Re-Visiting the Scream Trilogy
With Scream 4 only a few months away and this being a good time of the year to watch horror movies, it seems fitting to re-visit the Scream trilogy. Correction: what used to be the Scream trilogy. The franchise is credited with resurrecting the slasher genre. Screenwriter Kevin Williamson (Dawson’s Creek and The Vampire Diaries) had the clever idea of taking advantage of post-Quentin Tarantino cinema and making a self-referential and self-aware horror flick. The story of the series is that a killer calls his victims on the phone, quizzes them about scary movies, and then kills them. It results in films that are more funny than scary.
The original was released in 1996 and centered on Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), a high school girl who’s the killer’s main target. No one knows for sure why a killer is after her and killing all her friends in the meantime, but it probably has something to do with her mom’s murder a year earlier. The plot is pretty straight-forward, but it’s the comical elements that take center stage. For example, the cast is ridiculous. There’s David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy, and The Fonz to name a few. But, the most bizarre casting choice is Skeet Ulrich as the boyfriend. Ulrich looks uncannily like Johnny Depp. Depp made his debut in Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street. Craven is the director of the Scream series. And that isn’t the only Nightmare reference. During the opening scene, the first victim (played by Drew Barrymore) talks to the killer about Nightmare and mentions how the sequels (which weren’t directed by Craven) sucked. Then, later on, we see that the school janitor is dressed like Freddy Krueger. Craven’s instance on reminding the audience of his most popular work is as absurd as the cast. Another humorous component is the dialogue. Who can forget gems like, “mom says that when I have the badge on you have to respect me" or "25, huh? You know, I'm popular with males 11 to 24 and you don't look a day over 12." But the award goes to:
“We were R-rated and heading towards NC-17.”
“You’re gonna have to settle for PG-13.”
However, the most hilarious aspect is the ending. It’s amazing that they got away with such an over-the-top finale and the audience enjoying it. They really tested the viewers.
A sequel was quickly released the following year. Sidney is now in college, but her peaceful life is interrupted as a copycat killer shows up just as a movie about her life is being released. The film is superior to the original since Craven and Williamson perfected the formula. Unfortunately, “the reveal” is too silly and the actors really ham it up. That was probably as a result of the original ending getting leaked to the internet and Williamson being forced to change it. But, that ending was only the beginning. The third installment, released in 2000, continued in that path. The comedy overwhelms the movie. There’s even a scene with Jay and Silent Bob just randomly showing up. This time, the actors of latest film based on Sidney’s life are being killed. Things get more complicated when the killer starts leaving photos of Sidney’s mother in the crime scene. The reveal, surprisingly, isn’t as eye-rolling as in the previous film, but it’s still a bit too overdone. Scary Movie was released only 6 months later and timing was perfect since the Scream franchise had become a joke.
In conclusion, this series left its mark, but one has to wonder if it was too funny for it’s own good. When one thinks of great horror movies, is Scream (or its sequels) one of them? Or are they simply entertaining spoofs of a genre that ended 20 years ago?