Tag Archives: Scream

Stock Background Characters 101: The Snooping Reporter

In this feature, we examine the lesser beings of the slasher movie realm, which, if you’re making your own slasher film, could provide a good cast roster for you.

No killer or final girl profiles here, this is a celebration of those underlings who made the most of their fleeting flirtation with stardom. And usually died.

Keep a few bills handy, you’re THE SNOOPING REPORTER

sbc-reportersOverview: Murder makes the news. Multiple murders bring the press like bloodhounds and there’s always one reporter trying to get the scoop, even if it means he/she risks endangering themselves to get it!

Linguistic Snapshot: “Can you confirm or deny that the killer’s still out there and that you have the wrong man after last night’s triple-murder at the old mill?”

Styling: In the slasher realm, Snooping Reporters are more often female than not, so power suits and great hair are usually par for the course.

Hallmarks: Pushy and unrelenting, The Snooping Reporter has but one goal: The scoop. It doesn’t matter how many locals might die, in fact the higher the bodycount the better the story. They will stop at nothing to get their exclusive.

Downfall: The Snooping Reporter sometimes dies, sometimes doesn’t, and they can either be an aide or a hindrance to the final girl. Gale Weathers, doubtlessly top of the horror movie reporter tree, is a caustic, self-centered hack who is eventually instrumental in unmasking and reprimanding the killers in Scream and all of its sequels. In Pieces, the nosy journalist is savagely stabbed to, well pieces, on a waterbed; the feminist critic in Tenebrae also meets a bloody end; TV anchor Robert Campbell (below) makes the error of visiting the old Voorhees house and becoming possessed by Jason himself; student reporter Timmy has his throat cut and is shoved into a locker in Cherry Falls.

sbc-jgth-robertGenesis: Lauren Tewes is a TV newswoman who thinks a killer of women lives in the building next door in Eyes of a Stranger in 1980. Next there’s a brief proto-Gale Weathers character in Halloween II, who utters the awesome line “You need their parents permission to make a statement, if you can’t find their parents, get a statement anyway.” She might be the earliest incarnation of an uncaring, career-focused reporter, but is only in the film for a matter of seconds (apparently she is killed in the novelization).

The doomed journo in Pieces came next, and then Tracy, a brash, trenchcoat wearing reporter who is sure Norman Bates is still killing in Psycho III, ultimately becoming the de facto heroine. By the 90s, Barry Simms fatally decides to broadcast from the Myers house in Halloween 6.

Legacy: Courteney Cox’s portrayal of Gale Weathers in Scream is unquestionably the most significant influence on such characters. In her wake, we had Kate Winsail (!) in Australian Scream knock-off Paranoid, Paul the object of lust for many a girl at Pendleton University in Urban Legend; Taylor Gentry in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, who unwittingly stumbles into final girl territory. Reporters also turned up in the various Scream parodies.

sbc-gale-kate

Gale Weathers and one of her many clones.

Films like Nightcrawler showcase just how far the media might go for the juiciest story, so for the time being it’s likely that slasher films will continue to feature reporters sticking their oars in, probably dooming various local teenagers in the process. To quote the audience member at the press conference in Scream 3: “Are you saying we should go out and cut each others throats because that’s what you did?”

Gale’s response: “Metaphorically? Yes.”

Brutal.

The Blood Baths

pooldvdTHE POOL

3.5 Stars  2001/15/92m

“Evil has surfaced.”

A.k.a. Swimming Pool: Der Tod Felert Mit

Director/Writer: Boris von Sychowski / Writers: Lorenz Stassen & Ryan Carrassi / Cast: Kristen Miller, Elena Uhlig, Thorsten Grasshoff, John Hopkins, James McAvoy, Jason Liggett, Jonah Lotan, Isla Fisher, Cordelia Bugeja, Maximilian Grill, Lynda Rybová, Bryan Carney.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “Forget it, Frank, I’d put an end to your sex life before it even got started.”


Beware! Spoilers ahead.

