FILM REVIEW: SCREAM (2022)

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Wes Hicks: [suspecting Dewey as the killer] You got stabbed a billion times, got dumped by your famous wife, and crawled into a bottle. I think it’s safe to say you’re on the suspect list.
Dewey Riley: Well, maybe you’re the killer. Because that cut deep.

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett

Writers: James Vanderbilt & Guy Busick

Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega

Synopsis: 25 years after the original brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, a new killer dons the Ghostface mask and begins targeting a group of teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town’s deadly past.

Scream is not a remake of Scream (1996) but it is actually Scream 5, picking up years after Scream 4 and continuing the story of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Dewey (David Arquette). As the film opens, just like the original, we are introduced to a young girl who is alone at night, chilling out, getting ready to watch a movie when the phone rings. The sinister voice from the previous Scream films responds creepily “Hello Tara”. Tara Carpenter (a nod to horror director John Carpenter) answers innocently “Hello” they begin to chat about movies and how the state of horror films has changed since the last entry in 2011. As the previous films the film opens with a killer stalking a young girl on the phone until she figures out the killer is in the house. This opening scene is done masterfully by new directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett taking over the legendary Wes Craven (RIP).

We are soon introduced to a new batch of characters that will become suspects or murder victims as the new killer stalks them all. As most recent sequels to franchises we are getting a “requel” or “lega-sequel” where the original characters return but make way for new characters to take over (ala Star Wars, Jurassic World, Creed). The new characters include Sam Carpenter (played by the stunning Melissa Barrera from In The Heights) who is the victims older sister with a few dark secrets of her own. Her boyfriend Richie (played by Jack Quaid) who is a newbie to horror films and is enjoying the ride. Amber (played by the devilish Mickey Madison from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Tara’s best friend, who proves to be a tough foe for the ghost faced killer. Also there are Tara’s other friends, Wes (played by Dylan Minnette from Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why) and twins Mindy and Chad (played by Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding, in reality unrelated). All of these characters pose as suspects or victims as the film goes through the standard horror tropes that we’ve come to gotten used to in a Scream film.

However our original favourites Sidney Prescott, Gale Weathers and Dewey soon get pulled back into the mystery, with Dewey getting the most interesting screen time. David Arquette excels in his role as Dewey, the simple minded cop, who has been facing this type of killer for too long. The characters all team up eventually to stop the killer and work out why someone is doing this on the anniversary of the films first batch of murders.

Fans of the Scream franchise will find plenty to enjoy in this entry. This is solid sequel which corrects the mistakes of the previous entry and opens up the series to new characters and stories. The new characters aren’t as entertaining as those in Scream 4 however they are well-acted and Melissa Barrera makes a strong new scream queen.

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Rating: B+

FILM REVIEW: SCREAM 4 (2011)

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Ghostface: Time for your last question: name the remake of the groundbreaking…

Kirby Reed: Halloween, Texas Chainsaw, Dawn of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes, Amityville Horror, Black Christmas, House of Wax, Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine! It’s one of those, right?

Ghostface: None of the above!

Director: Wes Craven

Writer: Kevin Williamson

Starring: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere

As the Scream trilogy ended in 2000 we have gotten the successful parody from the Wayan’s Brothers – Scary Movie (as well as four sequels) and the horror genre had evolved from the 90s to less original ideas and more remakes, reboots and sequels. By 2010 the most popular horror movies were the Saw films, Halloween reboot and Final Destination sequels. The cleverness of the original Scream trilogy was a hard task to top in 2011. The film had to address the new wave of horror while sticking to its slasher roots. The opening comes straight out of a parody Scary Movie with multiple twists which involve scenes from the films based on the film within a film, Stab V, Stab VI, etc. They feature the hottest television actresses of the 2010’s including Lucy Hale from televisions Pretty Little Liars, Shenae Grimes-Beech from televisions 90210 (reboot), Anna Paquin from televisions True Blood and Kristin Bell from televisions Veronica Mars all hits of the late 2000s. The opening isn’t scary though as the comedy Scary Movie had dulled our horror taste. Watching multiple girls get stabbed wasn’t as scary to watch as it was in the 90s. Also the staging and editing weren’t as strong as the previous entries.

