Tag Archives: Scream

“Hello Sidney, how’ve you been?”


4 Stars  2011/15/111m

“New decade. New rules.”

Director: Wes Craven / Writer: Kevin Williamson / Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, Nico Tortorella, Eric Knudsen, Marley Shelton, Adam Brody, Anthony Anderson, Mary McDonnell, Alison Brie, Marielle Jaffe, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Aimee Teegarden, Roger Jackson.

Body Count: 15

Dire-logue: “You forgot the first rule of a remake – don’t fuck with the original!”

Think of a band you loved when you were younger who since split. Imagine them reforming – you’d be stoked. You’d go and watch them perform and you’d enjoy but there’s something… something just isn’t working for you. The songs are the same, they can still play but they look older, less energetic now.

This is how I found watching Scream 4 earlier today.

Don’t misinterpret the fact that it’s a good film because it is. Very enjoyable for the most part in spite of a slack middle third but perhaps the memories of a time when Sid, Gale and Dewey and indeed I was younger and more fresh faced and sprightly jade the affair to some extent. Argh, screw this stroll down memory lane shit, let’s discuss the film.

Things begin as they always do in the Scream movies: the big pre-credits kill, only this time around Craven and Williamson slap the audience in face with a wet fish in an effectively amusing poke at the imitators who tried to fill the high-budget slasher void in the intervening decade. We’ve all seen those Paquin/Bell stills so without ruining the joke, let’s just say that the Stab movies didn’t end with the ill-fated Stab 3 – they’ve continued and they’ve gotten just a bit silly. Time travel is even brought into the equation.

Sidney Prescott is now a successful writer and is at the end of her tour promoting Out of the Darkness, a sort of self-help bio that brings her to the last stop of promo: Woodsboro. That little piece of suburban California where it all began a decade-and-a-half earlier. Gale and Dewey are married but suffering from the mental strain that small town life puts on their relationship. She’s trying to write fiction, his deputy (Shelton) has a crush on him.

As soon as Sid returns, Ghostface comes too, neatly coinciding with the anniversary of the massacre as he begins offing high school friends of Sid’s cousin, Jill (Roberts). Gale wants to investigate but finds herself marginalised by Dewey and so teams up with school film club geeks Charlie and Robbie, who step into Randy’s shoes for an explanation on how the horror genre has changed since Billy and Stu first used old school rules to their advantage. Add to this, they’re holding a Stab-a-thon party as the kids of Woodsboro modern hold the films in Rocky Horror-like esteem. Can only lead to trouble, methinks!

Scream 4‘s big mickey take targets remakes, reboots, rehashes, re-imaginings – whatever you want to call them. The rules have flipped, horror now looks to do the opposite of what came before so much is made out of the Saw movies (one girl quips that torture porn is shit and features no character development), and any number of remade films are name checked and the industry criticised for not being interested in anything that isn’t a remake or reboot of some kind.

So are we dealing with a reboot here? Well, yes and no. It’s still a slasher movie so certain rules can’t be bargained with and, despite them protesting otherwise, some of the “knowledgeable” teen characters still saunter off and investigate strange sounds, call out “who’s there?” and make all the standard body count pic mistakes.

The main bulk of Scream 4 plays out mechanically: spooky call >>> stupid behaviour >>> killer appears. Though it’s worth noting that all the characters toyed with in this vein are female. In fact, this is the first Scream film where girl victims outnumber the boys, who are killed almost apologetically without much of a build up.

However, mechanics of another kind aid the film’s step into the 21st Century: now the kids can talk about Twitter, information is spread via text, IM’s, there’s a Ghostface voice-app for the iPhones they all seem to possess, and according to the film nerds, the killer’s logical step towards innovation is to film the murders. Weird to think back to Gale’s breezeblock sized cell phone in the first one!

Thankfully, as I started to question what the fuck they were playing at with such a flat opus, a neat twist is pulled out of the bag concerning the killer’s identity and their always-exposited-at-length motive, which stacks up well with the film’s acerbic prod’s at celeb culture – I feel like Lily Allen’s “The Fear” should’ve been playing in the background. The film doesn’t so much offer up red herrings (apart from a really obvious push towards our suspecting a probable loon early on) as the cast is so dominated by women that it’s difficult to work out which one of them (if any) it could be. However, the climax seems to borrow back a big chunk of unbelievable camp from Scary Movie – but it was funny as hell and had the audience clapping.

