Yes it’s time I covered the Scream series. It has its detractors but it was a pretty big deal when it hit and it did chance the face of horror, a face that had become stagnant. Not all of the fallout was pretty but it shook things up and it was none too soon.
I’m not going to hide it, I love the first Scream movie. The actors nailed their parts, the kills were effective, and the score honestly really got to me. I always feel a nice bit of catharsis at the end of the film, and the score really helps with that.
Of course this movie is known for being self-referential and laying out ‘the rules.’ I call BS on that. No one ever claims to be in a movie, or seems to break the fourth wall. It’s really just a matter of of the film allowing these kids to know, and have seen, horror movies before. Think about a vampire movie and eventually someone will have to discover that the creature is a vampire and how to stop it. That would never happen in the real world; we have vampire movies. This is part of my love for Fright Night because it acknowledged that the main characters had seen vampire movies and knew what they were. Same deal here, the teens in Scream have all seen horror movies so they recognize when a slasher starts hitting the streets.
And yes, there is a sequence where a character exposes the ‘rules’ but it’s also shown that these rules don’t apply to what passes for real life in the film. It was a reflection of our culture at the time, we had seen it all and we fall back on what we know when challenged. It reminds me of a time that the owner of a local arcade suggested that he wouldn’t be afraid in a horror movie because he had basically seen them all. It’s a type of insulated arrogance that lacks any real substance. I’ve seen all the Halloween movies but you can bet the last donut that if Myers was walking towards me I’d be terrified. Because that doesn’t happen and my knowledge of movies doesn’t’ exactly translate into a real life and death scenario.
So what was Scream? It was a slick, smart slasher that examined horror set in a world of people who know better. It was plausible, it was fun, and it hit the scene like an atomic bomb.
So it had to have a sequel. Scream 2, which thankfully didn’t have a weird subtitle-y name, is not as good as the first film. It starts off really well, set during opening night of a movie made about the killings from the first movie. It carefully recreates a few moments from the opening of the original while showing us how humans get far too excited about real world tragedy…until it hits them in the face.
It’s a strong opening and it quickly gets us back into this world while still holding onto the subtext of the first film. Unfortunately the rest of the film doesn’t hold up as well. There is too much playing to the ‘rules’ concept and a lot of the situations seem contrived. We get a suspect breakdown via ‘who it would be in a movie’ that seems to be a serious conversation instead of rejected right out and several characters seem to end up in the same building for various non-sensical reasons in time for the big finish.
It’s not all bad though; there is some real suspense about the killer due to a few nicely writer characters. In particular I enjoyed the character of Cotton Weary who comes across as a greedy, selfish bastard who really doesn’t want to hurt anyone…or does he?
To be honest Scream 2 is a good slasher, the pacing is tight, the kills are decent, and it stays interesting. The real problem is it’s a sequel to a great game changer and it just doesn’t hold up.
But it did well, so they gave us Scream 3. This movie is simply not very good. The insistence on movie rules applying to real life in horribly forced in, possibly to lampshade some questionable plot developments. The kills are boring and horribly placed, with much of the movie laboring under the absence of any real action. It also ups the ‘meta’ content by taking place during the filming of a sequel to the fictional movie and thus having a bunch of new characters whose only character traits are that they play versions of the real characters. Toss in random celebrity cameos and a voice changer that can miraculously mimic any voice and you get a poorly written cash in.
The series was dead in the water for a while but recently we finally got Scream 4. And they very nearly pulled off a great movie. But they didn’t.
Scream took the horror genre and twisted it, for the fourth movie to survive it needed to do the same thing. When Scream 4 hit we were in the midst of a huge ‘reboot’ or ‘remake’ craze and it feels like this film really wanted to go for that. A reboot in the notion that the plot is essentially the same as the first film; remake because there is a cast of characters that very much resembles the characters from the first movie. But this time instead of authority figures who don’t know how to handle things we have the original cast back.
This could have been the best way to give the old crew their fade out and build a new set of characters. Simply focus on the new teens and have them dealing with the deaths while around them there are all these famous people who have survived this kind of thing in the past. It would give the old heroes a strong, but supporting, role and allow us new blood and a new direction. A sort of ‘real life reboot’
Unfortunately this movie revolves around the standard heroes and the new guys barely amount to anything. I love Sydney but by this point I tend to not fear for her life. Putting her back in center stage honestly lowered the tension, and keeping the entire group of new teens open to suspicion meant lots of options making it too hard to try and pick a killer. Plus there is one of the dumbest deaths scenes in a slasher ever. In a serious movie it ranks up there with Wile E. Cayote falling from a cliff after running on air for a minute. What’s worse is that it could have been truly horrific, but then the actor speaks.
That said it isn’t a bad movie. I could see where it was trying to go and I border on placing it above part 2, but in the end even though it had its teeth back it still hug it’s hat on the old ways but the point was ‘time has moved on.’ You can see glimpses of what might have been, especially with an awesome dig at all the remakes late in the movie, but in the end we are left with a simple finish and not the grand slam this series deserved.