Friday, February 15, 2013

Scream Quadrilogy

Now, right off the bat, it has to be noted that, for now, the Scream franchise is going to be called a quadrilogy. Even though a while back, it was reported that a whole new trilogy was going to be added to make it a total of six movies, I, as well as a lot of people-including a few of the actors and actresses of the films in question-believe the franchise is dead. Scream 4—or Scre4m—hammered the final nail in the coffin. But, we'll get into that final chapter later, so sit back and enjoy my take on this well-writtenat timeshorror movie series.

Back in 1996, people were all abuzz about a new horror movie that was scaring the shit out of everybody.  During a time where a lot of 1980s horror movies were trying to seep into the new decade, but failing miserably, I took this bit of news with a grain of salt.  At the time, I had my fill of silly Friday the 13th sequels, tiring part whatevers of the Halloween series, and campy A Nightmare on Elm Street runs, so I found it hard to believe that there was a new horror film that would outdo them all.  Even my wife (girlfriend at the time) was eager to see it, and if you knew her (she's the complete opposite of a horror movie fan), you'd know that it takes a lot to get her to sit through a scary film.  So, I took the bait and we went to go see Scream.

At first, I was a little taken a back, seeing Drew Barrymore in the intro to this movie with that god-awful wig and playing a high schooler.  But as the scene went on, you really could feel the tension and suspense the character was going through, dreadfully imagining yourself being in that same predicament.  After watching this film countless times, as well as the subsequent three sequels, this one scene is the part that I, as well as anybody else who enjoys these films, remember the best.  It's an iconic performance by both Barrymore and the voice of Ghost Face, Roger Jackson, which will live in horror movie infamy.

For its time, Scream was well-written (scripted by Kevin Williamson), giving us a realistic examination of high school life in the 90s.  There weren't too many moments where you'd feel like yelling at the screen to ask a character what the hell they were doing because they all did what, I think, must of us would do in their place.

Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott did well as the lead "survivor girl" must of us can relate to; with her good morals and trusting attitude, she played the part believably, giving us someone to root and care for from the start.  Her best friend, Tatum (Rose McGowan), turned in a very good performance as well, giving us someone else to care for, but knowing full well that she'd be a victim later on.  Skeet Ulrich as Sidney's boyfriend, Billy Loomis, did fine; being presented as the red herring at first and then the villain was very entertaining and believable.  Besides Courtney Cox and David Arquette, playing Gale Weathers and Deputy Dewey respectfully, the glue that holds this movie together is Randy Meeks (played by Jamie Kennedy); with his knowledge of famous horror films and applying their plot points as rules in life is very entertaining; the scene at the party where he explains the rules to a horror movie is hilarious.

Wes Craven was able to present his name back on the mantle of Horror Master by directed this flick.  After directing the great A Nightmare on Elm Street, he didn't have many worthy follow-ups on his repertoire.  It seemed after he directed the boring Vampire in Brooklyn that we'd never hear his name again.  But a mere 14 months after the start of Eddie Murphy's downfall, Craven gives us this refreshing take on horror movies.

Although we have many modern icons of horror like Jason, Freddy, Leatherface and Michael, they all had to make room on their pedestals for the new kid on the block, Ghost Face.  Really, the whole costume of the character was a no-brainersomething, to this day, that's very easy to obtain, and not because of the movie.  A black cloak with gloves and a hooded ghost mask.  That's it.  But still, that visage alone was enough to make audiences scream with fright when Ghost Face appeared from behind a door or popped up at a window.  The thought of not knowing who was behind that mask throughout the film added to that thrill and gave the whole movie an exhilarating feel.  Even after years of viewing and knowing who's behind the shroud of the white spooky mask, it's still intimidating to watch.

There's not much to nitpick here as this movie seemed to have been treated with the utmost care and no cheats were put into the story.  If there's anything to complain about is how it's a victim of the times.  And what I mean by that is how difficult the killer would have in this day and age as caller ID and GPS locating would give them away.  Seeing the cell phones back then, how large they were, is laughable, but we have to realize that this movie is over 15 years old.  Another thing you'll catch is how Sidney's boyfriend is taken in and questioned as to why he's carrying a cell phone.  Why he's carrying a cell phone???

As a whole, Scream is fun and scary.a great movie to sit back with a tub of popcorn and enjoy.

A year later (although the narrative of the story explains it as two years later), Scream 2 was released in 1997.

Yes, Dimension was able to crank out this sequel and it wasn't as bad as I thought it might've been.  Usually, a movie rushed into production to meet a date only a year after its predecessor doesn't make as much money as the first and is met with harsh criticisms, understandably so.  But it fared well and was a commendable sequel.

Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson return to give us a nice sequel, bringing most of the remaining cast back for another round of murders all revolving around Sidney again.  Sidney's now in college with a new boyfriend, Derek (Jerry O'Connell), trying to retain her life after the Woodsboro events.  However, after a couple of murders during the opening night of Stabthe movie-within-a-moviewhich clues Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and the local police that there'll be more murders, Sidney's life is turned upside-down once again.