Thankfully as we move past the opening and are re-introduced to the core three, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers-Riley (Courtney Cox) and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) things improve. Courtney Cox and David Arquette are clearly enjoying being back in the franchise and Neve Campbell brings more of her mopey schtick as she did in the original trilogy. The new set of characters are a real treat with a great supporting cast from the early 2010’s including Hayden Panettiere, Marley Shelton, Alison Brie, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, Rory Culkin and Emma Roberts. 

These new characters much like the original are all aware of horror conventions, meta language and are all possible suspects to be the new killer. This film could have been a great reboot or legasequel like Star Wars and Creed with new characters taking over however they decide to stick with the original cast and murder most of the new cast which is a shame because most of them really popped especially Hayden Panettiere. They could have developed a cool new trilogy which could have carried the franchise through the 2010s. However the film wasn’t very popular and the franchise had died until ten years later.

The film overall isn’t as scary as the original and even though it’s definitely more gruesome than the originals we aren’t as invested in the deaths as by the end we know the original characters will get through it. I think a more daring approach would’ve been to have Sidney or Gale as the killer or at least get murdered.

By the end it becomes overly convoluted and the ending drags on way too long. Some good ideas but definitely the weakest in the series.

Rating: C-

FILM TRILOGY REVIEW: SCREAM (1996 – 2000)

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Ghostface: What’s your favourite scary movie?

Director: Wes Craven

Writer: Kevin Williamson, Ehren Kruger

Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Jamie Kennedy and Liev Schreiber

Synopsis: The Scream trilogy deals with Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) who is stalked by a serial killer dressed up in a Ghostface costume. Each film deals with the mystery of who the killer could be.

Scream was released in 1996 when the horror genre was in its last days. Franchises such as A Nightmare on Elm St, Friday the 13th and Halloween had exhausted their sequels and no one was showing up any more to see generic teen victims get slashed up by Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. Until Scream came out and reinvigorated the horror genre by taking a look back at the genre through the eyes of all too aware film loving screenwriter and an iconic horror director. Scream was a huge success and opened the way for many more horror films to follow in the late 90s until the torture porn era began in the early 2000s.

The original Scream is the best of the series with a great concept and characters. It is a dissection of the horror genre by the master horror director Wes Craven. Craven was an academic and often lent into the meta side of horror with his previous film New Nightmare which was a meta-commentary on his own classic A Nightmare on Elm St. In Scream he used the conventions of horror and put them into the reality of film geeks of the 90s. It was a new and interesting way of approaching horror and it paid off ostensibly.

The opening scene with Drew Barrymore is perfect horror. Craven’s best directed scene in the series (or perhaps ever…). He ratchets up the tension with each piece of dialogue and movement. With Drew Barrymore playfully flirting on the phone talking about horror movies playing with her kitchen knives and making popcorn. It quickly turns dark and all these elements become horror set pieces and her death is gruesome. Craven sets the tone for the film and the series in this opening. It’s mix of humour and horror. Kevin Williamson’s script is also perfect as he references horror classics as well as mixing teen curiosity. The film then moves into a more conventional story of a teen getting stalked by a serial killer. Williamson plays with the genres conventions as well as mixing in film references and the 90’s fascination with violence in the media with shades of the OJ trial with the TV journalist Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) chasing the story.

Neve Campbell as the lead Sidney Prescott is charming but a bit too broody at times which is common for a Wes Craven lead female. The real highlight is Jamie Kennedy as Randy who introduced the film geek to the mainstream. His film references and attitude brought audiences to the video stores to discover horror classics themselves. The plot deals with Sidney trying to fight off the serial killer while dealing with her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich) and her two friends Tatum (Rose McGowan) and Stu (Matthew Lillard). We are also introduced to the ambitious journalist Gale Weathers. Courtney Cox as Gale who brings a lot of attitude and energy to this film and its sequels. There is also David Arquette as Deputy Dewey he’s a fun oddball character who you grow to love through the series. His innocence as a young wannabe detective is fun and goofy which is needed in the overly tense scenes.

Craven mixes horror and comedy well. He uses blood and gore extensively as he has in his past horror films and he lets his actors make fun of the ironic situation they are in as they dissect the genre conventions of horror films and the film itself. Craven has always used violence as a metaphor for something else here he uses it to make fun of horror films in general with their over the top violence especially his own series A Nightmare on Elm Street. I like the murder mystery element to the film as well. I remember the first time seeing all of these films was the thrill of working out “who” is the killer. The ending drags on a bit and borders on ridiculous as the killers are revealed and Sidney survives another day.

