Scream: A Retrospective

Posted: November 17, 2011 by simplytwistedproductions in Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

Last week saw the release of Scream 4, ten years after the release of Scream 3. To get reacquainted with the series I decided to check out the first three on Blu-ray to get myself ready. Is it one of the greatest horror series or vastly overrated? Hit the jump to find out my thoughts on each film.

In 1996 many people had predicted the end of mainstream horror and more specifically the career of Wes Craven. The last few Jason and Freddy movies had bombed including the critically acclaimed Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Studios were afraid to green light any new horror films and then Dimension and specifically Harvey and Bob Weinstein purchased a script called Scary Movie. It was a hot screenplay written by a first time writer in Kevin Williamson. They brought the script to Craven, who needed a hit and he agreed to direct the film. This script would eventually become the smash hit film, Scream. Made for only $14 million Scream ultimately ended up grossing more than $170 million worldwide and saved not only Craven’s career and a genre but became the most profitable horror franchise of the decade.

Scream – What can I say about Scream that hasn’t already been said? Not much but I will say after this much time has passed since the original came out it is evident how much of an influence this film had on the genre. The late 90’s were filled with inferior rip offs like Urban Legend, Halloween H2O, Valentine, and even the Kevin Williamson scripted; I Know What You Did Last Summer. All of these movies tried to recapture the magic of Scream but ultimately none of them could live up to it. This movie in my opinion has proven itself to be a modern masterpiece of horror cinema. The opening scene alone has been imitated and copied but never surpassed and is a perfect example of how to open any film.

The script was such a breath of fresh air with it’s satire on society and the horror genre in general. A slasher film that did not take itself too seriously but was still scary was not heard of until the release of Scream. Ghostface proved himself worthy of being mentioned right up there with the other horror icons with the legendary mask, inventive kills and the now infamous voice provided by Robert Jackson. The cast was also pretty great and Neve Campbell’s portrayal of the heroine, Sidney Prescott proved that she was the modern “scream queen”. She wasn’t the only one to deliver a great performance though as David Arquette’s performance as Deputy Dewey Riley actually was so good they went back and re-shot the end so he would survive the movie. Drew Barrymore was advertised as the star of the film but Craven decided to pull a Psycho and kill off the advertised protagonist very early in the film. This made it known that nobody was safe in the film and added to the suspense and terror. Overall though I thought the movie held up well and actually it seems that it might have been ahead of it’s time with all of the meta references that have overtaken cinema in recent years.

Scream 2– Coming only one year later was the highly anticipated sequel. Some people believe that a movie like Scream even having a sequel makes the first one pointless. I disagree with this notion and I enjoy the second one for what it is. There are some fun kills and the climax is a great set piece. The best part of this film however is the chemistry that builds between Dewey and Courtney Cox’s Gail Weathers. The real life couple was kept together for most of the film and this proved to be a wise decision as they are the heart and soul of the film. A few issues I do have with this film are obviously Randy’s death. He was such a great character and I don’t mind that they killed him off, it was just the way they did it and the killer’s identity makes it even worse in retrospect. Also, the new characters in the film are basically worthless and really have no personality or serve any meaningful purpose. Overall though Scream 2 is a fun sequel, not as brilliant as it’s predecessor but not as bad as it’s follow up.

Scream 3– Now we get to the bastard step child of the series. Scream 3 is pretty universally hated by most fans of the series. At the time Ehren Kruger was supposed to be the next big screenwriter after Dimension had bought the Reindeer Games script. So they hired him to take over for Williamson as writer. Further complicating things was Campbell’s reluctance to come back as Sidney as she feared she was going to be typecast in only horror films. Eventually she agreed to reprise her role but she would only commit to 20 days on set. This caused a massive script overhaul and the studio refused to push the release date back so filming actually started without a completed script.

All of these behind the scenes issues are evident on the finished product as Sydney’s role in the film is basically an extended cameo until the climax. What is a Scream film without Sydney? Not a very good one evidently as this film is a mess from beginning to end. It opens with the death of Cotton Weary and it is a lame death scene as it is predictable and boring. A real let down compared to the openings of the previous films. As it goes on it introduces some supernatural elements that were not seen in the first or second. Sydney’s ghost mother is a laughably bad concept and even worse in execution. The new characters that are introduced are horrible and not just pointless like the second one but annoying. The killer’s reveal is so lame and makes ZERO sense. Jay and Silent Bob make an appearance killing what little credibility this movie had. It also seemed like Wes Craven forgot how to direct because the third act inside of the mansion is so poorly shot. It is too dark and filmed without any perspective on where the characters are and how far apart they are. There were a couple things I admired though. I thought Arquette and Cox again have great chemistry and Neve Campbell was great in the screen time she had. But overall this is by far the weakest chapter.

Is the Scream franchise a great horror franchise though? I definitely think it is of higher quality than either the Friday the 13th or Elm Street series if only because it stopped after it hit a bad entry. Scream was not dated at all but the last two really feel like they came from the 90’s. That is fun for nostalgia but ultimately it takes away from the experience now. The films did look pretty great on Blu-ray though and it got me excited to Scream 4 which I will posting a review of soon.

~Mark Smith

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