Neve Campbell delivers here, thankfully looking more interested than she was in Scream 3 and Panettiere impresses as girl geek Kirby. Curiously, it’s Arquette and Cox who seem most out of place. Gale’s plotline of trying to get back to her old self (a metaphor for the whole production, perhaps?) doesn’t really go anywhere and Dewey hardly seems to be involved at all and looks only tired rather than his perky, parable-spouting self from the other films. But why a rather mannequin-styled Mary McDonnell was wasted in such a crappy role is a weird one.

I’m likely to make some amendments to this review when I take a second look at the film. The first go-round with a big deal of a film is always problematised by expectations, especially when dealing with Scream or a film I’ve been holding out for for some time but at present, I’m satisfied but at the same time I learned that, as the Carpenters once sang, trying to get that feeling again is a non-starter. We’re all older and so the teen culture we knew has shifted at some points beyond our comprehension. Take the bits you can and remain bewildered at the rest, y’know, like when you made your parents watch the first Scream.

Scream‘s 5 and 6? I dunno if the band could do another comeback tour…

Blurbs-of-interest: Emma Roberts was the lead in Scream Queens; Anthony Anderson (another actor under-used) was in Urban Legends: Final Cut. Arquette directed and featured in The Tripper (with a cameo from Cox); Marley Shelton was in Valentine.

Premature Endgame


 3.5 Stars  2000/18/112m

“Welcome to the final act.”

Director: Wes Craven / Writer: Ehren Kruger / Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox Arquette, David Arquette, Patrick Dempsey, Parker Posey, Jenny McCarthy, Scott Foley, Liev Schrieber, Lance Henriksen, Deon Richmond, Emily Mortimer, Matt Keeslar, Kelly Rutherford, Patrick Warburton, Roger Jackson.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: (after the murder of a Stab cast member) “He was making a movie called Stab. He was stabbed.”

The problem with Scream 3 is that it had a clever joke threaded through it that got lost in the blur of a new writer trying to make ends meet. What is it? It’s that there’s two mysteries at play: Who is the killer in Scream 3 and who is the killer in Stab 3? There are two Sidney’s, two Gail’s, two Dewey’s. One might be a killer or victim in either. Sadly, Ehren Kruger couldn’t make it work right and most people ignored it.

What’s left is a respectable effort all the same. Compared to 90% of slasher films, Scream 3 is still top-notch stuff but there’s a definite sense of boredom on behalf of the returning cast and crew that drowns that enthusiasm of the newcomers. Kevin Williamson’s long-delayed treatment was finally handed to Kruger, possibly something that’s been repeated in the imminent Scream 4 if production rumours are to be believed.

Neve Campbell also seemed tired of going through the motions as it-girl Sidney, who is also (understandbly) sick and tired of being chased by loons in Father Death masks. So a lot rests on the shoulders of Courteney and David, by then finally married off screen, playing ever-bickering Gail and Dewey, this time split up asnd reunited on set after Cotton Weary is slain in the pre-credits slaughterhouse, which is one of the better moments.

Fictional follow-up Stab 3: Return to Woodsboro is immediately thrown into jeopardy by the news, which pulls in Hollywood detective Dempsey and his sarcastic partner. Meanwhile, Sidney is hidden away in the Californian wilderness with her dog and a dial-in job as a crisis counsellor.

A second murder shuts down the film and the killer manages to contact Sidney, who takes the bait and joins her old buddies to once and for all find out who the fuck is dicking with her and end the madness.

The subtlety of the first two films is out the window as almost every utterance by the new cast members is tainted with suspicion. Even with a crowbarred-in cameo by Randy, the cast seem oblivious to horror movie rules and split up time and time again once they’ve been gathered in a Beverly Hills mansion for the homerun.

Still, there are some great touches: Sidney’s exploration of the set of her old house nicely echoes events of the original film and once the killer reveals themself and spits out another long-winded motive (you gotta wonder why these guys spent so much time trying to kill her if all along they planned on giving a lecture on the whys, hows and whos?) she fights hard, even saying she doesn’t care about the reasons as she’s heard it all before.

Parker Posey supplies some good comic moments as Gale’s fictional counterpart who thinks she can do a better job of investigating and then cementing herself to Gale’s side when the killer targets her. The other actors and crew members of Stab 3 fulfil their marginal walking-corpse roles without much ado. They exist purely to say a couple of witty things and then die.

“It’s all about MEEEE!”

Williamson’s schtick of trilogies is played out quite pointlessly (made all the more redundant by the arrival of the fourth film) with a lot of blah about rules n’ stuff that don’t apply convincingly. Yes, it all harks back to the start and Sidney’s mom (shown in a creepily close close-up from the photo Sidney had in the first film) but it’s clear that, despite his insistence otherwise, Scream was not designed to be a trilogy. You only have to scan the unused script for the second film where Sidney dies at the end to realise that.

