Movie Reviews 43 – Scream Quadrilogy

Scream (1996)
Just when you thought you’ve seen it all and could not possibly view another original horror movie, director Wes Craven not only meets the challenge, but uses the ‘cliches’ and horror tropes as the very crux for the movie. It’s all about the ‘rules’ of slasher horror movies. Not only do the movie characters themselves point out and mock the familiar sequences (and brazenly flaunt them) but in the end the surprise is creatively delivered by breaking one of the ‘rules’. Neve Campbell plays ‘Sidney’ a girl whose mom was murdered, and the murderer now sits in prison because of her testimony. But when the small town experiences a rash of other murders and she becomes the focus, two questions raise their ugly head. Is the guy she tagged really guilty and who is the current slasher on the loose? The movie pokes a lot fun at the slasher horror genre but also deftly switches to tension filled horror at the right moments. This is what made the movie such a big success when it was first released, which was also a time when the horror movies were waning and the ‘it’s all been done’ banner was staring the industry in the face. Aside from Craven himself, a little help came from casting Drew Barrymore in a brief but pivotal opening sequence role. Courtney Cox plays the intrepid reporter looking to make her mark and David Arquette is the small town deputy keeping vigil on Sidney. Also look for Henry “Fonzie” Winkler as a messed up school principal. Is he the killer?

Scream 2 (1997)
The movie starts out with a couple watching a movie called “Stab” which is really the first Scream movie (re-shot with a different cast) which was now based on a book written by the reporter (Courtney Cox) in the first movie. The movie theater is filled with kids in full Scream Ghost costumes and you can foresee the girl in the couple getting offed in the theater a mile away. After the killing is announced we shift to a college campus where Sidney is now a student. Sidney is going out with Derek (Jerry O’Connell) but recalling how her last boyfriend ended up being the killer last time, she has doubts when some evidence seems to implicate him. A bunch of notable additions to the cast as well as the pseudo cast making the “Stab” movie really make this sequel as good as the first. Check out Tim Olymphant, Joshua Jackson, Laurie Metcalf and Sarah Michelle Gellar to name but a few. The intrigue of who is the killer this time around is well played as we are constantly guessing and shifting the probable killer. In the end of course, it still comes as a complete surprise. A little too conveniently explained for my tastes (cheating if you ask me), but the ride getting there was fun.

Scream 3 (2000)
At one point I thought the series really jumped the shark here. The story was all over the place, with a lot of plot points directly related to stuff that happened in the previous two installments. But towards the end, I began to appreciate the complexity and thought put in and actually liked how they integrated everything to make this plot work. But there still was this ‘OK I’ve seen this too many times now’ factor. In this installment, the “Stab” movies which are the filmed versions of the ‘real life’ events of the Scream movies themselves is now a series of movies as well. In fact, yet another installment, “Stab 3” is currently being filmed. The real life killer is desperately trying to locate Sidney who has opted to drop out and become something of a recluse. She thinks of everything to maintain her anonymity when dealing with the outside world, but is eventually drawn out attempting to find out more about her real mother and how her life has been turned upside down ever since she was murdered. Its mainly about trying retrace her mother’s life when she was young so that they can finally figure out who the real killer is, most of the action being centered on the lot of the new movie being filmed. Stick with it and it’ll be OK, but we’re definitely on the downward slope here.

Scream 4 (2011)
It starts of with a set of multiple ‘movie in a movie’ sequences. We pull back from two girls watching Stab 4, which is pulled back to two girls watching Stab 6, which is pulled back to two girls really watching Stab 7, etc. But that’s about as much fun to be had from going once to often to the trough in this series. The actual story is about Sidney returning to her hometown when, once again, a rash of murders erupts all centered around her. Some of the town kids are also putting on a ‘Stab-a-thon’ Stab movie marathon and all the associated partying that goes with it. Sure there is some guesswork as to who is the killer (or killers) again this time around, but we’ve seen it all before and I didn’t care all that much about how it would all turn out in the end. This may have been due to my watching all four Scream movie in rapid succession myself (my own Stab-a-thon of sorts), and it may have been perfectly enjoyable for anyone who may have waited 11 years since the last movie. But I think if I see once more of these myself, I’ll be doing some of my own Screaming. Know wut I mean?

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