Scream 2 is similar to the original with sharp witty dialogue as in the first film and filled with horror references from the 80s however this time they concentrate more on horror sequels. This is a rare horror sequel that succeeds in character and plot. It takes the best of the original and improves on it by leaning more on Jamie Kennedy’s Randy for film references and Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott is stronger and more aware than the original. Courtney Cox and David Arquette return and deliver more of the same they weren’t the most interesting characters in the original but their presence is welcome and ties the films together. The opening with Jada Pinkett Smith isn’t as good as the originals opening but still interesting by setting it in a cinema. Sidney is again surrounded by disposable friends who are acted by late 90s TV stars such as Sarah Michelle Gellar, Timothy Olyphant, Jerry O’Connell and Laurie Metcalf. Wes Craven is still at the top of his game here by upping the murders and gore which make it overall more fun, but not as original as the first.

Scream 3 leans more into the representation of the media depicting real life crimes and shadows today’s obsession with true crime films and television shows like American Crime Story and Making a Murderer. In the 90s and early 2000s true crime was very mainstream in pop culture with the OJ trial and Versace murders on 24 hour news cycles. Scream always looked at the media’s relationship with violence especially in horror movies and as Scream 2 looked at horror film sequels and their conventions, Scream 3 looks more at the audiences obsession with true crime and making a horror film. It still has an ironic and playful tone by looking at itself as a vision of Hollywood’s obsession with violence and the people who wish to be famous by becoming monsters themselves. It also has a stab (pun intended) at itself by having the actors in the film Stab 3 begin to get murdered and Lance Henriksen makes a spot on Wes Craven.

The dialogue isn’t as good as the previous entries and the film overall is structured more as a thriller instead of a film commentary on horror. Perhaps because it wasn’t written by Kevin Williamson who had a sharp way of writing film references and horror conventions. The death scenes aren’t as clever as the previous films either. Especially the opening which was very underwhelming after the excellent openings of the previous two films. There are some good concepts with the killer going after the actors from the film being made and the characters dealing with their doppelgangers especially Gail with Parker Posey. Also the concept of going back to the beginning to discover Sidney’s mothers acting past was interesting. There is some comedy with Parker Posey and Patrick Warbuton (Puddy from Seinfeld) as her celebrity bodyguard however the comedy isn’t as clever as the first two.

Courtney Cox is pretty good in this entry. Her energy from the previous films are a welcome as opposed to Neve Campbell’s PTSD stricken Sidney who is pretty terrible in this film and the scenes of her interacting with her ghost mother are laughable. Craven could have given it a Hitchcock/Psycho vibe and should have done better with the material. However the videotape of Randy discussing the rules of film trilogies is again spot on as are all of his rules from each film. Let’s go through them…

Scream
Rules to successfully survive a horror movie:
1. You may not survive the movie if you have sex.
2. You may not survive the movie if you drink or do drugs.
3. You may not survive the movie if you say “I’ll be right back”, “Hello?” or “Who’s there?”

Scream 2
Rules to successfully survive a horror movie sequel:
1. The body count is always bigger.
2. The death scenes are always much more elaborate, with more blood and gore.
3. Randy starts to describe the third rule: “If you want your films to become a successful franchise, never, ever…’ before being interrupted by Dewey. However, the film’s original teaser trailer featured an extended version of the rules scene which reveals that originally the third rule was supposed to be “Never, ever, under any circumstances assume the killer is dead.” This referenced Randy’s last line in the first Scream which stated that a killer always comes back to life for one last scare.
The lack of a third rule in the film’s final cut was a deliberate in-joke by the crew, referencing the fact that it is impossible to ensure that a horror franchise will be successful.

Scream 3
Rules to successfully survive the last chapter of a horror movie trilogy:
1. “You’ve got a killer who’s gonna be superhuman. Stabbing him won’t work, shooting him won’t work. Basically in the third one, you gotta cryogenically freeze his head, decapitate him, or blow him up.”
2. “Anyone, including the main character, can die. This means you, Sid.”
3. “The past will come back to bite you in the ass. Whatever you think you know about the past, forget it. The past is not at rest! Any sins you think were committed in the past are about to break out and destroy you.”
Although, in the first few drafts, there was a fourth rule: “Never be alone” but was taken out because Gale immediately goes off alone afterwards.

Scream 3 is unfortunately the lowest in the trilogy but it is still an enjoyable ride if you have come to empathise with these characters. The Scream trilogy is a highlight in modern horror franchises and is a great analysis of the horror genre overall.

