A Whisper to a Scream (Quadrilogy)

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This is kind of cheating (again. I know. I KNOW), since I’ve written about both Scream and Scream 4 before, but I wanted to cover all the Wes Craven films I’ve seen, so I decided to talk about all the Scream movies again.

My theory (and I don’t know if it’s right, because I haven’t read this anywhere) is that Craven hated how Nightmare 2-6 turned out, and decided he wasn’t going to let anyone else direct the Scream films, so he took charge of all of them. And he didn’t do a terrible job, but he did make some mistakes.

The first Scream was AMAZING. I was literally on the edge of my seat, chewing nervously on my fingernails and squirming around uncomfortably for the entire film. The opening scene with Drew Barrymore as Casey is fucking brilliant, and I love it with all my heart—enough that my blo0d-soaked Casey costume has been a go-to for several Halloween parties.

Scream is the perfect marriage of Craven and Screenwriter Kevin Williamson; they both compliment each other perfectly here, and leave very little to pick at, except of course, “death by garage door”, which I have always, and will always call bullshit on. But the rest of the film is so strong, I can let it slide.

The best thing about Scream is that it made horror films fun for me again, after getting burnt out on carbon-copy slasher flicks. The script does an apt job at throwing suspicion on EVERYBODY, so you’re not sure who the killer is until it’s revealed.

And YES, I do still think it’s scary, even though I watch it at least once a year.

Scream 2 is kind of 50/50 in terms of goodness. The opening scene is almost as brilliant as the first film, and after I saw it, I became so much more aware of who’s around me when I go to see a horror flick at a theater. Nightmare-inducing! Good job, guys.

But the pairing of Craven & Williamson for this one kind of falls apart as the movie goes on. There are some interesting scares for sure; including the sorority house torment of sober sister Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ghostface terrorizing Sidney at a crowded party, and the sequence involving a sound proof room inside the college, but for the most part the magic is gone.

Gail Weathers, who was charming in the first movie, becomes annoying and cliché in this one. It’s WAY too easy to figure out who the killer is, because little effort is made to cast the blame on anyone else, and so the reveal is just really … lame. And Randy! Oh, man. Randy. I don’t know if I can forgive them for that.

Overall, the second installment is kind of a mess, and it’s a shame.

Scream 3 is the one that everybody tends to hate, because at this point Craven decided to take it over the top and really focus on the parody part of the story (without Williamson’s help). But honestly, I like it better than the second film, because the camp really works here. I mean, Jay & Silent Bob make an appearance, for chrissakes.

The opening sequence with Cotton Weary and girlfriend is also pretty strong. It’s not quite as brilliant as 1 or 2, but it holds its own. Ghostface turns up the terror by pretending to be Cotton himself, which is pretty awesome.

I really appreciate that Scream 3 is making fun of itself, as well as the entire trilogy. But the script does return to form, throwing the blame on almost every character that’s introduced, so it’s harder to figure out who Ghostface is than it was in the second.

And the comedy derived from having every character played by another actor for the Stab movie adaptation is pretty great—especially Parker Posey as Gail Weathers. Also, Emily Mortimer plays a green actress who “won” Sidney’s part, and she is absolutely perfect. In every way.

Bonus points go to Lance Henriksen as a sleazy movie producer, Carrie freakin’ Fisher in a cameo, and Courtney Cox’s awful awful short bangs. The strength of Scream 3 doesn’t really lie in the kills; it lies in the stellar ensemble cast, and the creation of a sort-of ridiculous back-story about Mrs. Prescott in order to pull Sidney back into the game.

I like it—no matter what anyone else says.

I also find that I like Scream 4 more than most anyone else. It falls somewhere between 2 and 3 in terms of goodness, but it honestly surprised me way more than I expected.

While the multiple false starts are pretty annoying, there is a LOT of blood in this one, and I appreciate that they tried to add a current element by having the killer film his victims, and that they do a good job once again, painting every character (including Sidney herself) as a suspect.

Williamson came back for this one, although the screenwriter from 3 did do some rewrites, and it shows. It’s a lot more clever than 3 in terms of twists, and I really loved the homage to Casey’s scene in the original—with Hayden Panettiere taking over Drew’s part, and being much better at horror trivia because she’s a film nerd, trying to save Rory Culkin from the killer.

The ending borders on ridiculous, and the tortured relationship of Gail and Dewey is REALLY tired by this point, but overall I think it’s pretty solid entertainment.

Definitely worth a watch at least once to finish out Craven’s Scream-o-rama. There have been some rumors of a Scream 5, but I kind of hope he’ll just put this one to bed and move on to something else … as long as it’s not a sequel to My Soul to Take.

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