by Lucy Leitner
Conneaut Lake Park has had a rough run. Fires, financial distress, and, as those who attended the Scream Park premiere at the Hollywood Theater Sunday night learned, puddles of blood left by a film crew. Yet those troubles are nothing compared to what the film’s fictional counterpart Fright Land experiences. But are the grisly murders a tragedy that will leave a lasting scar or will they lure murderbilia collectors and other morbidly curious to the site of such a horrendous crime?
Scream Park is an ’80s style slasher flick that simultaneously pays homage and sends up the oft ridiculed genre tropes. It has all the components — the slut (Kailey Marie Harris), the nerd (Tyler Kale), the rebel (Kyle Riordan), the jock (Dean Jacobs), the dumb blonde (Alicia Marucci), the good girl (Wendy Wygant), the goth (Nicole Beattie), the masked psychopaths (Nivek Ogre), the authority figure (Steve Rudzinski), and the black guy. I’ll let you guess the order of death. They’re all employees of the failing Fright Land and have decided to celebrate their last night of work by throwing an extremely lame party in the park manager’s office. But their plans for an evening of Bacardi-addled sex, roller coasters, and potato frying goes awry when two masked maniacs start to murder them one by one.
There’s nothing groundbreaking in Scream Park, which is to be expected from writer/director/producer Cary Hill’s first film. And that’s okay. We weren’t expecting effects breakthroughs from a micro-budgeted, crowdsourced slasher flick. But, unlike other more earnest debut efforts, Scream Park infuses self-referential humor as it exaggerates the more ridiculous elements of an over-the-top genre. It doesn’t take itself too seriously.
After the screening, Hill asked the packed crowd at the Hollywood to name their favorite kill of the film, eliciting an array of responses. The audience simply couldn’t decide on which of the part gruesome/part comical demises it preferred. The film is at once a loving tribute and a biting critique. The actors were clearly older than the characters they portrayed and the practicality of murder was often sacrificed for creativity. Like any slasher movie, these were not the most efficient killers, but it sure looks like they had fun doing it.
Cinematography was particularly impressive for a debut film, the composition of a few shots in particular that contrast the gorgeous reflection of the bright lights of the park on the lake with the imposing figure of a homicidal madman dressed like Slipknot had added Batman villain The Scarecrow to their lineup.
Particular attention must be paid to Doug Bradley‘s cameo as park owner Mr. Hyde. Though the scene is the only one not set in Fright Land (it was filmed in the Cathedral of Learning) and is kind of an aberration in tone and theme from the rest of the picture, Bradley delivered an fantastic performance. Ogre (of industrial band Skinny Puppy) made a terrific knife-/ax-/whatever-can-be-used-as-a-weapon-wielding lunatic with an accent with origins more unclear than Pittsburghese. Liz Rishel’s costumes were spot-on, as were Arvin Clay‘s bloody effects.
The extremely fun Scream Park will soon be available on DVD and is must for all slasher fanatics in the horror destination that is Pittsburgh.