SCREAM (1996) A
SCREAM 2 (1997) A-
SCREAM 3 (2000) B-

Notes;
– Jay and Silent Bob cameo in this film. It also has a Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back feeling with the film centered on the production of a film based on the characters in the film “It’s very meta” as one character suggests. Check out my Kevin Smith Retrospective for more

https://hqmoviereviews.wordpress.com/category/kevin-smith-retrospective/

REVIEW: THE CONJURING (2013)

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Ed Warren: The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges on which we decide to follow.

Director: James Wan

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor

Synopsis: The true story of ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren who must help a family deal with paranormal activity in their new home.

The Conjuring directed by James Wan is a classically styled horror film which relies on genuine slowly built frightening sequences and excellent characters to entertain and scare its audience. Unlike other recent horror films which rely on torture (Saw series) or found footage (Paranormal Activity series) to scare its audience, The Conjuring harkens back to the days of masterful suspense by directors like Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter and William Friedkin. Wan clearly a fan of these great auteurs gives his film a sense of respectability in not relying on gimmicks to surprise or shock his audience. He relies on mood, sound, atmosphere and a slow feeling of dread that surrounds every moment of this film. He utilises these elements extremely well in developing frightening sequences which admittedly we have seen done before, however he treats the scares with a genuine sense of authenticity and doesn’t pander to his audience. Although the film relies on haunted house and exorcism film genre conventions, Wan injects them with more than what we have seen in recent horror films and this easily excels all others in comparison.

THE CONJURING

Wan coming off the respectable horror film, Insidious, and the original Saw is now a genuine horror auteur and has reached his peak with this horror masterpiece. The film centres on the Perron family, father, Roger and mother, Carolyn (both played earnestly by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) and their five children. They move into a new house and soon begin to hear bump in the night. These early sequences are well choreographed and don’t rely on fake scares like a cat jumping out of the corner, instead cinematographer John R. Leonetti weaves his camera around the house and allows the darkness to creep into the daughter’s bedroom. His camera works wonders in setting up the shocking situation this family will soon be in. We also meet paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren who bring a sense of genuine chemistry to their partnership. Vera Farmiga excels as the tortured Lorraine Warren and Patrick Wilson plays Ed as a protective husband and father, a man willing to help and has a sense of duty to those in need. They meet the Perron’s and immediately sense a demonic presence in their home.

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The film then moves towards its compelling and shocking finale involving an exorcism that matches the original The Exorcist (1973) in its horror and intensity. With excellent acting, direction and cinematography, The Conjuring is perhaps one of the best horror films of the last decade. One which many will be aiming to replicate in our future.

Rating: 4 Stars

REVIEW: SINISTER (2012)

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Ashley: Don’t worry, daddy. I’ll make you famous again.

Director: Scott Derrickson

Cast: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred Dalton Thompson

Synopsis: A true crime writer trying to reclaim his prior success moves into a home where grisly murders happened.

Review:

A taught thriller with an interesting lead and a new spin on the “bogey man” concept. Similar to previous Blumhouse productions (Paranormal Activity and Insidious) it doesn’t necessarily innovate the horror genre and often uses clichés from past horror films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween just as Insidious used Poltergeist as its main inspiration. However I found this to be an engaging entry into the horror films of recent times. It does have decent scares and develops its characters in realistic ways.

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Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) is an over the hill true crime writer who is trying to recapture the success he had early on by investigating the mysterious disappearance of a young girl in a small town. He moves into the house that the family lived in and begins to hear bumps in the night. He also discovers old 8mm home movies which slowly reveal the many different murders that happened in the house by a mysterious “bogey man” with a very creepy mask. With Paranormal Activity and Insidious under their belts I can see Blumhouse as the New Line Cinema for our decade. Just as New Line produced low budget successful horror franchises in the 1980s with A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th films with recognizable villains that give the teenagers something to watch on date night.

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This new bogey man isn’t quite established as Freddy was in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, however he provides enough mystery to be developed and fleshed out in later sequels. The film is engaging and the scares mostly earned. Performances are strong all around and Scott Derrickson shows a strong eye for horror conventions.

Rating: 3 Stars

REVIEW: INSIDIOUS (2010)

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Elise Reiner: It’s not the house that is haunted. It’s your son.

Director: James Wan

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson & Leigh Whannell

Synopsis: A family that moves into a new house experience supernatural occurrences which lead to their son falling into a coma.

