Just when we thought they were out of ideas for this franchise, here comes the new, self-aware 'Scream' - a new play on the "requel", which is exactly what this is, and honestly the first time I've heard the most fitting term for it. In case you're wondering, from what I can gather this movie sees it is a movie that acts as a bit of a reboot, but still a bit of a sequel. Often, these are the movies that call themselves by the original title, like 'Halloween', 2018, 'Candyman', 2021 or even 'Jumanji', 2017.
That said, a requel doesn't have to have the same name as an original. The new 'Star Wars' trilogy, 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' and 'Tron: Legacy' are all examples of the same idea, so it's safe to say that it fits into the nostalgic category as well. So your foremost meta thing about this movie is, interestingly enough, the title itself. I'd consider that rather clever, but it doesn't come without irritation, considering the titles have flown so perfectly from 'Scream' to 'Scream 4'. Then this comes along and calls itself 'Scream' just to mess with us, yet makes fun of the idea of a title like this within the film, so you just can't be mad at it. Anyway, let's move on.
The film opens with the typical phone call and attack. This time, this victim is high schooler Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega). However, the attack ultimately fails and leaves her hospitalized. Tara's friend, Wes Hicks (Dylan Minnette) notifies her estranged sister, Sam (Melissa Barrera) about the attack which sends her running back to her hometown of Woodsboro. There, she reunites with this feature's teenage team of could-be victims, Wes, Amber Freeman (Mikey Madison), and twin brother and sister, Chad and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown, respectively), whose uncle was everyone's favourite movie expert in the original, Randy.
With a whole new threat looming over Woodsboro coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the original murders, Sam and her boyfriend, Richie (Jack Quaid) begin to seek help from the experts; namely, Dewey Riley (David Arquette) who is the one to dispense this film's rules; 1 - Never trust your love interest; 2 - The killer always has something to do with the past; and 3 - The first victim always has a circle of friends that the killer is part of. Here we also learn that Dewey has since been divorced from Gale (Courteney Cox), who has gotten back on TV with a morning show of sorts. As for our heroine, Sidney (Neve Campbell), she's notified about the murders as well, and eventually does get dragged back into things.
While this all sounds like a whole lot more of the same, the film does play with certain things, largely having to do with the gap between generations. We find out a few family ties here, and not all of them are as pleasant as finding out a couple of twins are Randy Meeks' niece and nephew. But for every element of good in this, there's some kind of element of "lame". For me, at this point, Sidney ought to be a regular "Ripley", but be forewarned, there's not a whole lot going on with our legacy characters here, and things feel a little phoned in. I suppose in fairness, we're supposed to focus on this new group. But I was ready to see Sid kick some ass in this. We can't always get what we want though.
Of the series, I would probably consider this to be the most middle-ground I've felt about a chapter. There's something about it that doesn't feel quite right, but I can appreciate what they did with it. I have to also say that the big reveal on the killer(s) also left me pretty lukewarm. The more fun reveal here does lie elsewhere though, and does provide a pretty badass twist to the end. But with all that said, I have to say that I kind of hope this is the last of them. It's a fitting tribute to the legendary Wes Craven (as "for Wes" comes up at the end), but the whole thing is such old news at this point, there can't be much more to do... but hey, these are slasher movies, after all. So who knows?
When I went to go check this out in theaters with a friend, I remember being slightly curious, but unexpectant. After all, I found 'Scream 3' to be a letdown, so how could a fourth installment, around eleven years later possibly be any good. Well, I'm happy to say that I remember being very pleasantly surprised, but in all honesty, this chapter is still "just okay". For what it is, it succeeds (at least for me).
We start this one off in real-time, after the events of 'Scream 3'. The 'Stab' series within these films has reached the "out of control" point. They are not only on 'Stab 7' but evidently, 'Stab 5' apparently used time travel. I see that as a bit of a nod to the moments when horror icons get to outer space, like Jason on the Leprechaun. Anyway, surviving the events of the original films are Sidney (Neve Campbell), who has just published her own book on surviving the Woodsboro murders, Dewey (David Arquette), who's now the sheriff of Woodsboro and Gale (Courteney Cox), who is now married to Dewey and has since given up reporting.