The triangular formation of pretty young faces tells us where the influence for this collaborative European venture hails from. The Pool even starts with the old girl-tormented-in-house routine, as a planned dinner date is crashed by a skull-masked machete-swinging schizo.

At the International Highschool of Prague, exams wrap up and everyone wants to party, which is the big thing for rich, popular man-about-campus Gregor, who is renowned for his amazing secret after-parties. Obv heroine/American Sarah is smart and nice, everyone’s friend blah blah blah, while her German BFF, Carmen, is the promiscuous siren. There’s also Scottish bloke, British bloke, American bloke, German bloke, Australian girl, Czech girl, and girl-whose-accent-I-couldn’t-place.

pool7Scottish bloke and Australian girl are boyfriend/girlfriend, and also happen to be played by bona fide Hollywood A-listers to be James McAvoy and Isla Fisher. No big name should go without having been in a teen horror film before hitting the big time. It’s law. Anyway, She’s screwed up her final and is a bad mood, which lends well to her storming off and being the next one to meet Mr Skullface, who stalks her through the woods in an effectively pumped chase scene.

After the official school graduation ball thingy, the gang meet up and Gregor leads them convoy style to a pool complex outside the city. Swimsuits are provided, nobody knows they’re there, and they successfully jimmy their way into the bar. Awesome times ahead.

Well, awesome times would be ahead were it not for one of the group having stopped taking their meds, slaughtering his own stepsister, and is now among them at the party. But who, who? A grumpy detective in on the case, but he inexplicably speaks English to his Czech colleagues and says “damn kids” a lot. He’ll be useful.

pool1Sarah doesn’t swim and she doesn’t talk about it. Although later, when the issue is forced, her big secret warrants a one-line exposition of “oh… is that it?” gravitas. She lets the others have fun, flirt, pair off, la de da…

Up next is the infamous waterslide murder. An inventive set piece I’m sure we’ve all worried about at one time or another while sliding down the inside of a plastic tube towards God-knows-what. What if there’s crap in the splash pool? Or a dead body? *gasp* what is something sharp penetrated the floor of the slide!? See the results in this old Icky Way To Go. Ouch.

The murders are discovered and the group find that they are locked inside. Spitting into two groups, as numbers deplete, Sarah’s friends try to convince her that Gregor (elsewhere) is the most likely suspect. He brought them there. He made loads of suspicious statements earlier. One half of the group attempts to escape through the venting system, only for the killer to start piercing it with the machete.

pool2By this point it’s fairly obvious who the killer is, and it was a bit of a ‘that old chestnut’ situation as it’s revealed to be – yawn – the British guy, but the actor does a fine job of camping it up as he goes head to head with hydrophobic Sarah.

One distinguishing feature of The Pool is that not everyone else dies, there’s quite a number left intact by the time the credits roll. It’s helpful, as it offsets the weight on Kristen Miller’s shoulders, as she’s something of a cookie-cutter final girl, all deep trauma and niceties. Normally, the promiscuous girl who, it turns out, bedded Sarah’s boyfriend, would be sliced in no time, but she actually ends up saving the day here.

pool4The refresher comes from the cross section of accents and looks; the film was initially going to be a German-language homegrown production (evidenced by three of the five surviving characters being German), but cottoned on to the global market well enough, is produced with enough gloss to rank well as one of many Scream knock-offs, and doesn’t shy away from the bloodletting in favour of laughs. One eyebrow-raiser is the “advanced age” of several of these “teens” – some of them look like they should be thinking about retirement rather than graduation.

A fun diversion, aided abundantly by Prague’s beautiful scenery, and some ambitious ideas. The sort-of sequel is merely a re-edited Do You Wanna Know a Secret? with some new scenes tossed into the salad. As there’s no way in hell I’ll ever subject myself to that film again, I’ve not exposed myself to it.

Take a dip.