Review:

Insidious directed by Melbourne’s own James Wan is a better than average haunted house tale. At this stage of his career Wan was a confident genre filmmaker with the gore-porn “classic” Saw (2004) under his belt. This film however contrasts to Saw’s over the top blood and violence and instead relies on quieter slow moving build ups to shocks involving excellent use of music and darkness to control the mood he wishes to set. He lets the film slowly build up to its scares without a spot of blood (mostly) throughout the entire picture. This works to his benefit as he uses classic horror conventions and gives them a modern day aesthetic. However all the build up eventually leads to an unsatisfying ending that intentionally baits a sequel.

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The story revolves around a family who moves into a new house to not only hear bumps in the night but also their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) slips and falls into a coma, which leads to further mysterious events occurring. The film begins following the conventions of the haunted house formula but about midway through, screenwriter Leigh Whannell (Wan’s regular screenwriter companion) attempts to put a spin on the genre and introduces different dimensions into the mix. The father Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) discovers that as a child he also travelled to other dimensions and must return to save his son. An interesting concept, that for the most part works. Once Josh travels into the other dimension the sophisticated scares from earlier all but diminish as the film unfortunately grows increasingly silly.

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The leads Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson provide interesting leads. Byrne plays the scared mother well, recalling Ellen Burstyn’s performance in The Exorcist (1973). In fact this film borrows plenty from older horror films including The Exorcist and imagery from The Nightmare on Elm Street series. This film borrows a lot or relies on these conventions so much that most of the film turns into cliché. Patrick Wilson gives his usual confused everyman performance. In this film it plays into the plot as he is involved with the haunting of his son. Ty Simpkins does a good job as the child who falls into trouble and doesn’t mug for the camera like other children from previous horror entries. It was fun to have Australia’s Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell as ‘ghostbusters’ who provide some light comic relief. This film is a better version of the Paranormal Activity series and Wan is a strong director. Here he has reinvigorated the genre even though he strongly relies on too many horror clichés.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

 

*In anticipation of Halloween I’ll be reviewing popular horror films of the past few years.

Media Objects: Editing Task

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For this task I decided to create a horror trailer. I cut together the footage from my Single Shot Video Assessment as well as footage from archive.org of different horror films. I also cut in my photography work and audio tasks. I used iMovie to create the horror trailer with their trailer template. This created exactly what I was aiming for and with the audio playing over each other it created an eerie and action packed trailer.

My video task was somewhat of an action film already so it was easy to cut that footage together and create an action packed trailer. Inspired by the films The Ring (2000) and a Touch of Evil (1958) as seen on blackboard, I wanted to create a real sense of horror that would impact the audience both visually and aurally.

The task asked us to explore editing based on the theme or idea of ‘impact.’ Impact to me represents being affected by what you watch. Horror films have always left a big impact on me and would affect my sleep and day to day activities if it were particularly scary. I wanted to capture the horror genre in my trailer and leave the audience craving more. I wanted my trailer to incorporate impact not only through story telling but also in the fast paced editing required to leave an impact on the audience. The visuals I used hinted at a dangerous and off putting course of narrative. I wanted the style to be fast and sharp hinting at danger in every corner. The audio used was a mix of iMovie stock horror audio and my audio assessments including the heartbeat track, catalyst song as well as my own audio tracks of raining.

For the most part I am happy with my trailer however I would have preferred to just use my video project as the only source of footage. I am proud of what we shot for the single video assessment task. The black and white cinematography and action packed sequence provided plenty to use for a horror (or thriller, action, mystery) trailer. I feel using found footage off the internet cheapened my trailer and gave it a tacky youtube mashup vibe. Originally I planned to use horror films of the black and white period to match with my black and white single shot video. However as I searched for footage I found some quite frightening video of clowns and steamy alley ways that I couldn’t resist including in my final. Although the footage doesn’t match with my single shot video I found the impact is more disturbing juxtaposed with my footage.

I enjoyed completing this task as I love editing. I want to continue editing films and I believe the opportunity will arise again as I complete my Masters.

 

Sources of my found footage video included in the trailer;

https://archive.org/details/OdeToTheHorrorMovie

https://archive.org/details/Horror_201307

https://archive.org/details/AHORRORMONTAGE

https://archive.org/details/GrindhouseHorrorTrailerCollection

 

Sources of audio

Catalyst by Zilmrah at freesound.org

Heartbeat at 60bpm by klangfabrik at freesound.org