Norman Graysmith and Aidan Mendle each wish to set themselves apart from the herd, the former a documentary filmmaker looking for a unique subject to establish his reputation, the latter an aspiring serial killer looking to form a cult along the lines of the Manson Family with him as the head, choosing their victims and coordinating their actions.
Meeting Aidan and his girlfriend Claire, a “relationship built on our mutual appreciation of murder,” Norman is at first uneasy, though that is perhaps to be expected; regardless, he commits himself to the project as firmly as Aidan who has already selected his first target, a personal score to be settled with the former vocalist of the now disbanded Cannibal Death March.
How Norman’s desire for recognition and Aidan’s need for anonymity will not prompt an immediate conflict of interest given as little consideration as how Aidan came to Norman’s attention in the first place, When the Screaming Starts places itself as a comedy horror but the school of humour is that of watching incompetent people failing at simple tasks and the graduation rate is low.
Directed by Conor Boru, the script is co-written with Ed Hartland who plays the lead role of Aidan Mendle, interviewing potential “family members” by questioning them on their favourite serial killers and historical plagues, calling meetings and offering motivational speeches to the selected antisocial misfits deemed successful, among them fishmonger Jack, twins Veronika and Viktoria and femme extremely fatale Amy.
Aidan stating principles of inclusivity while rejecting candidates simply because he doesn’t like them, When the Screaming Starts shuffles awkwardly forward, neither sharp enough to be satire or offer insight into the disillusionment of youth and the desire for fame at any cost nor sufficiently knockabout to leaven the inherent darkness of the premise or offer contrast to the ennui of nihilism, the single repeated joke that Masoud doesn’t speak English and thought he was joining a yoga club, ha ha.
Less ferocious than Man Bites Dog, lacking the conflicted guilty conscience of Say Your Prayers and with no attempt to make the characters or situations interesting or even to stay within the rules of its conceit – how can scenes be shot simultaneously from two opposing angles in a confined space when no camera operators are ever seen? – When the Screaming Starts is at its best when the blessed silence falls.