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Scream 2

Dimension Films – 1997
Director: Wes Craven
Screenplay: Kevin Williamson

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****SPOILERS!!!****

Scream 2 was that movie I wanted to love. More than anything, I wanted it to beat the odds and be The Empire Strikes Back of horror. My fanatical love of screenwriter/director Lawrence Kasdan aside, I felt Kevin Williamson would be that screenwriter who would do it. With Wes Craven directing, how could it not?  Yet, I walked out of the theater dejected. My view is unpopular, though. Amongst Scream fans, this installment is consistently ranked high within the franchise.

It is not that Scream 2 isn’t a perfectly fine film and maybe I am being too harsh, but after having reinvigorated a near dead genre, my hopes and expectations for a repeat were high. Maybe I was lulled into an unrealistic sense that the Craven/Williamson duo could do anything.

For many reasons, the odds were against the film and I argue that the drama surrounding the film cast too long a shadow.

First, was the short turn around time from the release of the first Scream film. Important to note, is that Scream was not an instant success. During the first weekend after its December 20, 1996 release, it took in a disappointing $6 million against a $15 million budget. Only after word of mouth did the film become the smash hit we now know it to be, garnering $87 million during its initial release. Once the film’s success was clear, the studio pressed for a quick follow-up using the original sequel ideas contained in a treatment Williamson included when auctioning Scream to studios. Production for Scream 2 began in June 1997, a mere 6 months after the original was released.

Second, Williamson was forced to be make considerable rewrites after 40 pages of the script was posted online. While alternate endings had intentionally been written to ward off leaks, with cast and crew receiving a dummy ending, these particular leaked pages resulted in frantic rewrites from Williamson as the film was heading into production. The result is a screenplay in which the ideas are not fully formed.

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The original Scream 2 leaked online. The takeaway? If you want your sequel to become a successful franchise, never, ever under any circumstance print it on anything but non-copyable paper (as the studio made sure to do after the leaks).*

Fourth, it seems to me that Laurie Metcalf – a true legend of the stage and screen, never finds her footing as Debbie Salt/Mrs. Loomis, the psychopathic mother exacting revenge. With the script partially to blame for the lack of depth in her character, the uncomfortable intensity of the performance ends up a hollow conclusion to Billy Loomis and Stu Macher’s crimes. Most evident is the stark difference from when Billy and Stu explain their reason for killing and it becomes an a-ha moment while when Mrs. Loomis admits her devious plan, it feels like exposition delivered in the worst form of an explanation just for the audience’s sake.

Lastly, and in my humble opinion, killing off Randy Meeks was the biggest mistake in franchise history. Beloved and fan favorite, it showed that no one was safe from Ghostface. But this is not real life, and we do not want our heroes to die.

Enough with the criticism, because there are moments when the movie shines. It is a Scream film after all, and for me Scream 2 contains two of the most knuckle clenching and terrifying scenes. The first, when Sidney and Hallie are trapped and trying to escape the car with Ghostface unconscious (hopefully) in the front seat and second, when Gale is weaving through the soundproofing walls in the studio. Courtney Cox’s pained expression as she tiptoes through, is enough to make us believe that a crazed killer really is hunting his next victim.

*Want to read the original script? You can find it at: https://www.imsdb.com/scripts/Scream-2.html

Fun Facts:

  •  The host interviewing Cotton Weary for the talk show Current Edition is screenwriter Kevin Williamson
  • The sweater in Hallie’s dorm room closet is a fashionable version of Freddy Krueger’s Nightmare on Elm Street sweater.
  • The voice on the other end of the line talking to CiCi (Sara Michelle Gellar) before Ghostface calls is Selma Blair, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s co-star in Cruel Intentions.
  • Matthew Lillard (Stu Macher and one of the killers in the original Scream) is in the background at the Delta Lambda Zeta sorority mixer. He hugs Timothy Olyphant, who turns out to be one of the two killers.
  • Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, From Dusk Till Dawn, Grindhouse) directed both the Casey Becker (Heather Graham) and Sidney and Billy (Tori Spelling and Luke Wilson) scenes in Stab.
  • Chief Hartley was played by Lewis Arquette, David Arquette’s father.

The Rules

1) The body count is always bigger.
2) Death scenes are always much more elaborate, more blood and gore. Carnage Candy! Your core audience just expects it.
3) The third rule to surviving a sequel was cut from the movie, but appears in its trailer: And number three, never, ever under any circumstance, assume that the killer is dead.

 

Scream 3

Dimension Films – 2000
Director: Wes Craven
Screenplay: Ehren Kruger

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I felt like I was cheating on Kevin Williamson. I was supposed think that Scream 3 was a disaster because Kevin Williamson was not writing for the franchise he made famous. I was supposed to think that no one could fill his shoes and that Ehren Kruger had not lived up to the task. The reality is though, that Kruger had been placed in the unenviable position of taking over screenwriting duties only after Kevin Williamson’s other projects like The Vampire Diaries and Teaching Mrs. Tingle took priority. With production scheduled but no script, Kruger wrote a treatment in 2 days, wrote the first draft in 2 weeks and continued with rewrites until production began. Further challenged by the studio’s concern over the film’s depiction of violence in light of the recent Columbine tragedy and Neve Campbell’s limited availability, Kruger was forced to take a different approach to the script.

The charm of the Scream series is that it has always been willing to make fun of itself. To operate under a guise of mindless entertainment, while in reality being a vehicle with which to make statements about societal ills. By mocking the glitz of the Hollywood system while exposing the underbelly of a sometimes slimy industry, Scream 3 does exactly this. Just as the original Scream made overt expressions about media and film’s affect on youth, so too does Scream 3 make pointed observations about women in film that has since become more apparent in light of the Me Too movement.

