Scream Queen

Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 08/16/03 18:44:23

"A funny little flick you've never even heard of."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Offering a surprising amount of witty Hollywood satire in a no-frills indie package, Tatiana Bliss' "Scream Queen" should absolutely entertain the movie freaks who love to see Tinseltown get skewered. Plus the leading lady is very sexy, very funny and a damn good actor. Discover a new movie and a new heartbreaker at the same time!

Pity poor Dana Lewis. Longtime B-movie scream queen and fanboy favorite, Dana has spent her career populating movies like "Zombie Butcher" and "Evil Bitches Part 3" without ever earning an opportunity to expand her repertoire. Full of talent and always wearing a professional smile, Dana must contend with drooling movie nerds, arrogant boyfriends and producers who consistently refer to her as "tits" - but no more. Fully prepared to junkpile the slasher genre, Dana begins to search out some meatier roles...

And that's just the start of her troubles.

Gleefully agreeing to star in an "up-and-coming" filmmaker's new indie project, Dana quickly learns that she's now stuck in fanboy hell: her newest project consists of not much more than three fawning horror freaks, a wretched desert locale, and more kook-ball locals than you can shake a clapboard at. Initially furious, the buxom bombshell quickly comes to realize that she's essentially trapped in this gig. With an agent who perpetually ignores her pleas and with no viable alternatives on the horizon, Dana reluctantly plays along with the grass-roots goofballs and helps to make their movie.

Now, if this were a story told "straight" I doubt it would be nearly as successful. But writer/director Tatiana Bliss infuses the flick with heaping helpings of insightful Hollywood satire and a delightfully askew sense of humor that buoys the movie at every turn. If glossy sheen and expensive movie stars are your thing, skip Scream Queen; but if you like well-crafted and funny films regardless of where they come from, I suspect you'll find much to enjoy here.

In the title role, Liz Lavoie is nothing less than pure gold. With a knowing wink and a palpable sense of likable goodwill, Lavoie absolutely owns this movie. With a lesser actress in the lead, I suspect that Scream Queen would suffer noticably. But Liz's winning performance, along with Bliss' crafty script, gooses the movie along over a handful of rough spots. Imagine Jenna Elfman mixed with Lisa Kudrow (only more gifted as an actor and certainly more amusing than both put together) and that's what Liz Lavoie is here. Both she and Bliss are clearly meant for bigger things.

The supporting cast is also uniformly amiable, most notably the hilariously raunchy Steve Paymer as sleazeball producer Buddy King and the deviously adorable Holly Beavon as Cherry Red - the wannabe heir to Dana's Scream Queen throne. Each of the background boneheads also earn a laugh or two, a further testament to both the exuberant cast and the astute screenplay.

Though the surface is laden with broad satire and intermittent (albeit effective) silliness, there's actually something going on under this flick's tube top. Taken as a colorful farce, Scream Queen works surprisingly well - but when you stop to realize that Bliss actually has something clever and compelling to say about the woefully limited options of women in the world of filmmaking, well that's where the movie starts to seem pretty damn impressive. Seems the bubble-headed scream queens are a whole lot smarter than we give them credit for.

It's ironic that a comedy able to mix smarts and sillies so winningly must struggle through the festival circuit while each new weekend brings another deluge of "Just Marrieds" and "Bringing Down the Houses", but I suspect that Ms. Bliss understands this all too well. Scream Queen may be low-budget and a bit rough around the edges, but it's easily more amusing and endearing than 85% of what normally passes for "America's #1 Comedy Three Weeks in a Row!" Plus the hardcore movie nerds (at least the ones who can laugh at themselves) will absolutely eat it up.

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