“Yeah… Let’s Go Get Killed!”

[Contains faux-defensive wounds and SPOILERS!!!]

Neve Campbell as 'Sidney Prescott' in "Scream"For the past week, I’ve been working my way through Wes Craven’s Scream quadrilogy… and while all four satirical slasher flicks received rather mixed reviews from the professional critics, I still believe that the first entry holds up as a stone-cold “comedy horror” classic, and that the second and fourth entries also have a lot to recommend them, in both the laugh and scare departments. The third entry, on the other hand, is a painfully silly, implausible, and un-funny dud… the obvious dip in quality and intelligence no doubt attributable to the fact that it was scripted by a sub-standard substitute (Ehren Kruger), rather than series creator Kevin Williamson. Apparently Kruger also did a couple rewrites on the script for the fourth movie, so I’m just gonna blindly blame him for all the dumb jokes I didn’t like in that one, and credit Williamson with all the smart/scary stuff!

Courteney Cox as 'Gale Weathers' in "Scream 2"Plot-wise, the flicks are all fairly formulaic… but the interesting thing about them, compared to a lot of horror movies, is that they minimise the random “stranger danger” aspect, in favour of murderers who already know their victims and have fairly specific (though often superficial and/or narcissistic) motives for offing them… which adds a fun “whodunnit” element to proceedings, while also reflecting the sad reality that roughly half of all real-life murder victims are killed by a family member, romantic partner, neighbour, or work colleague. That said, as a fan of police procedurals, I was slightly disappointed to revisit this series and see how little actual detective work is done by the authorities, even when a killer leaves their trademark mask (and all of the presumed DNA evidence that comes with it) behind them at a hot crime scene, despite one of the main characters being a deputy/sheriff (‘Dewey Riley’, played by David Arquette), and several other well-meaning cops popping up along the way! I guess that’s the downside of the “everyone is a suspect” paranoia they’re trying to generate here…?

On the plus side, this series does have a very strong recurring female cast, with Neve Campbell as grimly determined “final girl” ‘Sidney Prescott’, and Courteney Cox as bitchy-but-effective investigative reporter ‘Gale Weathers’… though I can’t say I’ve ever really warmed to either character as a heroine, despite faultless performances in their respective roles. They’re smart, tough, gorgeous, and courageous survivors… and they both know the value of a spree-ending head-shot, which I totally respect… but despite all those positive selling points, they’re frequently overshadowed by their scene-stealing, scenery-chewing antagonists, and comic-relief sidekicks (imho). Speaking of which/whom, this series is absolutely stuffed with all-star supporting turns…

Portia de Rossi as 'Sorority Sister Murphy' and Rebecca Gayheart as 'Sorority Sister Lois' in "Scream 2"The original Scream (1996) features Drew Barrymore as the franchise’s first ever on-screen victim ‘Casey Becker’, and Rose McGowan as Sid’s busty bestie ‘Tatum Riley’, along with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo by Linda Blair as an ‘Obnoxious Reporter’. Scream 2 (1997) features Jada Pinkett Smith as ‘Maureen’, the doomed lead of a genuinely disturbing opening sequence set in a packed cinema (where all of the witnesses assume her messy murder is part of the show!), Heather Graham as an actress playing the silver-screen version of “Casey”, Laurie Metcalf as niggling news-reporter (and secret killer) “Debbie Salt”, Sarah Michelle Gellar as doomed house-sitter ‘Cici’, plus Marisol Nichols, Rebecca Gayheart, and (a pre-Ally McBeal) Portia de Rossi as surviving sorority sisters. Scream 3 (2000) features Kelly Rutherford as ‘Christine Hamilton’, the short-lived girlfriend of talkshow host (and formerly-incarcerated scapegoat) ‘Cotton Weary’ (Liev Schreiber), Heather Matarazzo as ‘Martha Meeks’, the younger sister of deceased  movie-geek ‘Randy’ (Jamie Kennedy), Carrie Fisher as belligerent studio archivist ‘Bianca’, plus Jenny McCarthy, Emily Mortimer, and Parker Posey as hackneyed Hollywood stereotypes. Meh.

Emma Roberts as 'Jill Roberts' in "Scream 4"Finally, Scream 4 (2011) features Alison Brie as Sid’s cynical book publicist ‘Rebecca Walters’,  Hayden Panettiere as horror-lovin’ hottie ‘Kirby Reed’, Emma Roberts as the seemingly-innocent-but-secretly-evil ‘Jill Roberts’, Marielle Jaffe as their unfortunate friend ‘Olivia Morris’, Marley Shelton as home-baking hussy ‘Deputy Judy Hicks’, and Mary McDonnell as Jill’s oblivious mother ‘Kate’… plus Lucy Hale, Shenae Grimes-Beech, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Aimee Teegarden, Jenny Randall, and Britt Robertson as knife-fodder teens/twenty-somethings in the execrable film-within-a-film-within-a-film opening sequence. Feh! Seriously, all that self-referential dicking around at the beginning almost had me reaching for the “stop” button… but I’m glad I grit my teeth and stuck with it, because seeing Roberts go full-tilt psycho in the finale was well worth the rental fee all by itself!

P.S. I tried watching the TV series spin-off (reboot?) too, but couldn’t even get through the first episode… it just made me pine for Scream Queens, which is a much funner successor to these movies, even if it takes the genre-spoofing in a ridiculously over-the-top direction…

About Dee CrowSeer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action. He/him.
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