Scream and Scream Again (Scream 3, 2000)

Unlike Scream 2, this follow up took three years. And was it worth the wait?

Set a few years after the second film, Sydney lives in a remote location and is employed as a crisis hotline worker. But when murders start occurring the set of the latest Stab film (the movie series within the series based on the events of the series), Gail, Dewey and Sydney find themselves pulled into the plot of a possible trilogy.

Bringing everyone together for this one is a bit more convoluted. Dewey has been hired by the actress playing Gale (Parker Posey who is terrific and plays off against Cox really well). Gale is there to investigate after the killing of Cotton Weary. And Sydney is there… because? Like I said…convoluted. And while the film makes an effort to be clever…it just feels tired.

The twists and reveals are downright tortured as the film reveals a mastermind who was behind the other two films.

While there are some fun things in the film, and it is not unbearable…you can tell this was not written by Kevin Williamson who was too busy with Dawson’s Creek to return. And so only hal;f the magic is there. Craven does what he can, but Scream 3 feels like a true stumble for the franchise, especially for one to end on.

Back At It (Scream 2, 1997)

Scream was a massive success, and a sequel was green-lit and put out right away. Like, barely a year later. And for a lot of horror films, that can be a bad sign. So is Scream 2 a rush to cash in on success?

Picking up one year after the first film, Sydney is at college trying to make a new life. The past keeps haunting her though. The exonerated Cotton Weary (accused of killing Sydney’s mother) is insisting on Sydney participating in an interview with Gail Weathers. But the killings begin again, this time on the campus. Conveniently, Sydney and Randy decided to go to the same college, so Randy can explain the rules of a slasher sequel. THERE ARE RULES, PEOPLE.

Deputy Dewey shows up so that we can have some romantic conflict with he and Gail and the four survivors can investigate the killings on campus.

Scream 2 is written by Williamson and directed by Craven…and this is more of a case of striking while the iron is hot. The return of Campbell, Cox, Arquette and Kennedy makes for a lot of fun. They all have a real chemistry together. The new additions are a cast of solid talent… even in smaller roles (Timothy Olyfant and Liev Schreiber are guys who can carry films as leads).

The writing does not cheat, even the repeating of incidents from the first film are deliberate call backs. Craven’s direction is on still strong. Scream 2 is one of those rare sequels that feels like it compares to the original favorably. It is clear that Williamson and Craven had a vision for a continuation of Sydney’s story. And I think what helps here is that Scream is not about its killer. It is about Sydney Prescott and her friends. This makes Scream 2 an admirable follow up.

I Wanna Hear You (Scream, 1996)

The slasher ruled the late seventies and well into the eighties. But in the early nineties, the slasher was looking to be dead. And then came the future creator of Dawson’s Creek.

An ambitious writer, Kevin Williamson arrive in L.A. in 1990…/and then saw no success for a few years…his first script sold, only to not get made until after Williamson’s script for Scream fell into the hands of Mirimax and Wes Craven.

Scream is the story of a small town beset by gory murders of local teens. Our central antagonist is Sydney Prescott. A year before the murders, her mother was brutally killed by her lover. Sydney has tried to come to terms with the tragic loss through her friendships. Her boyfriend Billy straddles the line of supportive and selfish as he really wants to have sex with Syd, while she is rather hesitant. But after the first murder, it seems the killer is not content with the act of murder alone. No, the killer is playing a cruel game.

Testing his victims with horror movie trivia, teasing them with the notion of survival if they can just answer the questions right. In a way, the killer (nicknamed Ghostface) is your typical gatekeeping Internet troll.

The killer seems focused on Sydney, and after a failed attack on Sydney, the cops focus on protecting her along with the crime. There is a lot of stuff going on in Scream and a big cast. So trying to recount the plot seems pointless.

Just know that Scream really delivers the goods. Williamson has crafted a solid script full both great scares and the humor that his scripts became known for. The kids have defined personalities that separate them from each other. And you tend to like them.

The cast is really quite good. Campbell proved she could carry a movie, Courteny Cox showed range beyond Monica on Friends and David Arquette was a lovable deputy that was supposed to die by fan love saved him.