As usual, cameos from industry friends are littered throughout: Jay and Silent Bob turn up (with Craven in the background); the Carrie Fisher exchange is fittingly amusing.

The film also felt the force of a screen-violence clampdown in the wake of the Columbine massacre in 1999 and the amount of claret on show is reduced from the first two, with quick cuts away from fatal slashes and stabbings or attacks obscured by the position of the camera or people/objects in the frame.

Looking at Gail’s hair, Dewey wondered what he ever saw in her

So it’s drier, unsubtle, a little all over the place and, surprisingly, occasionally badly acted. Plus Courteney Cox sports one ugly-ass yellow suit and seems to have had her hair cut by Stevie Wonder. Kruger’s dialogue isn’t as sharp as Williamson’s and his reasons for jockeying victims into position have become the cliches that the first film made fun of. This is not to say he’s a bad writer by any stance; Arlington Road was awesome and I really liked The Skeleton Key. The poor guy was handed the biggest horror franchise going and told to wrap it up. Had it been ‘just another sequel’ the results might’ve been very different.

A disappointing finale and one that hasn’t aged very well but its enjoyable elements outweigh the sluggish ones. I’d recommend watching it after sitting through something like I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, just to appreciate that they made a decent flick, just not a wonderful one.

Blurbs-of-interest: the Arquettes were later in The Tripper (which he directed); Henriksen was also in The Horror Show, Color of Night and Madhouse (2003); Matt Keeslar was in Psycho Beach Party; Deon Richmond was in Hatchet; Carrie Fisher was the housemother in Sorority Row.

Legacies of the 90s: Mental Motives

While 90s slasher films attempted to intellectualize the dead teenager opus, there’s only so much you can with such generic material. One area where things shifted dramatically was the Why is this happening? element of the plot. Essentially, nothing had really changed from the pictures of yore: I Know What You Did Last Summer featured the same basic set up as Prom Night.

In the horror realm, there are limited reasons why killers go ape and slay a string of teenagers but after Scream‘s extended, smartified attempt at making the killer’s motive seem more than it was, the ensuing studio slasher films did their best to follow suit.

Without giving away the farm (yeah, sorry about the screenshots), here are some of the best 90s horror motives, simplified. Can you guess which films they belong to?

  • You ran me over and tossed me in the sea. Even though I wasn’t dead, this upset me somewhat.
  • Your parent is a person of loose morals who had sex with my parent, causing them to leave. Never mind my parent being of loose morals also, this is all about YOUR parent. Thus, I’m killing people.
  • I’m passing off this product as my own and so must kill everyone associated with it.
  • I am a force of nature and therefore cannot have a motive so to speak, I just am. Zen, huh?
  • You killed my offspring in self-defence. Nevertheless, this is my motive for wanting to kill you and several bystanders.
  • You ate the last biscuit at a business meeting four years ago and I wanted it!
  • I’m made of celluloid therefore cannot be responsible for my homicidal actions.
  • I am jealous of you and your life even though I’ve never actually met you.
  • You were in the car that caused an accident which killed someone I love. You weren’t driving but it’s still your fault and I’ve gone massively out of my way to set up all these elaborate murders to freak you out and frame someone else.

  • You said you wouldn’t dance with me in junior high then some boys kicked the shit out of me. Never mind that though, being told ‘no’ to a dance is far worse and therefore I’m killing you and not the boys.
  • I loved your mum but she didn’t love me, so I killed her and blamed someone else. Now you’re here, I will start killing again and blame someone else. Again.
  • I loved your mum but she didn’t love me, so I killed her and blamed… Hey, I’m totally ripping off the motive from another naff rip-off!
  • I am still pissed that you ran me over and got away with it, foiling my attempt to kill you in the process. Therefore I will try and kill you again.
  • I am a possessed doll who kills people – deal with it.
  • I like killing people.

…OK, I made the biscuit one up but you get the point.

Second time’s a charm


4.5 Stars  1997/18/115m

“Someone has taken their love of sequels too far.”

Director: Wes Craven / Writer: Kevin Williamson / Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Liev Schreiber, Jerry O’Connell, Jamie Kennedy, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Timothy Olyphant, Laurie Metcalf, Elise Neal, Jada Pinkett, Omar Epps, Lewis Arquette, Duane Martin, Portia De Rossi, Rebecca Gayheart, Tori Spelling, Heather Graham, Roger Jackson, Christopher Doyle, Philip Pavel.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: “Is that the best you can do? ‘Cos Billy and Stu were much more original.”

With slight improvement on the original, Scream 2 is my favourite in the series …so far. Who knows what the fourth movie will have in store? Well, we all will this time next month.