As with the original, the theme of movies is compared to real life, explaining how the rules in movies apply in real life.  This time around, however, it's the rules of horror movie sequels.

It's nice how they took the throw-away subplot of Cotton Weary from the first film and place it here as an added decoy to keep us guessing as to who is the killer or killers.

Returning again to hold the movie together and to give the movie a speaking account of the rules is Randy (Jamie Kennedy).  Along for the ride as well is Dewey (David Arquette), showing the signs of his injuries from the first film as he limps around from nerve damage in his back.  I actually like these two characters together—the scene in the college cafĂ© is priceless as they strategize who may or may not be the killer or killers.

The film keeps the same feel as the first and was written intelligently with nary a cheat.  Well.maybe a few here and there.

O'Connell is thrown in there as a red herring, as is Timothy Olyphant as Mickeya counterpart to Randy's knowledge of moviesas well as Debbie Salt, a local journalist who is always butting in to Gale Weathers and her leads.

The climax of the movie could've been a little better, in my opinion, but it did answer some questions to sort of wrap up what happened after the events of the first film.  It's an earnest follow-up and should be watched right after part one.

In 2000, as we all headed into the new millennium and had the big Y2K fear die down around the world, Scream 3 was released.

Now, this outing was criticized a bit, but I felt it had a very good story, something we all didn't see coming.  With everyone thinking one of the original cast members was the killer, or one of the Stab 3 troupe might be, or even the new character of Detective Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey), Wes Craven, along with Ehren Kruger taking Kevin Williamson's place as writer, presented us another intelligent horror film that delved deep into Sidney's life—actually, before she was born.

So, as I had mentioned, the story revolves around the filming of Stab 3.  Murders start to happen, prompting the movie to be shut down and the guessing begins.  The clues are vague, at first, as the killer leaves photos of Sidney's mother, Maureen Prescott, at each murder scene.  I love that aspect of the story, how it just confuses you at first, jarring your mind on what the clues can mean.  But when it finally comes to place, you're still confused because you still don't know who the killer might be.

Again, the film has many misleading clues and characters, making you think one person might be the one under the mask and black cloak, but then they end up dead.  Or are they...?

Now, for my nitpicking of one aspect...but it's a doozy.

If there's anything I can criticize about this film is the device the killer uses to change his/her voice to duplicate the voices of other people he or she chooses.  In the first two films, it was a push and you can dismiss it, seeing that there are devices in stores that do the same thing (granted, it doesn't make you sound like a whole different person, only alters your voice, but it's close enough).  But to have an unrealistic McGuffin that helps the film move along is a pretty big cheat.  I really don't think there's a device (in civilian hands anyway) that can make you sound like a person of your choosing and in such a loud and articulated manner like the gadget used in this flick.  If this movie was Mission: Impossible, I could let it slide, but it's not.  It's never explained where this thingamajig came from.  Was it bought on eBay?  Purchased at the local pharmacy?  Is the killer some kind of genius and able to build such a device?  Did a CIA operative give it to the killer?  Ooooh...that'd make a good sequel to this one...instead of the way part four went, they should've had the new killer be a CIA operative that brainwashed the past killers to do his or her deeds, giving them this high-tech doodad that changes your voice to whomever you sample...that would've been more entertaining—and believable—than what they did in part four.  But anyway, it's a big plot point in the film to trick us with showing us it's a certain character's voice just to show it wasn't the character and keep us guessing, so it ticks me off a little bit.  But I have to just dismiss it as this not being a Kevin Williamson joint, so let's just move along, shall we?

Scream 3 keeps you guessing until the end, what with the clues giving you no hint whatsoever, the end is a surprise and changes the history of the franchise and what we thought started it all.  Besides the voice-changer device—which I cannot, for the life of me, get around—this chapter refreshed the series and didn't just go the way of Friday the 13th or Halloween with tiresome sequels all doing the same thing over and over, albeit entertaining.  No, I, for one, like what they did here and turned the franchise on its side, not giving us some kids who just decided to put on the Ghost Face mask and have a crack at it (which is what they did in part four).

So watch these first three films and enjoy them.  Watch part four at your own discretion.  I can't take responsibility for your anger at what they did with the latest (and probably last) sequel.

My Scre4m review was published on 4/28/2011, so please check that out.  All I can add to it, because I recently watched the film, is how unbelievable it was to finally find out the identity of the killers.  To see Ghost Face run around, looking between 5'10" and 6' tall, and then to see the unveiled killers standing 5'5" or so, it's pretty ridiculous.  It's especially evident when you watch it a second or a third time, because you can't help but notice scenes where the people who turn out to be the killers are talking to Sidney and they have to look up at her.  When they're under the cloak, they suddenly gain half a foot.

Overall, my final "bit" on the Scream franchise is that it's an enjoyable quadrilogy, regardless of part four, and I actually hope they can continue on with the announced second trilogy.  But I don't think it will happen.  Aside from that, they're all good films and won't let you down in its entertainment value.  Check them out if you haven't already.

On Twitter: @CinemaBits

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