Imagine a horror themed amusement park, a local hangout called Fright Land, which the passing of time has ravaged everything down to skeleton form of once greatness and reduced to faded colors, ruin games and forgotten rides, all in a death rattle spiral for the closing night. Now add in the element that the owner Mr. Hyde (Doug Bradley) a man who keeps a golden puzzle box on his desk and needs a thrilling element, even a death to attract the crowds back to his park of horrors. Who does he have willing to complete this task, Skinny Puppy’s vocalist Nivek Ogre and then first time director and writer Cary Hill. This throwback slasher film, comes not from a mediocre distribution firm, but rather from genre powerhouse WildEye Releasing complete with DVD packaging, though extremely limited budget of a mere $40,000.
The films starts with a wicked fun ride on a roller coaster done POV, with credits playing homage to Friday the 13th (1980), though wouldn’t be the last time in this fun horror film first with similar font. A brief stall enters into the film as manager Marty (Steve Rudzinski) who strolls to each of the remaining employees notifying of the last night and a meeting in the office. His lackadaisical walk speaks volumes, frustrated that the place he loved and worked so long is all ending, the park, for lack of a better term, dying, sucking marrow out of everyone. However, as commonplace, a party ensues with a friend bringing the beer and music for entertainment, leading to some T&A resulting in a broken rule in horror films leading to body count rising and fulfilling Mr. Hyde’s prophecy. Most of the teens appear uncaring about the park’s demise, a commonplace theme reflected of many today, except for a more introspective young woman, Jennifer (Wendy Wygant), who proves she is relentless and struggles to battle adversaries from two killers. These killers, make the striking pose that all homicidal killers do in the films, a wave to a security camera, a Michael Myers’ head title, and a tad home with sack for mask alluding back to The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) and Friday the 13th, Part 2 (1981). Steve and Wendy make for a great team in the film, though a slip from the director, after their exchange early in the film, shows how vital that their appearance to each other means to the film, hence a working chemistry for the audience to share.
Cary takes a firm hold of the film, presenting a creative opening sequence and sets a positive tone for his first ever feature, and yet there are flaws, minor, easily overlook for that he never holds back in delivering the horror, especially with two masked killers. For example, a commonly use method of killing of pushing one’s head into a pot of boiling water or a variation of this, used often in horror films, but the killer either enjoys what he is doing or a is a bit of campy fun, as he obviously grinds into her bent over backside with a tad too much enjoyment. Now two films instantly come to mind when the pushing the head into the boiling pot, first My Bloody Valentine (1981) and then Sleepaway Camp (1983) which clearly shows Cary’s respect and understanding of the genre, but then modifies it just enough for the audience to enjoy a classic killing. The film is not without a few technical issues, such a few weird cuts, not abrupt jump cut, a tad ‘off’, and then tension for building suspense kept slipping, yet delivers with creative sharp imagines, and stark contrasts with light and darkness, the classic silhouettes of stalking killers searching for their prey, to fulfill their mission.
Although, Scream Park is not the first horror film to take place at an amusement park it is does contains enough style to maintain itself on the list of over 40 titles, with other noted park winners such as Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse (1981), and joins the ranks with Scare Zone (2009); Ghoulies II (1988); and lastly Zombieland (2009). As the pendulum keeps swaying to both ends of the market with regard to possession / found footage movies to zombie flicks, the mainstay holds true for the slasher genre, which runs solidly since the 60’s. Many agree that there’s nothing as scary as home invasions and a roaming mindless serial killer(s) waiting for you to come home, it is a favorite sub-genre for fans.
A side note, Cary Hill takes the helm again for Return to Scream Park (2016).