BY: DAKOTA DAHL
Starring Geena Santiago, Jeff Ryan, Scott Swayze and Alexandra Dietrich
Written by Jonathan T. Coleman and Christopher O’Connell
Directed by Arielle Cimino and Jeff Ryan
The Horror Collective/First Name Films
Theatre kids are weird, that much we can all agree on. But they are that special kind of weird, where you want to kind of see them succeed at whatever their weird little heart desires, unlike the total freaks from Robotics Club. MASS HYSTERIA is a fun theatre kid’s horror film that takes every performer’s hatred of obnoxious, low class, and low taste audiences and takes it to murderous extremes. What’s great about the film is that it takes all those unwaveringly confident drama weirdos and places them inside of a literal 2020 witch hunt, which isn’t as heavy-handed as you would expect. The horror aspects of MASS HYSTERIA are incredibly tame, but the characters and situations work well, especially on such a low budget, so it’s a good thing that The Horror Collective is putting it out there for the screaming masses.
The film follows a group of reenactors working in modern-day Salem, where they perform a mock witch hunt and execution for throngs of drunken tourists. The main focus is Paige (Geena Santiago, YouthMin) the lead, who is leaving for New York after securing a much-deserved big break in acting. As her merry band of cliches give her a happy send-off on the eve of her last performance, Paige receives a phone call from her agent, telling her she no longer has the gig in New York, a fact she hides from her friends out of shame. The second interruption happens when people begin dying from a sudden onset of explosive vomiting, which somehow is blamed on Paige, who had coincidentally been rude to everyone that ends up puking their literal guts out.
Predictably, the tourists – which range in character types from frat bros/party girls all the way to off-putting, leather-clad Austrians –believe that Paige needs to be stopped by any means necessary, and begin cutting a bloody swathe through the town to get to her. It’s pretty comical how quickly everyone turns to murder at the slightest provocation.
While the bones of the plot are a little bare, it’s the comedic writing of the film that really makes it shine. It pokes fun at every character, from feckless stage managers to gung-ho, unpaid, historical battle reenactors. There isn’t a single normal person in the whole script, which can come off as hammy in the hands of less-skilled writers, but here manages to pull a low budget comedy horror together into something fairly delightful.
Comedic pacing can be incredibly difficult, especially when you are trying to blend it with such an opposite genre as horror, and as such, whenever MASS HYSTERIA tries to get serious and create actual suspense, it tends to drag a little. It’s a difficult tone to pull off between people getting impaled for laughs and Paige’s life being in actual danger. Still, these small lulls don’t overly take away from the film as a whole.
In a sea of unfunny, unscary, and overall boring films that saturate the low budget horror market, it’s fun to see a cast and crew put effort into a project that surprisingly comes together. If you ever took drama in high school, helped put on a local play, or just love the working-class theatre in general, MASS HYSTERIA will offer something that appeals to you.