Sidney returns to Woodsboro on the 16th anniversary of the original 'Scream' killings, and of course, to no one's surprise, finds that the killing has started all over again. This time, the big target seems to be Sidney's cousin, Jill (Emma Roberts), and her friends, Olivia and Kirby (Marielle Jaffe and Hayden Panettiere, respectively). In this case, the killer seems to want to direct his own reboot, so this one is more of a farce on reboots. A little bit I found kind of humorous here was that in one scene, Kirby is made to name a specific horror reboot. She lists off about a million of them, including 'The Hills Have Eyes', 'Last House on the Left' and 'Nightmare on Elm Street' - all Craven originals that were somewhat unnecessarily rebooted. Another fun little "shot" Craven threw in there for his fans.
Moving on, however, when the killing starts, evidence is found in the trunk Sid and her publicist, Rebecca (Alison Brie) arrived in. They are then made to stay in town by Dewey, himself until the killer is caught because pretty much "everyone is a suspect" (which may be a little nod back to the original). One thing I appreciated here was that the film really keeps you guessing. Is it Jill's ex-boyfriend, Trevor (Nico Tortorella) who is leaving threatening messages?; is it Dewey's new, somewhat creepy deputy, Judy (Marley Shelton)?; is it one or both of the film-obsessed geeks, Robbie and/or Charlie (Erik Knudsen and Rory Culkin, respectively)? Or could it possibly even be an original "cast member" (Sidney, Dewey or Gale?) It's always fun for me when a movie keeps you guessing like this, but perhaps there are more perceptive viewers out there who know who it is from the get-go. Honestly, I'm glad I don't have that ability - helps me enjoy mysteries much more.
A lot of this, like 'Scream 3' feels like more of the same. Once again, there's a standard set of rules here, but there are more than three. 1, don't mess with the original; 2, death scenes are more extreme (similar to 'Scream 2'); 3, "unexpected" is the new cliche; 4, virgins can die now (in 'Scream', a rule of survival was virginity); 5, new technology is used and integral to the plot; 6, an opening sequence is necessary (which I feel is a weird one, because I think most horror movies have these); and last but not least, 7, in order to survive these days, you pretty much have to be gay. Otherwise, the characters we know haven't really developed that much. For example, Gale quit reporting to basically quit being a b*tch to people, but she's still extremely tenacious about the case here and goes out of her way to get answers on her own like she always does.
As for the others, Dewey's the same old Dewey, just in a new position, and Sidney is basically just grown up and has become protector a little more than usual. Think Ripley's character from 'Alien' to 'Aliens', but to less of a degree. It's probably safe to say she probably got the most developed of the three. But for as much as things are familiar, it does go back to what I loved about the first and second 'Scream' movies by throwing in a whole bunch of scary movie trivia, Easter eggs and becoming a farce in itself. For whatever reason, '3' just didn't manage to do this as well, and it's still sort of hard to put my finger on. But I do consider this a vast improvement from '3', even if it's still not quite as good as the first two.
Body Count: 10
In my rediscovering of the 'Scream' franchise, it's clear that while the first was always a classic, my favourite is now a complete change of mind on '2'. This led me to wonder if I might see '3' in a different light as well. Once again, I remembered being very disappointed with it, so I hoped for a bit of a 180 on this as well. Instead, I really just did a 360 and came back around to this probably being the weakest title in the series. I mean, you know something's pretty weak when Jay & Silent Bob show up, and that's the best part of the whole movie.
I also have a slight bitterness towards this one, and it involves another story. To shorten it, a group of friends and I were split between seeing this and 'Pitch Black', so we all divided and simply watched what we wanted. I went the 'Scream 3' route because I had no idea what 'Pitch Black' was at the time. Little did I know that it would have introduced me to Vin Diesel as a character even more badass than Dom Toretto, and what could have been a very suspenseful and exciting experience in a darkened theater. If it ever comes back to theaters, I will go for that experience I missed out on. Let this story serve as a primary, first-hand example that familiarity isn't always the best way to go. I mean, say what you will about Riddick, 'Pitch Black' is a hell of a good time.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand, 'Scream 3' picks just a couple of years after 'Scream 2'. The backdrop for the movie is a studio lot, and the set pieces of 'Stab 3'; a film based on things we haven't seen happen. Presumably, 'Stab 2' was based on the events of 'Scream 2', but we skipped right over that. I suppose the point here is actually somewhat clever, as it shows how a studio will just make shit up as long as the numbers keep coming. But as much as one can argue that that's the point to the actual film (not just the film within the film), the whole formatting of this feels a bit too easy.
Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) lives a secluded and locked-down life, working as a crisis counsellor for abused women. She fears the killings might start again, and wants to be there when they do. Soon enough, a familiar voice gives her a call; her deceased mother. This gets her out of hiding and lures her to Hollywood where, indeed, some killings have started again within the cast and crew of 'Stab 3'; director Roman Bridger (Scott Foley), executive producer John Milton (Lance Henriksen) Sarah Darling (Jenny McCarthy) as the unknown Candy Brooks; Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey) as Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox); Tyson Fox (Deon Richmond) as "Ricky", an homage to Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), Tom Prinze (Matt Keeslar) as Dewey Riley (David Arquette) - who is also a consultant on the film; and Angelina Tyler (Emily Mortimer) as Sidney.
Within and around the studio lot, the old gang works once again to figure out who this new killer is, and their motivation for killing off the cast and crew of 'Stab 3'. As usual, there's a whole new set of rules brought to us by Randy, having to do with them now being stuck in not just a horror movie, not just a sequel, but the concluding chapter of a trilogy. 1- the killer, at this point, is superhuman and won't die easily. 2 - anyone, including the main character, has a chance of dying. 3 - the past will come back in some way, shape or form. Everything we thought we knew is pretty much null and void now. That's sort of my gripe with the way this movie does eventually go down. I won't spoil much here, but I'm just gonna say, Randy's pretty much right about that third rule.
This is sort of a weird one because for as much as it seems to be a commentary about studio interference when it comes to movie-making (especially with money-grabbing trilogy chapters) that's also its downfall. For starters, it IS the third time we've done this kind of thing in a few short years, so it's fair to say that by this time it was getting a touch old. This was also the peak of the teen slasher genre of the late 90s-early 00s, so even the genre itself was wearing itself out. On a more personal level, I thought it was a touch too comedic, it highlighted the stupidity of the characters in a big way, and honestly, even if it is the point, it just feels too "Hollywood".
The difference between this poking fun at a trilogy, as opposed to 'Scream 2' poking fun at a sequel, is something hard for me to put into words. I suppose with the first two, a lot of things were easier for me to appreciate as a horror fan - especially with the second one and its subtle jabs at how Hollywood does sequels. Maybe it's that this was such a full-tilt assault on Hollywood and there was really no subtlety behind it. The message is clever enough, but the delivery of the message was a little too "in your face" in comparison to the first two. It also takes us out of Woodsboro, and once we're out of a slasher's true neighbourhood, things tend to drop in quality.
Perhaps the biggest let-down here, however, is the big reveal. I won't spoil it, but it is incredibly out of the blue and unexpected. That sounds good, sure, but it leaves the audience asking "wait, what?" So, while this one, like its predecessors, sticks to classic horror tropes for the volume of its series, the problem is that the third film in a horror franchise is about where things usually start to wane (unless we're talking 'Elm Street' or 'Friday the 13th'; both very solid first chapters), so to bring it in here almost feels like self-sabotage. Although I will tip my hat to Craven for being ballsy enough to go through with it.
Body Count: 9
It's amazing when you go back to watch something with a new mindset and get more out of it. 'Scream 2' is probably the best example of such a film for me, recently. I remember shrugging it off back when it came out, despite liking the first one. But back then, I also didn't have the mindset about slasher horror that I do now; where the cheese is half the fun of it. If you can go in with that mindset, and understand that a lot of the stupid stuff was done very purposefully here, you might just get more out of it. I know I did.
Taking place about two years after the first film's events (although released not even a year after), we see that since then, a film has been released based on those events entitled 'Stab'. Also, during this scene, we get what some people may consider a suitable sequel redo of the opening scene, where a big name is the first one "offed". In this case, (also fitting the idea of a sequel) it's two college seniors named Maureen (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Phil (Omar Epps) during a sneak preview of the film. This kicks the movie off, and the average film buff gets the chance to appreciate that just like the first one, this is satire - this time being horror sequels.
