not one you'll line up for again.
Plot aside, SCREAM PARK definitely wins the Kewpie doll in the rigged game of direct-to-video slasher mayhem in some ways. A nifty score is accentuated by the use of droning feedback in some sequences and adds an atmosphere that is often times overlooked in the beepityboop world of low-budget soundscapes. While the movie certainly doesn't look like a million bucks, some smart usages of the actual park and its locations featuring a rollercoaster that is really old and and rickety as hell is a key to success. Also, watch for a tribute to SUSPIRIA...
In the all important killer sweepstakes, the Appalachian Hellbilly duo are memorable. With a plague doctor and what looks like a giant version of the TRICK R' TREAT character, there are several really well done images of monstrously stalking maniacs. I did sort of chuckle how many times they get whacked around with tin pans though. Not the most worthy weapon of beating back a superbeast.
This brings me to an important piece of my interest in the film seeing as how Iggy (the unmasked talker of the pair) is played by Kevin OGRE Ogilvie of Skinny Puppy! I'm a huge fan of his to begin with and couldn't wait to watch him live the dream of all horror fans and get to be a killer in a low-budget film. I almost fell over watching him put on a mountain man accent (wait for him to scream at his buddy that he is a "dented can!") and you could tell that he was adding his own lines on occasion. The commentary bears this out as he would pop in lines that he had to explain to the crew ("don't scream or the balloon will tighten") and if you know his stage performances at all you'll spot him right away.
There is a sequence that features a face frying as Iggy goes from power to weirdly sexual that was definitely all on Ogilvie. And he gets to talk a few lines and wear bloody scalps in a job well done. Also look for the fact that the other character is called Ogre instead of him and at one point a character is reading the book of letters that Ogilvie had kept and returned to sender after a few years, Go Ask Ogre. Subtle!
Also on hand is Doug Bradley of Pinhead infamy. It's only for a single scene but it's a damn good one and DON'T READ THE BOX or it will all be spoiled. It's so strange how Bradley can just talk and it's entertaining. I wish he would do audio books of Good Night Moon! THAT would be spooky!
So here. slasher fans? You'll like it. Skinny Puppy fans? You'll be interested to see Ogre outside the box of the stage and into something different (seriously, Appalachian Mountain Maniac?) and I can assure fans of these films one other thing. The cardinal sin of tight budgeted film, the tight shirt with large breasts being shown but never revealed, does NOT HAPPEN IN THE SCREAM PARK. So, fans of pulchritudinous sweater puppies will definitely enjoy the ride. Because really, are we supposed to be wearing our mature cineaste beret when we fire this flick up? NOPE. I demand all the boxes be checked! I'd be happy to see Cary Hill tackle another project and bring along some more masked mayhem; this one may have brought only an occasional shriek, but I bet he has a screamfest in him.
The DVD contains an interesting commentary track, trailers for other features and a blooper reel of lots of goofing around with the killers performing Grapes Of Wrath. Heck, that alone was worth the admission to this SCREAM PARK! – David Zuzelo
David Zuzelo runs the Tomb It May Concern blog and is a card carrying member of The Cult of HELLINGER. You can read more of his twisted takes on Nikkatsu flicks and more in Exploitation Retrospect #52 (available now from our website).
SCREAM PARK is available from Amazon.