Mellow Coast is a small, quiet fishing town typically free from big city violence. When a dead body shows up on the Mellow Coast’s shoreline, a past of enigmatic and thought solved disappearance cases return to haunt Emily whose father was murdered right in front of her when she was little, yet the local police department ruled her father’s case as simply a father-husband leaving his family when no evidence of blood was recovered, and his car was missing. The murders and disappearances are connected to a now defunct large corporation working on shady experiments and as Emily digs deeper into her father’s case, a light is shed upon the dastardly transgressions of a shifty, under handing corporation as well as more bodies, including her close friends, turn up dead around town. Pieces all the clues together with the help of a keen detective desperate to solve a case no other officer wants to touch, Emily comes face-to-face with an unsuspecting, tightly knitted killer.
As if slasher films are already tough enough in trying to unlock and solve who the mysterious homicidal wolf in sheep’s clothing is before the big, blood reveal, the 2020 horror-comedy “I Scream on the Beach!” surely takes the cake as the impossible and no-win kobayashi maru test of the slasher genre. Hailing from United Kingdom with a retro 80’s VHS veneer, the Alexander Churchyard and Michael Holiday written-and-directed parodying red herring seeks to be deceptive and as cryptic as logically possible with a masked serial killer storyline stretching over a span of 10 years that culminates to an illogical and shockingly socking finale. “I Scream on the Beach!” is the first feature from the filmmakers working as a pair and as individuals, but Churchyard and Holiday have been skimming together that micro thin layer of the horror stratosphere with college short film works, such as “Fragments” and “The Ratman of Southend,” the latter referencing Churchyard and Holiday hometown of Southend-on-Sea in Southern Essex. The duo cofounded TIS Films Limited during their production of “I Scream on the Beach!” with Churchyard and Holiday as producers alongwith Claire Bowman and executive producer Hill Burton (“RoboWoman, “Slasher House 2”).
The story follows Mellow Coast local Emily, her friends, including a bashful big city transplant with a crush on her, and Detective Kincaid embroiled in a 10-year mystery beginning with the murder of Emily’s father (Rob Shaw) or maybe even beginning with the murder of Dr. Lloyd (Lloyd Kaufman, “The Toxic Avenger”). Hard to tell as Dr. Lloyd expositional death is brought up as background plot painting an unscrupulous picture against a devious, experiment-conduction corporation. In her first feature film and first of many productions with the Churchyard and Holiday team, Hannah Paterson is placed in the final girl role of a VHS decorated slasher that has her twisting and turning from the pub to every which way to find corpses stabbed, gutted, and decapitated in the search for the truth about her father. Her friends, played by Jamie Evans, Rosie Kingston, Ross Howard, and Reis Daniel, are the trope typical asshole, hot girl, filmic nerd, and good guy love interest, in that respective order, are definitely defined to bring out the shine around this specimen of the slasher genre. Lurking in the shadows, as a contemporary scream queen of such films like Debbie Rochen’s “Model Hunger” and “Cute Little Buggers” starring alongside the iconic Caroline Munro, is the Australian born, English raised actress Dani Thompson as a snarky bar keep and aspiring actress who pokes her into the picture as the sort of easy girl and easy target for other characters to love-and-hate, especially amongst Emily and her friends in a mixed bag of feelings toward her role of bitchy Paula. Martin W. Payne (“Toxic Schlock”) as the staunch, Mellow Coast chief inspector, Tess Gustard as Emily’s combative mother, Will Jones (“Terror at the Black Tree Forest”) as the dispassionate inspector, Andrea Sandell (“Patient Zero”) as a fake nun, Chris Linnat-Scott as the creepy Dr. A, and Mark Keegan in a surprising reprising role fill out the cast.
Churchyard and Holiday embark on a VHS faceplate journey with their inaugural film complete with faux tracking lines, low-quality picture, lo-fi audio, and rounding out the semblance with schlocky f/x composition and content. “I Scream on the Beach!” is a non sequitur, yet perfectly fitting, title for a seemingly beach-themed slasher that evolves erratically and radically as the story progresses into an eyebrow raising “…what?” I would also dare to say that the acting isn’t the best but rather reflects the modeled era of straight-to-video indie low-budget horror with mild ostentation exaggeration with a character or two grounding the film with relative gravity from floating toward a too far-gone outcome. “I Scream on the Beach” is a kind of film that sits in the nosebleed section of the video rental and physical media aisle (if there are such things as video rental or physical stores anymore) but, sometimes, the cheap seats can be the section where anything goes, and no one will ever know about what happens near the roof. I’m not saying the Churchyard-Holiday production is a raunchy, nudity-laden, immodest, grindhouse peepshow worthy of the now ousted 42nd Street; in fact, “I Scream on the Beach!” mounts a tame and respectable horror-comedy that, like the cheap seats, is nothing to be ashamed of because in the end, they both provide entertainment on a budget.
Continuing to pluck out atypical wild horror genre films, Darkside Releasing distributes “I Scream on the Beach!” onto Blu-ray home video as part of the UK release collection. Keeping with the VHS effect, the stretched 1:78:1 aspect ratio feels to mimic only the very summary of details that continue into employing other SOV gags such as tracking lines, as I mentioned above, as well as a flat coloring palette. The English language PCM 2.0 continues to stay the antiquated technical course, taking the joke all the way, with a badly dubbed and ambient filled lossy audio tracks that keep with the kitschy package. The unrated, 87-minute, full director’s cut release comes with retrograded previews, such as “Mask of Thorn,” optional cast and crew introductions to the film, an audio commentary, complete short films “The Decorator” and “The Hiker” that were briefly spotlighted in the story, and promo spots from the Music and Film Festival. “I Scream on the Beach!” falls above being better than low-rung horror that’ll still knock your socks off, literally, with surreptitious corporation experiments insidiously embedding its clandestine claws into small town denizens in the dark and being stalked.