Reviews Short Narrative

Gal Manns Skrik (2022) – 0.5 stars

Director: J Matt Wallace & E Brett Voss

Writer: E Brett Voss

Cast: William Godby, Angela Smith, Nathan Diebenow, Lorana Rush, Miriam J Wallace, Bryan Davis

Running time: 15mins

As was regularly lampooned by The Simpsons in its golden age, Hollywood’s machinery often rests entirely on nonsensical elevator pitches: essentially robbing other ideas and inserting some absurd element to avoid a cease-and-desist letter. Why don’t we make Terminator, but with a talking pie for a side-kick? That’s only slightly less credible than the likely pitch of Under Siege, “Why don’t we make Die Hard, but on a boat, and starring Steven Seagal?”

Gal Manns Skrik is seemingly born from a similar elevator pitch, which presumably went, “Why don’t we remake Night of the Living Dead / Psycho / Rosemary’s Baby / The Silence of the Lambs, only without any talent?”

The film’s opening scene sees a nameless writer (William Godby) sitting at a typewriter, hectoring someone behind the camera. Apparently, they have disrupted his creative flow, which will take him some time to recover, in between swigging from a comedically-framed bottle of Jack Daniels (other, significantly nicer, whiskeys are available) – its label facing the camera head-on, from the centre of the frame. In another film, I might have suspected this was product placement, but the reality is that Jack Daniels would probably have paid good money to avoid appearing in this film.

When the trespasser finally retreats from the writer’s study – which also seems, rather selfishly, to be the household’s dinner table – it seems as though the whole segment might have been an elaborate joke, at the expense of a preening and self-important hack. The masterpiece largely consists of word-for-word rip-offs of famous 60s horrors, with the lead names slightly changed.

The humourless and unwieldy story has all the originality and guile of one of those excremental parody works, like Bored of the Rings or The Soddit – stumbling between scenes until the next opportunity to slightly misname a new character presents itself. Unfortunately, neither writer E Brett Voss, nor co-director J Matt Wallace seem to have realised the potential for a punchline, relating to the deathly-seriousness with which the writer approaches his embarrassing end-product.

To their credit, Gal Manns Skrik’s first pastiche – of Night of the Living Dead – is very well framed. The shots of two characters entering a lonely graveyard could pass for George A Romero’s original cut, if you were to ignore the Ford Focus they were driving. However, things start to go south when the filmmakers make a ham-fisted attempt to repurpose the unmistakable iconography of this seminal zombie film for a cheap slasher. In place of Samuel William Hinzman’s first modern, shambling zombie, Johnny and ‘Mary’ are menaced by ‘Skrik’; a man slouching by a tree – with a hunting knife and a protruding paunch – wearing a Wes Craven-era Scream mask.

Between this and the next scene, the writer nods and congratulates himself, before Mary becomes the subject of an equally underwhelming Psycho shower scene – Skrik having supposedly caught up with her. As the writer nods on, the camera continuously draws our attention to Edvard Munch’s Skrik (known more commonly as The Scream), which hangs proudly in his office / dining-room. At this point, it becomes excruciatingly obvious we are being dragged unwillingly toward an ‘epic twist’, demonstrating this man as a real force to be reckoned with, rather than the opportunity to laugh at the shortcomings of a self-important jerk.  

And so it goes, after two more ungainly cut-aways shoehorning more classic films into this single story, we get the reveal. SPOILERS AHEAD.

The writer leaves the dinner table, having completed his work. Moments later, a figure all in black returns, wearing the Scream mask, picking up the pages and marvelling at their content. The great, fearsome reveal is that the story of Skrik was never committed to the page at all – what we saw must simply have been his horrific memories, a highlight reel of his past crimes. What the writer has actually been typing, this whole time, is “Only we hear the mad man’s screams” – The Shining style – over and over.

It is probably the case that other viewers will work out the connection between the writer and his killer from the very first encounter with Skrik. If that is the case, like me, they will find the remaining two-thirds of the film an unmitigated slog, which they regret undertaking.

In the defence of the writer, what he actually ended up producing on the page was significantly less hackneyed than the flash-back sequences inflicted upon the audience. Even if that weren’t the case, the ending implies he has long since lost his mind. What are J Matt Wallace and E Brett Voss’ excuses?


  1. Clearly, young Jack is very impressed with himself. In fact, he’s so intelligent, he apparently forgot to read the accompanying cover letter clearly stating this was a purposeful knockoff of noteworthy horror flicks used as an experimental and educational exercise for members of a non-profit film society using non-professionals without any budget at all. Every biting and unnecessarily insulting comment young Jack makes painfully points out that he completely missed the point in the first place. But then again, I guess you can pat yourself on the back for being so incredibly clever at being stupid.

    1. Hi Brett,
      Thanks for your biting critique of my critique. Yes, very clever of you all to make a film so bad that it needs an apology note to make sense of. It’s a shame that if this were to play at a film festival, most viewers won’t have read that either, and so will ignorantly assume they just watched Scary Movie remade by the cast of Last of the Summer Wine. “It’s not bad, you just didn’t get it” is definitely not the last refuge of the hack, and your incredible educational non-profit film collective making ripoffs without any attempt to serve up something fun or original has duped me into thinking I was actually watching aimless schlock, when actually it was ‘purposefully’ aimless – and therefore clearly deserving of glowing praise. Joke’s on me, I guess, what a sucker.

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