Review: Scream Park

Scream Park still

Scream Park is a retro 80s-style slasher film about an amusement park called Fright Land that has seen its attendance and profits diminish and the owner is faced with closing the park for good.  A group of young employees decide to have a little party on the grounds after the park has closed one night.  What they don’t know is that the owner has devised his own diabolical publicity stunt to help sell tickets and enlists a pair of redneck-esque killers to commit gruesome murders and make the park notorious!

I’m an enormous horror movie fan and really love 80s slasher films so when I first heard about Scream Park, I became instantly interested in it.  While the movie captured my attention with its amusement park setting and intention of some retro slasher fun, I was curious to see if its micro-budget nature would allow it to live up to its promise.  Often times with independent low-budget horror films, you see a lot of movies that end up being kind of boring or grating because the scripts are too weak or they severely lack production value.   I’m happy to say that Scream Park manages to defy its production limitations and makes for a rather fun watch.

One of the greatest compliments I can pay to director Cary Hill and crew is that even though the movie has some rough edges, they managed to often make me forget I was watching something with a low-budget.  Hill, who makes his feature length debut, knows how to use the camera well and I was often surprised by how good the movie looked.  The lighting and composition effectively evoke mood and atmosphere which are elements often missing from independent horror today.  In fact, had the movie been shot on 16mm or 35mm film (it was shot on video), Scream Park would have looked even more like it had come right out of the 80s.  The score for the movie doesn’t sound cheap thanks to a more traditional orchestral approach and actually adds more to the 80s flavor by evoking traces of some franchises from that era like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and even Halloween at times.  That may or may not have been intended but I certainly appreciated hearing music that was reminiscent of 80s horror without ever actually ripping off any of the scores from those films.

The movie also has some pretty good pacing/editing, in some instances feeling a tad bit Carpenter-esque, and the script is suitable for the slasher genre.  The amusement park setting is a definite plus and the fact that they were able to shoot on location at a real park adds to the production value of the movie.  Of course, with a lot of slasher movies, there is often a masked killer performing gruesome kills and Scream Park has two.  Both masks used on the murderous villains work to add some creepiness to some of the shots in the film.  The special make-up effects kills do seem befitting to that of a low-budget movie but are still fun and add to the enjoyment of the movie.

I also liked quite a few of the actors in the film, with the leads Wendy Wygant and Steve Rudzinski playing their roles well.  Nivek Ogre, who has starred in films like Repo! The Genetic Opera and the recent The Devil’s Carnival,  provides a send-up of a crazy redneck killer and Pinhead himself, Doug Bradley (Hellraiser), cameos as the demented theme park owner (Hellraiser fans should keep an eye out for a quick shot of the owner’s puzzle box paperweight).

Scream Park is an entertaining indie slasher and certainly a good debut film from Cary Hill.  The movie shows that Hill has the directing chops necessary to make a slasher film that is more than just a series of sequences and I would be interested in seeing what future films he may have in store.  For those looking for some slasher movie action, Scream Park is a fun time and is one of the better indie low-budget horror films I’ve seen in some time.  Fans of the genre will certainly want to check the film out and enjoy the retro horror fun.

by Ben McBride

Scream Park poster


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