I felt guilty joy as I left the theater. My warmth for the film is yet another unpopular choice as people love to hate Scream 3. It is easy to overlook, but Ehren Kruger is no slouch having also penned Arlington Road and The Ring and despite his later subpar screenplays like The Skeleton Key and Reindeer Games, I believe he did well at retaining the pop culture sensibility that had always defined the Scream franchise.

Fun Facts:

  • The location used for John Milton’s house was also prominently featured in Halloween H20. It would also become the house where hopeful musicians stayed during the filming of Rockstar: INXS.
  • In the hopes of keeping the ending a surprise, Wes Craven filmed 3 different endings. One of those alternative endings was included in the bonus features of the DVD.
  • The photos of a young Maureen Prescott are actual photos of a young Linda McRee, the actor who portrayed Sidney’s mother.
  • Wes Craven makes a cameo as the man with a handheld camera on the studio tour who passes behind Jay and Silent Bob.
  • The student who asks Gale Weathers the question following her lecture is Richmond Arquette, David Arquette’s brother.
  • Sidney wears the necklace with the Greek letters given to her by Derek, her boyfriend in Scream 2.

The rules for a concluding part of a trilogy

1) You are going to have a killer that is going to be superhuman.
2) Anyone, including the main character, can die.
3) The past will come back to bite you in the ass.

Scream
Director: Wes Craven
Screenplay: Kevin Williamson
Dimension Films – 1996

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**Caution SPOILERS – but if you haven’t seen it by now??**

The fifteen seconds between the flashing of the Dimension Films logo and “SCREAM” landing hard on the screen perfectly sums up what to expect in the following hour and fifty-one minutes of this film – an eery screech, a telephone, a scream, a slicing knife. Within the first twelve minutes, we have the introduction of our masked killer on a murderous rampage and two of the seven shocking deaths. The simplicity of it all is profound and screenwriter Kevin Williamson is a master. He crafts interesting characters that we root for, or against, while providing a plethora of juicy reveals, cheeky charm, and a venerable wit to create a film that reinvented a struggling genre. Maybe most importantly for a notoriously devoted audience, his reverence for horror movies past is clear.

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Pairing Williamson with director Wes Craven proved to be a perfect fit. Craven’s seminal works were legendary in the horror genre. From Last House on the Left to A Nightmare on Elm Street, he helped define the slasher film and his no fear approach brought a freshness to the production. As indicated by Steve’s death in the first minutes (where prominent are the sounds of cutting flesh and the sight of his insides being torn out), we instantly know that Craven is not going to be afraid to highlight the blood and guts of horror.

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© Dimension Films

Scream presents a wonderfully dysfunctional group of friends to remind us that atypical is much cooler than being clinically popular. Much credit goes to each of the actors who gave these characters life, in performances that must have made Jamie Lee proud. There is Drew Barrymore who realistically conveys the horrific emotion and breathless disbelief without a twinge of falseness and Neve Campbell, the perfect combination of innocence and badassery. Skeet Ulrich expertly portrays Billy as the dreamy, but emotionally clueless bad boy and we are heartbroken once his psychopathic tendencies emerge. In Dewey, David Arquette offers the right mix of naivety and unsuspecting charm and Courtney Cox shines as the narcissistic and self-absorbed newswoman that we love to hate. Add to die for cameos (pun intended) from Linda Blair, Henry Winkler, and Wes Craven, and it is a dream cast.

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Me and ‘Deputy Dewey’

Originally entitled Scary Movie, Williamson included treatments for two sequels in hopes of piquing interest in the franchise. In the film that would come to be known as Scream, he writes smart characters wrapped around a perfectly crafted whodunnit story line that transformed the historical one dimensional victim in horror films and modernized what had by then become a stale and formulaic movie experience. And for that, we owe him a debt of gratitude.

“Don’t blame the movies. Movies don’t create psychos, movies make psychos more creative.” Billy Loomis

 

Fun facts that helped make this movie a classic:
The reverence for horror movies past — The following films are mentioned in some form throughout — The Exorcist, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Candyman, Prom Night, Evil Dead, Hellraiser, Terror Train, Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, The Bad Seed, I Spit on Your Grave, The Howling, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Friday the 13th, Carrie, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Fun Facts:

  • In Scream, with Casey nowhere to be found and her parents realizing the gravity of the situation, Casey’s father tells her mother to “go to the McKenzie’s.” In Halloween, after finding her friends dead and Michael pursuing her, Laurie tells the children she is babysitting, Tommy and Lindsey, to “go to the McKenzie’s.”
  • Wes Craven plays Fred the Janitor. The sweater may look familiar, because it was an original used for A Nightmare on Elm Street.
  • Joseph Whipp who played Sheriff Burke, also played a police officer in A Nightmare on Elm Street.
  • Casey Becker’s thoughts on A Nightmare on Elm Street: “The first one was scary but the rest sucked.” Fun fact: Wes Craven sold the rights to the A Nightmare on Elm Street sequels and had no hand in their production. He disliked most of them. 

The rules Without a trace of contempt, Williamson shrewdly and cleverly turns his admiration for the genre into a succinct formula when he lays out the rules that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie. Horror fans can relate and he has simply put to paper what a good many of us have inevitably screamed at the screen. It is here when we know that he is one of us, and that he respects us.

1) You can never have sex. Sex equals death.
2) You can never drink or do drugs. It’s the sin factor, it’s an extension of number one.
3) Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances say, “I’ll be right back.” Because you won’t be. See you push the laws and you end up dead.

 

Coming soon – I review Scream 2, 3, and 4!