Thursday, January 12, 2012

Scream 3 (2000)

       Released in February of 2000, Scream 3 is the third installment in the Scream film series and the final installment in the Scream "trilogy," wrapping up the story that began in Scream. As expected, it was directed by Wes Craven, but not written by Kevin Williamson; it was instead written by Ehren Kruger. This was due to Williamson being unavalible to write a full script for the new movie; what he did, instead, was write a 20 to 30 page outline that was used to aid Kruger in re-writing the script. This change in writers is where 3's biggest flaw comes into play: the script - it's just not as good as the first two's. However, this doesn't mean Scream 3 is a terrible movie (as some may have you believe); while the violence and gore is toned down a bit, the scares are still there and the comedy is as abundant as ever. But it wouldn't be a Scream movie without self aware humor, satire, and subverted cliches.

       The film (apparently) takes place three years after the events of the second film. The setting has once again changed, this time to Hollywood, CA. where Stab 3 is being filmed (and believe me, Stab 3 is very important to the film's plot). The plot involves Ghostface, once again terrorizing people and trying to kill Sidney Prescott (played by Neve Campbell), only this time he's leaving clues that relate to Sidney's deceased mother. To say anymore would be to spoil a surprisingly great plot with a twist that'll have you in shock.

       The main cast that survived Scream 2 are here again: Neve Campbell (who I like more and more as the series goes on) as Sidney, David Arquette as Dewey, Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers, and Liev Schreiber as Cotton Weary (though, he only shows up in the opening scene).  New faces include: Patrick Dempsey as Detective Mark Kincaid, Scott Foley as Roman Bridger, Lance Henriksen as John Milton, Deon Richmond as Tyson Fox, Matt Keeslar as Tom Prinze, Jenny McCarthy (in an extremely minor role, similar to Sarah Michelle Gellar's minor role in Scream 2) as Sarah Darling, Emily Mortimer (very cute) as Angelina Tyler, Parker Posey as the annoying but amusing Jennifer Jolie, and Patrick Warburton as Steven Stone, Jennifer's security guard. Scream 3 also has more cameos this time around (probably due to the Hollywood setting), which include Jay & Silent Bob, Carrie Fisher, Kelly Rutherford (as Cotton's girlfriend), and Heather Matarazzo (as Randy's sister). There's even a special guest appearance by Jamie Kennedy as Randy, who let's us in on the rules that govern the final installment of a trilogy. And, as it should be, everyone in the film does a great (or good) job.

       The presentation is once again great: the sound, the cinematography, the anamorphic widescreen, it's all good. The scares were really great too; I found myself caring more and more about these characters as the film's progressed, so by this point I was really scared when a character I really liked was attacked (even though most of the cast in this movie is new to the series). As I mentioned before, the violence and gore in 3 is toned down a bit, but not too much, so there's still plenty of great death scenes and chase sequences. Marco Beltrami's score is at its best here, being more haunting and moody then ever before.

       The one thing I really want to talk about is 3's script. As far as story is concerned, it's actually really good, but as far as dialogue and characterization is concerned, it has issues. The story genuinely entertained me, keeping my interest throughout. Some of the dialogue, and its delivery, was either a little silly or awkward at times. In fact, this seems to be Scream 3's other biggest flaw: it's too silly. From some of the acting to some of the events that occur, 3 has more then its share fair of silly moments. But of course, there are plenty of good things in 3, too; I really liked the psychological aspect of the story (which I won't reveal) and the film's self aware humor is still around, flaunting it self wherever it can.

