Review: ‘Scream Queen’

Tatiana Bliss' "Scream Queen" is another example of how digital video has opened the door for filmmakers with little or no backing to get a shot at turning their scripts into directorial calling cards. A comedy with modest, well-circumscribed ambitions, pic's lack of visual gloss isn't a crucial issue, although it's hard to imagine a theatrical audience for "Scream Queen" outside of midnight screenings (though the same might have been said -- obviously incorrectly -- of Kevin Smith's "Clerks," which was technically cruder).</B>

Tatiana Bliss’ “Scream Queen” is another example of how digital video has opened the door for filmmakers with little or no backing to get a shot at turning their scripts into directorial calling cards. A comedy with modest, well-circumscribed ambitions, pic’s lack of visual gloss isn’t a crucial issue, although it’s hard to imagine a theatrical audience for “Scream Queen” outside of midnight screenings (though the same might have been said — obviously incorrectly — of Kevin Smith’s “Clerks,” which was technically cruder).

Liz Lavoie (who favors Lisa Kudrow) plays Dana Lewis, a hardworking star within the Z-movie/straight-to-video fringes of Hollywood. (Think Linnea Quigley or Sybil Danning.) Her entire career has been in productions like “Zombie Butcher” and “Evil Bitches Part 3.”

But she is getting too mature to play screaming “girls”; and she’s sick of dealing with geeky, obsessed fanboys at horror conventions. She wants to move on.

Her producer (Steve Paymer, looking very much like better known brother David) agrees that Liz is getting a little long in the tooth to continue in his films, butfor him, this means her career is over.

After blowing an audition for a “real” movie, Dana lets her sleazy agent convince her to sign on for “High Desert Psycho Killer,” which turns out to be an amateur pic written and directed by her biggest fan, an earnest videostore nerd (Nipper Knapp).

Trapped in the Mojave, she’s furious, but eventually comes around to giving the project her all. The life lessons learned are pretty obvious, but they’re entertaining nonetheless.

Bliss makes the most of her meager budget, and the nature of the material allows for some broad acting. Lavoie’s performance — which starts out broad but becomes more layered — carries the film. Bliss isn’t always the subtlest of filmmakers, but the whole is still satisfying. Tech work is adequate, within the limitations of digital video.

Scream Queen

Production

A Scream Queen production. Produced by Tatiana Bliss. Co-producers, Abel McHone, Jeff Roe. Directed, written by Tatiana Bliss.

Crew

Camera (color, DV, Canon X-L1), Kara Stephens; editors, Jeff Roe, Damon Reeves; music, music supervision, Ferris Ellen Gluck. Reviewed on videotape, Los Angeles, July 19, 2003. (In Dances With Films Festival.) Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Dana Lewis - Liz Lavoie Jason Alves - Nipper Knapp Freddy - Jason Boegh Mike - Christopher Neiman Buddy King - Steve Paymer
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