Eye For Film >> Movies >> I Wake Up Screaming (2019) Film Review
I Wake Up Screaming
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
If you've ever been involved in post-production on a film, you'll know that there's a moment during the early stages of editing when one cannot help but be aware that one is looking at multiple stories, not just one - that fragments of the same material can be rearranged to create very different narratives and very different moods. Chris O'Neill's experimental reworking of found footage from an old, little-seen horror film stays within genre but brings this glorious uncertainty to light, highlighting the fact that film is a fractal medium and that the only real truths to be found within it are those we choose to construct.
It begins with a man screaming. This being what it is, there's a lot of screaming, but you won't hear it; until the very end, when a brief snippet of wisdom is shared, all you'll hear is Gabbie Bam Bam's vibrant electronic soundtrack, with its echoes of early horror classics and later giallo works. This, as much as anything, is telling us how to perceive the footage on display, the original voices of the actors lost. We see the screams. Repeated, layered over one another, they emphasise the artificial nature of well-played reactions. Flatter sections of the original footage are given depth and brought up to date through the use of techniques like this, a reflection on how the language of horror cinema has changed over the years.
By restructuring the footage and playing around with it in this way, O'Neill presents a guide to the construction of terror (and, in one brief segment, of seduction). The experience is a reminder of the comparative naivety of audiences past and the way that cinema has been forced to keep evolving in order to keep viewers on their toes. Whilst one might think that an exercise of this sort would wear thin after a couple of minutes, O'Neill succeeds in holding his audience for ten. The experience is gripping, surprisingly absorbing, the visual language intense. I Wake Up Screaming would make a great appetiser for a horror film festival, heightening viewers' awareness of the underlying mechanics of what they are about to see. It's also a reminder that art is never finished, and that after it's out there it still has the potential to grow and change in unexpected ways.Reviewed on: 28 Jun 2020