Though it isn’t accurate to say that I came of age in the 80’s, it’s certainly applicable to say that I lived through it. While I’d never consider myself an expert on all things 80’s, I certainly partook of far more flicks theatrically and on home video than most. This isn’t to say I’ve seen ‘em all; rather, it’s only to establish a minimalist’s credibility in evaluating SCREAM PARK, a contemporary creation that’s clearly influenced on the low budget thrillers of yesterday. Is it perfect? No way. Is it fun? Oh, yeah. As one ad campaign for a different property promised, “there will be blood.”
Isn’t that really all you’re looking for?
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “The Fright Land amusement park is on the verge of closing down for good. 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. A slasher in the 80’s tradition that also stars Nivek Ogre from Skinny Puppy fame.”
I’ve made the point in debates with fellow film freaks that horror at some point simply got too big for its britches. Studios went all ‘high concept’ at some point in the last two decades, and the end results is that quite a few of the horror flicks felt curiously void of signs of life. Look at this this way: once the big name actors started showing up in horror, then you knew it wasn’t as much about the property as it was the box office … and that’s no way to go about manufacturing some quality horror.
All horror needs to be effective is a solid set-up – such as kids trapped in a theme park – and audiences are off to the races, hoping and praying that the body count will rise as one upstart after another meets his or her respective doom. That simple formula put fuel in the tank of such horror originals as THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and the ELM STREET series not even thirty years back; yet those properties’ reboots just lack the simple gritty feel of the originals.
Despite all of its obvious blemishes (and despite what you read elsewhere there are plenty), SCREAM PARK tries to slim the fright back down its fighting weight; and, for the most part, it’s fairly effective. The plot is necessarily light on character moments but heavy on nuance. The killings are accomplished without all of the narrative set-ups required in the SAW or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchises, proving once again all you need is a man in a mask wielding a knife to bring a teenage girl to scream. And, thankfully, there’s no subtext in sight! The only thing that matters here is surviving from one kill to the next, leaving the options limited as the final fade-to-black approaches.
For my accomplished tastes, it works pretty well, though I honestly found its running surprising bloated at 85 minutes. What SCREAM PARK does best is serve up characters befitting their respective fates – they’re victims existentially pining for more who are about to come face-to-face with a manmade Grim Reaper – and everything else is best left to other flicks. Honestly, this would’ve been a near-perfect slash film had it clocked in a 60 minutes and been part of some anthology project. Independently? It works, but only works as well as you accept its basic premise … that being we’re all bound to suffer some cruel fate if we’re locked inside a theme park after dark.
Lastly, I’d be remiss in my duties if I failed to point out that SCREAM PARK served as an Official Selection of the 2013 Texas Frightmare Weekend, the 2013 Eerie Horror Film Festival, and the 2013 Horror Realm. That’s no small honor, and perhaps it only piques one’s interest a bit more in taking this homage to the ‘80’s a spin in your DVD player.
SCREAM PARK (2012) is produced by ProtoMedia. DVD distribution is being handled by Wild Eye Releasing. As for the technical specifications? Keep in mind this is a low budget film, and then it’s easy forgive some of the lesser bells and whistles on display here; let’s just say that the audio track is a bit murky in a few sequences, so the film could benefit from a better mix. Lastly, if it’s special features you’re looking for, then you have the theatrical trailer, some bloopers (not all that funny), and a commentary track to anticipate. Have fun with ‘em!
RECOMMENDED. Is SCREAM PARK the perfect 80’s flick? No, but ‘no’ for a few reasons. First, it wasn’t made in the 80’s, so that’ll always keep it chasing the title. Second, its story is a bit to modern-day derivative to truly ‘feel’ like it was representative of the 80’s mentality. And for what writer/director mashed into its 85 minutes it felt a tad too long for my tastes. But its back-to-basics approach was refreshing. It’s a low budget thriller made with more heart and inspiration than half of the big budget chillers made in the last decade, and that’s saying something to an audience that appreciates legitimate scares of this variety.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Wild Eye Releasing provided me with a DVD copy of SCREAM PARK by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and that contribution in no way, shape or form influenced this opinion.