Skeet Ulrich was one of those guys who looked like someone else (he and Johnny Depp could play brothers in a film) but also had a certain draw. The stand outs are Matthew Lillard and Jamie Kennedy. Sadly, this series is the only place where Kennedy shined. Lillard just turns the insanity up throughout this film and is a real goofy joy to watch chew the scenery.

This is a nice comeback for Craven on the heels of Vampire in Brooklyn. His direction keeps a consistent tone throughout. The satire never comes into conflict with the horror. And when Craven builds the tension, it is effective without being oppressive.

Scream is a fun and exciting thriller. And almost 25 years later? It is just as effective. I mean, I know the twists, yet, I still had a great time watching this year. Craven and Williamson proved a solid team with this film and it is one of my favorite slasher films.

Unstoppable Trickery (Trick, 2019)

Trick_PosterOne Halloween at a party of the local high schoolers, one student suddenly shocks everyone by slaughtering almost everyone at the party.  The student, nicknamed Trick, is wounded and while in the hospital breaks free, after taking several bullets and falling out a window, he disappears.

While everyone else is sure he is dead, believing he had leaped into the nearby river, Det. Mike Denver is not so convinced.  He believes that Trick is still out there.

The following Halloween, he is proven right as Trick starts appearing in different masks, wearing creepy face makeup beneath. Like Jason or Michael, Trick seems capable of surviving multiple wounds and appearing anywhere at any time.

So, Trick is the latest from Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry, My Bloody Valentine) and screenwriting collaborator Todd Farmer (Drive Angry, My Bloody Valentine and Jason X) have created a fairly by the books action slasher.  This is not bad, as they show they have a pretty solid grasp on the tropes and find a way to explain them in a late film twist. The film is fairly tense with some thrills.

The cast is quite good, led by Omar Epps.  But he is supported by genre vets like Tom Atkins and Jamie Kennedy. And the faces I was less familiar with, such as Kristina Reyes and Ellen Adair were good as well.

As noted, the film is not breaking new ground, but it is a pretty fun and exciting slasher film over all.

Look Out In the Snow! (Tremors: A Cold Day In Hell, 2018)

tremors_cold_day_in_hell_cover.jpgBurt Gummer is back in the desolate town of Perfection. He is having tax problems, so when he is contacted by the daughter of Val and Rhonda (Kevin Bacon and Finn Carter’s characters from the first film) because their remote Alaskan research base is under Graboid attack, he and his Son Travis run off.

It all has everyone perplexed, as there seems to be no explanation for the Graboids to be so far north. Gummer starts to piece it all together when they discover a nearby Area 51 style base. But the Graboids start gobbling people up and the two groups have to team up to try and survive.

I have noted in the past I found it kind of interesting how the films migrated across time to focus on survivalist Burt Gummer as the hero.  The fifth film introduced his previously unknown son Travis and beefed up the graboids in size and appearance.  They also became more agile.

Gross seems to enjoy  the role, though it may simply be that at this point he has the core of the character down.  Kennedy’s Travis can grate on the nerves a bit, but there are several like-able characters, making it easy to avoid just rooting for the graboids to eat everyone.

The move in the fifth film to make more use of digital graboids (though, there are still practical monsters for some scenes) is less jarring than it could be.  For the most part, the digital monster look pretty decent.

As someone who enjoys the Tremors series, I found this to be a passable, even fun sequel.

Look Out In Africa! (Tremors 5: Bloodlines, 2015)

tremors-5The Director of next year’s Kindergarten Cop 2 (Starring Dolph Lundgren!) brings us the newest installment.  Returning Burt Gummer to the front lines, he gets talked into going a South African Wildlife Reserve by his new cameraman Travis (Jamie Kennedy).

Hijinks ensue.

The film opts to not create a new cycle in the life of the graboid, instead we find that the graboids of the continent of Africa are quite different from the northern hemisphere brand the series has focused on so far.  They appear bigger, yet sleeker.  The “Ass Blasters” have oval mouths that are filled sharp teeth and larger wing/arms.

Gummer and Travis are aided by the vet Dr. Nandi Montabu (Pearl Thusi) and her staff in dealing with the new graboid threat.  They run into various complications, both human and graboid.

Overall, I enjoyed this more than I expected to.  Gross and Kennedy have a decent connection as two guys rather irritated by each other.  The film has many fun homages to classic horror and sci-fi.  This is not a great film, by any means.  But it was a decent diversion.

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