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.

Roid Rage Part 5 (Conan the Barbarian, 2011)

Conan_the_Barbarian_2011_PosterAfter the attempt to (kind of) expand the Conan Universe with Red Sonja in 1985 fell short of expectations, the Conan Franchise went silent on the silver screen. While barbarians and fantasy seemed to have a fanbase on television throughout the 90’s, it was not until Game of Thrones that people seemed to feel like the genre of sword and sorcery could be revived.

Stepping into the loincloth of Conan was Game of Thrones star Jason Momoa.  This film begins a bit more dramatically.  We are treated to a narration by God (an uncredited Morgan Freeman). The film explains Conan was born of Battle and then makes this wholly literal, as his pregnant mother is fighting at her husbands side.  Upon being mortally wounded, she commands her husband to cut the baby out so she can see him before she dies. So, it is a bit…over the top.  Conan is raised by his father, the chieftain of a tribe dedicated to being powerful and wise warriors. But when their village is overrun by Khalar Zym who is hunting for a piece of a mystical artifact that Conan’s father has kept hidden, Conan and his father are tortured.

The movie then jumps ahead to a grown Conan living the lifestyle of adventurer. He finds himself drawn back into the fight to end the dark plans of Zym, who, along with his daughter Marique, seeks revenge on the world for the loss of his wife.  They are seeking a pure blooded virgin for their special sacrifice. This turns out to be Tamara, whom Conan saves, forcing a battle of wills.

This Conan is a bit different from the Schwarzenegger version.  Momoa is a leaner and more verbal Conan.  This is actually more in line with Howard’s writings.  The massive musculature we associate with the character was a development of Fantasy artists and the 1982 and 1984 films.

They are clearly trying to touch on all the versions of Conan.  There are hints of the comics, the TV shows and films.  Here Conan is a more skilled warrior.  His father emphasizes the importance of the mind as a major component of the warrior.

Momoa is certainly entertaining as Conan.  But the story is rather lackluster.  Stephen Lang brings more to his role than seems to have been in the script.  And Rose McGowan is fairly creepy as Marique.

Tamara is a problem for the film though.  There is little for her to be, beyond a damsel in distress.  She spends a good chunk of the final action tied up, and contributes little to the resolution of the film.

Conan the Barbarian is uneven, and this results in a lot of it just not keeping one’s attention. We are left with a rather average film, rather than an epic barbarian adventure.

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