Blurb-of-interest: Miller was the bitchy girl, Cindy, in Cherry Falls.

pool6

Smallscreen Scream

scream-tvSCREAM – THE TV SERIES

3 Stars  2015/450m

“You’ll never see it coming.”

Cast: Willa Fitzgerald, Bex Taylor-Klaus, John Karna, Carlson Young, Tracy Middendorf, Tom Maden, Amadeus Serafini, Connor Weil, Jason Wiles, Amelia Rose Blaire, Bobby Campo, Brianne Tju, Bella Thorne.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “I’m not in support of splitting up, nor am I retiring in three days. And I will not be right back.”


There’s a sad irony that the final episode of this show was prefaced by the passing of Wes Craven by a matter of days.

Lukewarm reception to Scream 4 put the brakes on plans for a fifth (and possibly sixth) installment, with the puppetmasters above realising that TV is now where it’s at, news of Scream: The TV Series didn’t exactly set the whole thing alight again, and when it was revealed that Woodsboro, Sidney, Gale, and Dewey would not be involved in any way, plus the iconic Scream mask would be altered, people were like…

scream-cartoon

Small-screen slasher plots don’t tend to work so well, as Randy-clone Noah points out in the first episode here. Harper’s Island was fun until it got stupid. But it had to get stupid. If slasher movie characters were like the rest of society, they’d do the smart thing, call the cops, and barricade themselves safely out of harm’s way.

So, with Scream being the self-aware, make-the-joke-about-yourself-before-somebody-else-does class clown of slasher franchises, how does it stretch from 110 minutes to 450?

You stick with tradition in the first instance and kill off a hot nubile girl who’s alone at her house. Said hottie is Queen Bee of Lakewood High, Nina Patterson, who just happened to have uploaded footage of her bi-curious classmate Audrey macking with another girl. A few tormenting texts and a decapitated head in the jacuzzi later, and Scream Lite has claimed its first two victims.

Cut to Sidney Prescott Emma Duval, our nice-girl heroine and choice plaything of the masked loon, who may or may not have something to do with the requisite 20-years-gone murders that occurred in the town, courtesy of local deformed kid Brandon James. Before the debut episode is up, we’ve learned his teen crush was no other than Emma’s mom Daisy (Middendorf), also the town coroner, and secretly the grown-up girl now calling herself Maggie.

scream-ninaThe murder shocks the town as expected, bringing along crime podcaster/Gale Weathers stand-in/Lisa Loeb look-a-like Piper Shaw, who begins poking around for clues. Elsewhere, Emma tries to build bridges with her estranged friend, the recently-outed Audrey, finds out her boyfriend isn’t all he’s cracked up to be, and attracts the romantic attention of intense new-boy, Kieran, who just happens to be son of the Sheriff, who is dating Maggie. And breathe.

For the next couple of episodes, there’s a murder thrown in – teenage girls, natch – and then things dry up for three consecutive episodes, switching to almost Scooby Doo levels of teen mystery solving, punctuated with an occasional phone call from the killer. As Noah points out early on, it’s got more in common with fellow teen-fare Pretty Little Liars (of which, Lucy Hale had a cameo in Scream 4), and too little stab n’ drip.

Things slowly ramp up towards the finale, a grisly farm vehicle demise, and scenes reminiscent of the tension from the earlier movies as things hurtle towards the climax. However, in spite of Noah’s insights, people still find reasons to split up, have flimsy excuses for not being around (“I went for a walk down by the lake…”), and play into the killer’s hands at almost every turn.

emma-screamWorking out the identity of the loon is no easy task: Everyone has an alibi at some point, and based on three of the four movies, we know there can be more than one killer on call. Once they unmask themselves and spew their very familiar motive, it all wraps up a bit too tidily and conveniently, teasing us with a twist that will doubtlessly be the lead in for the second season. It’s also done and dusted in minutes, whereas the exposition scenes in the movies were gloriously detailed and exciting. Everything crammed into the final episode should have happened over two episodes, especially in a series where there was more than enough time to play with.