       Things of note: Scream 3 never seems to mention the events of Scream 2, making it almost seem as though Scream 2 either A) Never happened or B) Happened a long time ago (which, given the film's three year gap between 2, makes some amount of sense). This isn't anything too unusual, however, since certain trilogies do do this, so I was okay with it. Sidney's character doesn't show up as much this time around, so we get to see more of the new cast and the love-hate chemistry between Dewey and Gale (which is never really boring). I really liked the new characters (especially Dempsey) and they all seemed to be varied enough to warrant different types of personalities; the one thing most of the new cast has in common, however, is that most of them either play actors or movie makers. The blend of reality and fantasy doesn't seem to be too apparent this time around, but the film is just as self aware as ever, so I would still say the film plays around with reality and fantasy to some degree.

       While it isn't as good as its predecessors, Scream 3 still manages to deliver wonderful scares, great performances, comedic self aware satire, and an excellent conclusion to the "trilogy." If nothing else, Scream 3 is terrific entertainment that just aims to be fun and enjoyable. But probably the most rewarding thing about Scream 3 is that it reminded me of what the Scream franchise really is: a series of slasher movies, with a touch of satire.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Scream 2 (1997)

       Directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, Scream 2 is (obviously) the sequel to the hit slasher film Scream. Scream 2 was released only a year after Scream was released, but the film (apparently) takes place two years after the events of the first film. It stars most of the original main cast: Neve Campbell once again as Sidney, David Arquette as Dewey, Jamie Kennedy as the film geek Randy, and Courteney Cox as the ever snoopy for a story Gale Weathers. The comedy and scares are balanced extremely well the second time around and the film manages to be more entertaining and interesting than the first.

       The film's story is similar to the first: a killer is on the loose. However, the setting has changed to a college campus and town (which is something I really liked) and the movie, and it's characters, are well aware that this is a "sequel." The self aware humor is one of the things that made Scream so great and it's in full bloom, once again, in Scream 2. Right from the opening scene (a preview screening for Stab, a movie based on the events of the first movie), the film is all too aware that it's a sequel. Of course, this is mentioned by the characters, who reference the new killings as a sequel to the first killings. It's all done way too well and I enjoyed every second of the self aware attitude this film proudly flaunted. But of course, as I saw in the first film, Scream 2 is serious and scary when it needs to be. Ghostface feels more threatening here, but he's/she's also shown to be even more clumsy and amateur then in the first film; this asserts the realism that was seen in the first film. The death scenes are excellent and even more frightening this time around; the editing is also better and the score is as good as always (although snippets of scores by Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman are also used). Craven's use of anamorphic widescreen is put to better use in 2, as we see him really take advantage of the space he has for some of the more important scenes. On another note, I only saw one tipped-to-an-angle shot this time.

       The returning cast is as great as always, but there are some new faces: Jada Pinkett (Smith) shows up in the opening scene, Timmy Olyphant plays Mickey (a friend of Randy's who is dating Sidney's roommate), Elise Neal plays Sidney's roommate Hallie, Jerry O'Connell plays Sidney's college boyfriend Derek, Duane Martin plays Joel  (Gale's new cameraman), and Liev Schreiber returns to play Cotton Weary, the man who was originally accused of having killed Sidney's mother in Scream. Schreiber's appearance in this film surprised me; I remember him being in Scream for about 10 seconds, but his role in this film is much, much bigger - he even gets semi-top billing in the film's cast credits (but so did Pinkett). Since I'm already a fan of his, I really enjoyed his performance in this film - but of course, his performance (as well as everyone else's) was great regardless. The film also has a couple cameos: Heather Graham plays the Stab version of Casey from the first film, and Sarah Michelle Gellar plays Cici, a sober sorority girl.

       Things of note: I really loved the fact that anyone in this sequel could be a victim; but of course, I'll keep the details of that to a minimum. The blend of realism and fantasy is spot on once more, with some really good social commentary thrown in; this is a satire, after all. The chemistry between Dewey and Gale is ever so fun and sweet to watch, having only gotten a small taste of it in the first film. Kennedy plays Randy just as good as he did in Scream, and he even lets us in on the rules that govern a sequel. I didn't fall in love with the climax this time around (like I did with Scream), but it was still great with a twist I didn't see coming; I also thought the ending was better than the first film's. It seems that everything that I thought was (merely) good in Scream was great in Scream 2, which also means that whatever I thought was good in 2 was done better in Scream.

