Today’s adventure in franchise watching: Scream!
The Scream franchise was definitely influential on me as a teen. I distinctly remember having 2 VHS copies of the first movie so that I could have one at each parent’s house. I lost count of how many times I watched the first one. This franchise is one of the most creative out there, and did anyone expect the great Wes Craven to disappoint? Scream is often credited with bringing the slasher genre back to life in the mid-nineties. How, you may ask? Read on to find out!
The Good: Awesome, essential viewing. These are the ones that make you want to see any and all entries in the series.
Scream: The first installment will always be my favourite, just because it was so different than anything else that was being done at the time. Kevin Williamson, also know for Dawson’s Creek, carried on his legacy of teens who were smarter than most people gave them credit for. From the opening scene, you know you are in for something different. A harmless phone flirtation goes dark and intense really fast – it gets my heart rate up every time. Wes Craven also turned the tables on the audience in a big hurry – Drew Barrymore was talked up as being in the movie. She was interviewed as a main player. She was advertised on the poster. And then Wes Craven goes extreme Hitchcock and slaughters her in the first 10 minutes by the sinister Ghostface…within a few feet from her oblivious parents. Scream is a masterfully done slasher movie, keeping you guessing until the end. It also goes through and skewers (sorry) preconceived notions of slasher movie stereotypes point by point as the movie loving characters discuss the rules. Not to mention, the girls kick ass! This one is from 1996, so is somewhat dated because of the no cell phone factor. However, if you grew up in a time with no or few cell phones, you will have no problem looking past it.
Scream 2: Wes Craven goes full meta in this awesome sequel. Many even consider this one superior to the original, that is how good it is. In this, we find the surviving characters from the first one in college trying to get past the horror that was the slaughter of their friends. However, this proves challenging when a movie of their story called Stab is released. At the premiere, a character played by a young Jada Pinkett-Smith and her boyfriend are killed in the theater while a rowdy audience cheers it on, thinking it to be a publicity stunt. The movie within a movie premise is clever and allows for a lot of commentary on the first one and the horror industry in general, and provides a lot of entertaining celebrity cameos. It also was released at the time that there was a lot of discussion about violence in movies and whether or not it caused people to be violent, and so there was a lot of discussion about that within the film as well. Establishing and following the rules for a sequel, this one provides a very cool, unique meta sequel.
The (Not So) Bad: Your go-to fun horror movie. While not as effective as the original, fun to watch, and may contain a fair amount of awesome cheese. While there may be some issues with logic or execution, it maintains the spirit of the original.
Scream 3 has always been a little bit problematic for me. Don’t get me wrong, it is a blast. Not only does it provide fun meta commentary on horror as a genre, but also turns the lens on the Hollywood system and how corrupt it is. Watching this last week, however, left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. This movie was produced by Dimension, and the sleazy movie producer talking about parties where the girls ‘knew what they were coming for” left a bad taste in my mouth given the Harvey Weinstein connection. I also have always had a problem with the portrayal of Neve Campbell’s Sydney in this installment…at the start of the movie she is holed up living in the middle of nowhere, completely cut off from the world. The Sydney Prescott of the first two movies would never dream of pulling that ind of crap; she is a tough cookie, smart, level-headed, and defiant. The portrayal of her hiding from the world just always feels wrong to me. However, in the end, this one is a delight to watch, and plays by the rules of a trilogy by adding some more information to tie up some loose ends, and also provides a better origin story than I was expecting.
The Ugly: Enough said. Leaves you wondering why (WHY???!!!!!), and has the power to make you question any investment of time you have put into the franchise to date.
Why/how this movie ever got made I will never understand. I have immense respect for Wes Craven as a horror icon. He has done some amazing work that will last forever, and his influence is undeniable. But this, one of his final works, is an actual slap in the face to the fans of Scream. It is extremely unfortunate that this was not only Scream‘s return, but also that it will be remembered as Wes Craven’s final movie. It starts out so promising with a classic meta premise; the movie in a movie (in a movie in a movie) introduction to this movie had me grinning from ear to ear, confident that the master had returned. It was, unfortunately, all downhill from there. It boils down to the fact that he and Kevin Williamson, such a great writing/directing team in past, clearly don’t relate to the current generation of teens. The previous movies were so smart, and also felt as if the teens were genuine people. This one felt like someone described a current teenager to them and they made caricature drawings. The only great character out of the teens was Kirby, and I think it was because she was a bit more of an outsider to them; she was popular, but also opinionated and had fringy tastes. In short, they made her a teen like in the previous movies, and she felt like a real person. Why they didn’t extend the same courtesy to the rest of the teens I’m not sure, although my love of Kirby may have been spurred on by the fact that she was played by the great Hayden Panettiere. Overall, a disappointing comeback saved only by the true-to-character performance of Neve Campbell.
So there you have it – my ranking of the Scream franchise! Any suggestions for the next binge and rate?