An entertaining enough stack of episodes, but too many to support the needs of the plot, something that the imminent 15-episode order of Scream Queens (starring Emma Roberts!) may also have difficulty with. One might’ve assumed so much extra time would mean longer chase scenes, juicier tension? Nay. It means subplots. Boring, ultimately pointless subplots and way too many survivors.

Fitzgerald makes for a functional, sympathetic final girl, and Taylor-Klaus and Karna are great as the ones who do most of the detective work and supply the best insights and dialogue.

Will I watch Season 2? Of course, but this is certainly an anemically pale imitation of an essential movie series.

Blurbs-of-interest: Tracy Middendorf was Julie the babysitter in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare; Bobby Campo was the foreseer in The Final Destination.

Die mittelmäßigen film

SCHOOL’S OUT

2.5 Stars  1999/94m

“This class is dying to graduate.”

Director: Robert Sigl / Writer: Kal Meyer / Cast: Katharina Wackernagel, Niels Bruno Schmidt, Marlene Meyer-Dunker, Nils Nellessen, Rita Lengyel, Urs Remond, Sandra Leonhard, Enie van de Maiglockjes, Raphael Vogt.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “Wine in a plastic class is like a blowjob with a condom.”


The native title of this German made-for-TV stalker flick translates as Scream! For I Will Kill You!, which clues us in on where many of its ideas came from.

At their high school graduation party, a quintet of teen friends concoct some spider-themed pranks for their teachers as a sort of final goodbye treat for themselves. Nina and Tom are having relationship troubles; Anne is worried she may have contracted AIDS, and Philip and Eva just want to party! But what happened to Jessica? Why didn’t she ever turn up? Could it have something to do with the escape of a psychopathic killer from an institution eleven years after he stabbed several women with a huge pair of scissors… Scissors very similar to the pair Eva bought along with her to aid the group’s prank setup?

Before long, the kids are being stalked and skewered by a masked maniac in a harlequin costume, replete with requisite snippers. The first hour of this slickly pieced-together number is involving and nostalgic for early 80s campus slashers. However, once good-girl Nina is safe and sound in the arms of her detective uncle, the wheels begin to work loose as she and fellow survivor Philip try to suss out what really happened, a curiosity which takes them back to school and forces them into a deadly confrontation.

While its TV origins may be responsible for the tame quotient of grue, School’s Out is still better than many American features that have gotten wider international exposure, making it a worth a look for genre masochists.

Followed by a sequel: Dead Island: School’s Out 2.

Out with the old

OFFICE KILLER

2.5 Stars  1996/15/80m

“Working here can be murder.”

Director: Cindy Sherman / Writers: Elise MacAdam & Tom Kalin / Cast: Carol Kane, Molly Ringwald, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Barbara Sukowa, Michael Imperioli, David Thornton, Mike Hodge, Alice Drummond.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “Kim! Go home… Go to unemployment… Just leave!”


1996 was the year Scream came out, the film that redefined, like, everything. Peering over the fence at that party like a sad, uninvited, neighbour kid, was Office Killer, an obscure little flick still sporting last season’s fashions and casting last decade’s names. Spoilers ensue!

Carol Kane is perfect as meek, measly copy editor (my job!!) Dorine who, when learning that the staff in her office will be downsized, decides to do some downsizing of her own, bumping off colleagues and storing them in her basement, where she plays ‘happy office’. Life’s frustrations are punctuated by her Mrs Bates-esque mother (Drummond).

Slickly made, but too slow-moving for such a short film: Dorine is interesting enough as the repressed psycho, and who doesn’t just LOVE the idea of Molly Ringwald as the bitchy, foul-mouthed co-worker who ends up being the only survivor? Jeanne Tripplehorn (game subject of a Whatever Happened To…?) is the ‘nice’ one who learns too much about her object of sympathy…

Oddest moment surely has to be Dorine murdering two cookie-selling girl scouts!

Blurbs-of-interest: Kane was the final girl in Pandemonium; Molly Ringwald appeared in Cut.

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