A year or maybe two after the events of the first movie, a trashy slasher flick, Stab, based on Gale Weathers’ book, The Woodsboro Murders, sees its opening weekend thwarted by the gruesome double murder of a couple in the cinema. The scene brings back memories of the prologue from He Knows You’re Alone but is ultimately ruined by the frankly hilarious death-face of Jada Pinkett who manages to make her character one of the most annoying in little more than a few minutes on screen.

Turns out that the dead kids went to the same college as Sidney Prescott and also film geek extraordinaire Randy, who find moving on with their lives difficult with all the attention garnered by the book, the movie and now the murders, which sucks in Gale Weathers, Deputy Dewey and also Cotton Weary, he who served time for the murder of Sid’s mom before it was revealed he was innocent. And now he wants compensating.

It becomes apparent that the killer – or killers - is keen on picking up where Billy and Stu left off, taking out college kids, eventually cutting closer to Sidney. But who? And why? And who?

Scream 2 was released at the very peak of the genre resurgence, quick on the heels of its predecessor to keep the various other high-budget slasher flicks trailing behind, rapidly building a name for itself by upping the ante rather than merely replicating the formula.

The schtick they pedal this time is all to do with sequels, follow-ups and such, from Randy’s explanation of how horror sequels work (during which he drops a subtle hint at who the killer actually is before we even know), to Sidney’s drama production of Cassandra of Troy - Troy of course being famously built of the remains of the destroyed city just as a sequel is built on the foundations of the previous film.

Craven and Williamson flourish here, both in content and presentation, giving Scream 2 the same sort of zenith as Final Destination 2 and Friday the 13th Part 2. Not to say those films are necessarily the best of their respective series’ but they both represent their franchises finding their beat, although very few film series’ manage to retain the quality of their better output. In the case of Scream 2, everything is on point, almost perfectly pieced together in a big slasher flick jigsaw of numerous suspects, red herrings, heroes and villains; the body count is liberal without going ballistic and it’s sufficiently grisly and occasionally scary.

Great scenes that play about with bits from the first film include select moments from Stab - which Craven himself said was supposed to represent how a hack director would’ve approached Scream - the best part doubtlessly being when, after Sidney quipped to Tatum and Dewey that a film of her life would end up with Tori Spelling cast as her, who else should turn up in the role but Tori Spelling? Excellent.

Clocking in at five minutes short of the two hour mark (almost unheard of in these parts), there’s lots of time for various sequences to be slowly drawn out, like Gale’s cat and mouse chase through a studio, that massively tense escape from the totalled cop car and, of course, the unmasking ceremony, when Sidney faces up to what the killer, or ers, have in store for her as a motive this time.

The finale is good n’ strong. The revelation concerning the murderers was a wonderful homage to a very influential slasher film of olde and while I smugly guessed one part of the outcome, another part had me going “oh yeah! Duh!” Sidney puts up a good fight, using the props of the Cassandra stage we saw earlier to fight back and is eventually caught up in a bizarre stand-off between unlikely characters.

Of course, lots that happens can be boiled down to huge creative license: how people end up in particular places at just the right time is something that we get used to in any horror film but here it’s not so much that characters make stupid mistakes like splitting up to search for someone or going to find out what that scraping noise outside is, they’re jockeyed into position by the killer and are played, some of them throughout the entire film, by the sociopath.

As before, cameos come thick n’ fast from Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar, in an almost throwaway part as ‘the sorority victim’ – it was difficult not expecting her to whip out a pointy stick and kick ass; Joshua Jackson is in the film class scene and not-then-famous Portia De Rossi and Rebecca Gayheart (the latter turning up in the following year’s Urban Legend) are a couple of dizzy sorority chicks – or are they?

Ultimately marred by the fact that you can’t really see it without knowing the first film, there’s little else to criticize: defenders of the old school had already prepared flimsy arguments against big-budget horror ‘bastardizing’ the legacy of a gazillion skid row projects from fifteen years ago but the fact is that if there was no Scream and Scream 2, slasher films would’ve simply faded away altogether, save for the odd shot-on-camcorder shelf filler and for that they should be lauded rather than lamented.

Girl power!

Blurbs-of-interest: Sarah Michelle Gellar was Helen in I Know What You Did Last Summer; Lewis Arquette was also in The Horror Show; Christopher Doyle was in the Toolbox Murders remake; Rebecca Gayheart was also in Santa’s Slay and had a cameo in Urban Legends: Final Cut; Heather Graham was in From Hell; Elise Neal was in Holla; Joshua Jackson was in Urban Legend.

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