       Scream 2 manages to out do the original by simply being a better overall movie. The self awareness, comedy, and satire are all excellent, the subverted cliches are as great as always, and the performances are even more enjoyable than before; but 2 also manages to be scarier and more violent then its predecessor. It proves it self to be more then just a great slasher movie, but a great movie in general.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Scream (1996)

       Released in December of 1996, the Kevin Williamson penned and Wes Craven directed Scream is truly a unique piece of horror. It attempts and succeeds in satirizing and subverting slasher films and their cliches. However, in this process, it creates a film that is smarter than you might think and a whole lot funnier then you would have expected. The film might be known as a horror comedy but it does have plenty of genuine scares and surprises, all the while playing it straight and joking around.

       The story goes like this: a killer is on the loose in a small town. That's pretty much it. There is some exposition, but I'll be the last to spoil it for you. The film's cast of characters is surprisingly lovable (as opposed to likable): Neve Campbell plays Sidney, the main protagonist; Skeet Ulrich plays Sidney's boyfriend Billy; Rose McGowan plays Sidney's (extremely) attractive best friend Tatum, who is dating Stuart (played phenomenally by Matthew Lillard); Jamie Kennedy plays Randy, a movie geek who lets everyone know the rules of horror flicks; David Arquette plays Tatum's older brother Dewey, a deputy in town; Drew Barrymore plays Casey, one of first victims who only shows up in one scene, although, it's probably the most famous scene in the whole movie; rounding out the main cast is Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers, a nosy reporter who is also a local celebrity. The acting done by this cast is varied and enjoyable, with the highlight going straight to Lillard (for all the right reasons).

       The presentation is spot on, with Craven's trademark anamoprhic widescreen in check. The editing is really great too, and the film has a handful of scenes that are tipped to an angle, making it proto-modern if you ask me. The scenes featuring violence are also handled very well, and the deaths themselves are great (for the most part).

       Things of note: The film's most famous quality is its villain, Ghostface. Ghostface acts more like an entity then an actual person with a knife and the film plays with this idea cleverly and expertly. Whenever Ghost appeared on screen, I was on the edge of my seat and scared like everyone in the movie. However, the film also manages to be something else: hilarious. There are so many funny scenes in Scream but there's no way I'll reveal what they are. Another thing Scream managed to do was have a scene that completely elevated it from being a good movie to a great movie, and that scene is the climax. The biggest twist is revealed during the climax and I cannot tell you how hard I was laughing during this scene; although, the scene it self wasn't exactly funny, but it is arguable the scene is funny in a dark sense. The film's score (by Marco Beltrami) is also worthy of mentioning, maintaining the haunting and self aware attitude the film goes by. There's also some obligatory '90s songs thrown in, but that's okay.  

       Two things I loved in this film were the sense of realism and fantasy throughout. This is probably one of the most realistic films I've ever seen, in terms of characterization. I completely believed all of the character's emotions, behavior, and actions as genuine and real; that feat alone is something to admire. The idea of using an easily available costume to terrorize people is also one of the film's strong points in establishing a realistic setting. Ironically, though, the film also lives in a world of fantasy - like the ones in the movies. Plot points and the subverted cliches help establish this film in a movie world that is self aware of all the cliches and plot points. The blend of realism and fantasy make this film all the more enjoyable to watch (and re-watch).

       Scream was a breath of fresh air at the time of its release and still is today in the twenty-first century. It's a funny and scary movie that satirizes the slasher genre by subverting the cliches and surprising you at every available opportunity, all the while making you wonder: Who's really the killer? It succeeds in turning the slasher genre on its head and making a mockery of it, while giving the audience some great twists that make it more then just an average horror flick. But in the end, that's exactly what Scream is: an easily mock-able slasher film.