Directed By: Barry Odom
Starring: Kelly Bryant, Cale Garrett, Albert Okwuegbunam, Jonathan Nance
Synopsis: Odom continues his hot streak to four features, but the absence of Kelly Bryant makes this outing just as scary as it is fun... if not more so.
Horror movies aren’t always fun, but sometimes the best ones tend to be a not quite traditional — less pure horror than good fun with some scares mixed in. Such is the case with Mizzou football’s fifth feature presentation of 2019, Scream.
Behind the hot hand of director Barry Odom (and those of second-unit directors Ryan Walters and Derek Dooley), Scream continues Mizzou’s hot streak for a fourth straight week. The first half is especially a blast, featuring several thrilling moments of a cast that isn’t hurting for stars. Leading man Cale Garrett stands out, continues his strong case for Best Actor in a Middle Linebacking Role, tormenting the hapless villains (played to feeble perfection by the Troy Trojans) by literally stealing scene after scene. He has competition for Most Valuable Performer in Albert Okwuegbunam, though, as the Academy of Mizzou Picture Arts and Sciences might choose to fashion their trophy after one of his many aesthetically-pleasing catches.
However, for as much of a romp as Scream is, its name is well-earned. Halfway through the story, things take quite a bit of a turn when leading man Kelly Bryant disappears from action.
It’s a shocking turn of events for the Tigers, one you don’t expect to see happen against opponents as seemingly feckless as Troy. However, the bumbling ways of Troy’s villainy make it easier to root against them going forward, setting up some nice tension in the second half of the narrative. Good thing too, because once Bryant disappears, things seem to lose a little steam.
That’s not to say it’s not scary — anyone who watches can testify to how terrifying Bryant’s absence is. Bryant lends a charisma and a light-heartedness to every frame. He’s a presence who has quickly endeared himself to audiences all around Mizzou fandom. In addition, he seems to make the rest of the cast better with his good attitude and versatile on-screen skill set — you never know how lost a scene can get until Bryant is there to make something out of nothing. Without this warm presence, the game feels strange and eerie. It may be spooky season, but this feels to be a little too much for some people’s tastes.
Fortunately, things turn out in the end. Even without Bryant’s charm — and with the looming threat of the antagonist landing another late haymaker — Scream manages to find itself. Taylor Powell isn’t exactly able to acquit himself in the same manner (it may be because the second half feels a little phoned in all over the place), but Walters keeps things together by making sure his elite cast of performers stays up to tune. If it’s not as exciting as the feature’s first half, it’s just as precise. Walters deserves some credit for maintaining that tone in a story that could have gone off the rails with the cruel early twist.
It’s that twist, unfortunately, that will define the next few outings for Odom and his crew. While not always the most important performer on screen, Bryant’s presence is invaluable as there don’t appear to be any understudies capable of providing all that he does. Scream leaves audiences with a little bit of a cliffhanger as to whether or not Bryant will be back (though Odom teased as much in his post-screening interview), and it’s hard to say whether or not Odom can direct a real winner without him. To this point, he hasn’t had to.
So, ultimately, while the scares from the Kelly Bryant disappearance are a bit much, Scream is still a winning way to start off October for Odom. It’s thrilling, it’s without many mistakes and it’s not so spooky as to scare us off before next week. That is, not until we learn more about whether or not Odom will get his leading man back.