We further repeat the concept of the media circus descending upon Sidney Prescott's (Neve Campbell) school, this time being Windsor College in Ohio, far away from California where the original film took place. The fun fact on this is that originally, Springwood of the 'Elm Street' franchise was meant to be in California, but eventually got retconned to be Springwood, Ohio. Indeed a nice nod from Craven to his fans. But anyway, among these media reporters are Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), returning as a not-so-likable and not-so-redeemed character, and newcomer, Debbie Salt (Laurie Metcalf), who aspires to be another Gale.
Alongside Sidney are her friends; the returning Randy (Jamie Kennedy); her new boyfriend, Derek (Jerry O'Connell); her best friend, Hallie (Elise Neal); and Derek's friend, Mickey (Timothy Olyphant). And along with Sidney eventually figuring out that the killing has started again, she also deals with the release of Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) who, though found innocent after the first film, still holds a certain history with Sidney that has her a bit more on-edge, making things a little more complicated this time around. To make a long plotline short, together, with the help of a returning police officer Dewey (David Arquette), they try to figure out who the killer is before the body count reaches sequel numbers.
That brings me to more of the farcical sequel material contained within the film. Like last time, the sequel has certain "rules", although this time, instead of a list of "do-nots", it's more of a list of "must-haves". This time, the body count is higher, the kills are more elaborate, and it ends with an unrevealed "do-not", but according to sources, it's, "don't ever assume the killer is dead". All of this parody material combined with what seems like purposefully bad acting (on tertiary characters' parts, anyway) lend themselves to what horror sequels tend to be - almost a repeat of the original while being more about a body count with more creative kills (although I'm not sure how much creativity counts here).
My first time around seeing this, I wasn't quite the slasher horror fan that I am today (namely with 'Elm Street'), and I didn't think it was nearly as good as I think it is now. In fact, so far, I might classify it as my favourite. While the first one does pull a farce on classic slashers, this one tackles the sequels and does so with a very tongue-in-cheek approach - especially if you know anything about how Craven's experiences with the 'Elm Street' films really went. There are a few rather good, subtle digs here, including things like Randy stating that the killers from the first film were "much more original".
On top of all this, a lot of the fun comes from the movie within the movie, where certain actors are portraying the victims of the Woodsboro murders; the funniest being Tori Spelling as Sidney, which Sidney actually jokes about in the first film. Beyond that, as far as the movie 'Stab' goes, Heather Graham plays Casey (Drew Barrymore) and Luke Wilson plays Billy (Skeet Ulrich). With all of these fun details combined, you can tell that Craven made this one a little more for horror buffs than an average audience. Amazingly, that also fits the sequel formula; use the first film to filter them out, and the true fans will come back for more.
There's more I can talk about, but we don't wanna be here all day, either. So to bring it to a close, I'm actually surprised at how much more clever this was than I remember. Back when I first saw it upon video release, I claimed it as "just another horror slasher sequel", and viewed it as a non-horror fan at the time. I definitely liked the first one better. But I think it's safe to say that while they're very close in ranking, I do like this one a bit more with how it handles things. As a simple slasher, it's a little average at best. But as a parody of horror that still works as horror to some degree, it's pretty great. I'm so glad to have watched this again with a new lens.
Body Count: 8
The last time I watched a 'Scream' movie of any sort before this project was when I sat down to watch 'Scream 4' in theaters, back in 2011. So I'm actually really happy to be giving this series another watch-through with a whole new (or at least refreshed) set of eyes. And despite the fact that I've seen this one a whole bunch of times as opposed to its sequels (literally once apiece), I'm noticing a few new things this time around. But I'll get to that later. Let's talk about the almost history-making film itself.
As usual, with my Slasher Zone pages, spoilers may lie ahead for newcomers. I'll try to keep it relatively spoiler-free, but it doesn't help that one of the things that made this movie so good for its time means spoiling the opening entirely. We meet high schooler Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) who, to make a long story short, sets things up by being the very first on-screen victim of the franchise. What was so great about this was the fact that at the time, we were all pretty damn sure Barrymore was our "survivor girl". But God bless director Wes Craven for putting one over on us here, letting us know immediately that no one is safe.
This murder sets into motion a police investigation and media circus invasion of Woodsboro High School. In the middle of it all, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) deals with the one-year anniversary of her mother's violent murder at the alleged hands of Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) while putting up with her boyfriend, Billy (Skeet Ulrich) who wishes she could move on so that their relationship can too. She also has reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) to deal with, who wrote a book claiming Cotton to be innocent, and spreading rumours and conspiracy theories about the murder.
