Troma, the company which is known for specializing in copious amounts of sleaze, nudity, low brow humour and shock value has been a household name for over four decades now. So it’s to be expected that some of their releases will float under the radar from time to time. One such release was ”Screamplay”, the one and only feature from Rufus Butler Seder, who wrote, directed, edited and starred in this offbeat murder mystery.
”Screamplay” is a unique entry in Troma’s catalog and a one-of-a-kind movie if there ever was one. Filmed entirely in black and white, with set designs purposeful recreations of films from the 1920-30’s, it’s all very artsy; especially compared to the trash the company is known and beloved for. The story focuses on a young writer named Edgar Allen who moves to Hollywood with dreams of writing murder mysteries for the big screen. But when the murders in his screenplays start happening in real life, he must confront an odd array of characters ranging from washed up actresses, rock stars, the police and off-kilter tenants as the mystery unfolds.
While watching ”Screamplay”, I drew comparisons to the early Sam Raimi oddity ”Crimewave (1985)”, as they both adopt the stylings of a classic era of film, with the similar over-the-top caricature characters and set pieces, dialogue and filmmaking techniques. However, they use them in such a way that hasn’t been done before, to create darkly comic horror films ripe with manic energy and 80’s violence. If someone told you this was a Sam Raimi creation without prior knowledge, you’d believe them.
Taking inspiration from German Expressionist cinema, Hollywood’s silent films, Italian giallo, Gothic horror and the classic whodunnit?, it condenses them into the form of an 80’s B movie to create an engaging mystery that is also a satirical commentary on the dark side of Hollywood. It chronicles the actors and actresses who are hot one day and but a memory the next; the aspiring artists who leave their normal lives behind with dreams of making it, only to find their hopes dashed and dreams broken; the greedy money men willing to exploit anything in order to make a quick buck and the madness that comes with it. Every character has succumbed to madness in some way and they each provide strange melodrama between murders.
”Screamplay” is an oddity only a niche audience will enjoy, so if you appreciate the surreal, avant-garde, strange and experimental cinema you’ll no doubt find a special place in your heart – and on your shelf – for this weird little gem. Rufus Butler Seder has never made, wrote or starred in another film since: let’s hope this isn’t his one and only, but if it is, what an innovative legacy to leave behind. 9/10
Director: Rufus Butler Seder
Writers: Rufus Butler Seder & Ed Greenberg
Starring: Rufus Butler Seder, Katie Bolger, George Kuchar
Genre: Horror, Comedy
Running Time: 90 min