Also involved in a group of mutual friends are the eccentric Stuart (Matthew Lillard), Sidney's best friend, Tatum (Rose McGowan) and the movie-loving, movie-rule-establishing Randy (Jamie Kennedy), who always plays an important part in these movies, giving characters (and the audience) hints, regarding what to expect in whatever volume of the movie we're watching. I'll cover this in all of these reviews, but here, the rules to follow are about surviving a standard horror movie. Don't do drugs, don't have sex, and never say "I'll be right back", because you wont be.
As events unfold (including the disappearance of Sidney's father) and murder suspects seem to surround the small town, investigations continue, and we follow along with the somewhat bumbling deputy Dewey (David Arquette), who Gale, at first uses to try to get the inside scoop on things, but eventually, sparks do indeed fly between the two, just like they did in real life (at least until like, 2013). Anyway, to simplify things, this one is the bread and butter of the 'Scream' franchise - breaking new grounds by giving us a farcical horror movie without it being a comedy, and being directed by Wes Craven - the guy who gave us Freddy Krueger.
Indeed, this is Craven's second franchise on this Slasher Zone list of mine, and his near resurrection of slasher horror here is sort of why he's my favourite horror director. Of course, this led slasher horror down a new path that was a bunch of PG-13-rated junk known as "teen horror". While not too far removed from the 80s slashers I love, they all felt a little more basic and predictable, AND they tended to cast bigger names of the time, as opposed to a lot of the almost "no-name" casting of 80s horror (with some exceptions, of course). But while this stuff was made for my generation (I was a teenager at the time), I never really got into it.
Despite where things went, however, the fact remains that this is actually still a pretty damn clever film. The timing, for one, was great. I'd probably say that the early to mid-90s was the time the traditional slasher movie really and truly died. Craven came along here and said "I can fix it" by giving us everything we're already familiar with, but letting us know that the film is meant to be one big trope. So let's go back to some of the fun things I came across this time around. Fair waring, a lot of this (if not all) may be painfully obvious to 'Scream' fans. But bear in mind that I haven't given this franchise ANY attention in over ten years.
For starters, seeing the 'Clerks' VHS tape sitting on top of a VCR says to me that Kevin Smith and Wes Craven go back much further than the balance of 'Scream 3' (which I'll get to with that review, I promise) and 'Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back', where Craven cameos as himself, acting like a careless director. You gotta love a guy who can make light of himself. Then there's Tatum suggesting things feel like a "Wes Carpenter" flick (which I gave no mind to for some reason until now) and Jamie Kennedy saying "behind you, Jamie (Lee Curtis)" while watching 'Halloween' with Ghostface lurking behind him.
HOW I didn't pick up on those things earlier is beyond me, but I will say that my ventures into horror largely started with this title, in particular. It MIGHT have been the first mainstream release that I saw willingly (new on video, anyway), enjoyed, and came back for. So at the time, I really didn't have anywhere near the horror knowledge I have now. And the last time I think I saw 'Scream' before now had to be in the early 00s. So call me slow, but all this new-to-me stuff made this viewing all that much more enjoyable.
I think that since it has been farced so many times since it may have lost its lustre a little bit. It's definitely "trapped" in the 90s, so it may be difficult for a newcomer. The most shining example is that having a cell phone at that time was more like a luxury than the everyday items we take for granted today. Having said that, however, 'Scream' is also potentially the simplest timeline I'll be covering as it's essentially just real time - this one taking place in around September of 1996, so the cell phone thing makes a lot more sense, even for a newcomer.
There's still so much I can say about this movie, like Wes Craven playing Fred the Janitor, actually totally dressed in Freddy Krueger garb while Henry Winkler plays the super strict school principal - extra fun when you consider the fact that he once played The Fonz. This one may very well be a product of its time, but its overall execution is still a little something to be admired. Here we had Wes Craven literally poking fun at his own genre, and it totally worked. I'm not sure I'd say any of the sequels were quite as entertaining, but again, I've only ever seen any of them once before. This one is the one I'd probably recommend the highest though, because after all, how often is a horror franchise sequel better than its original?
Body Count: 5