Friday, May 5, 2017

Franchise Run-Through - Scream

So, it's time now for a new franchise effort, and this is the time for a rather big one to do. It's the time for the Scream run-through as this is a rather large franchise to cover here. So, let's get into it.

First, as usual, let's learn a little more about this franchise. Originally written by television writer Kevin Williamson, his original script was bought by Miramax and developed under the Dimension Films label by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who recruited Craven to direct, who in turn recruited composer Marco Beltrami to score the film. This team went on to be involved in each film in the series though Williamson was forced to take a smaller role for Scream 3, writing only a brief plot outline due to his commitments to other projects, with Ehren Kruger replacing him as the screenwriter. The series' violence resulted in conflicts with the Motion Picture Association of America and news media concerning censorship resulting in a reduction of violence and gore in Scream 3 when the Columbine High School massacre brought increased focus on the media's influence on society. Scream became notable for its use of established and recognizable actors which was uncommon for horror films at the time, yet has since become common in part due to Scream's success. A TV spin-off of the series was released by MTV on June 30, 2015 which follows different characters and new storylines and is not connected to the film series.

The series, particularly the first two films, has received significant critical acclaim. Scream has been credited with revitalizing the horror genre in the late 90s by combining a traditional slasher film with humor, awareness of horror film cliché and a clever plot. Scream was one of the highest-grossing films of 1996 and is still among the highest grossing slasher film in the world. However, this is somewhat of a contentious area for me personally as some these issues are completely absent from the film as a whole.

Initially branded as a film where people use their smarts about horror films to outwit a killer trying to kill them using the set-ups from the films for his crimes yet that is not a part of the series at all. In fact, it outright blatantly features people who show little to no horror movie knowledge here (with one of the main characters in the first film flat-out admitting that they're 'insulting') and far too often what occurs in the movie itself is rather a point-by-point affirmation of slasher-film cliches rather than utterly parodying them. Considering the fact that almost immediately after it's release, a small glut of similarly targeted slasher/horror films with the same self-referential film fans who make constant references to movies with a similar situation, it seems odd that a film originally intended to spoof the situation actually found itself at the head of a following featuring familiar content.

That indeed comes from a rather startling fact about the film: it's not really all that funny. Despite all the talk about its hip-and-young cast spouting off one-liners and self-referential jokes about their situation, there aren't a great many laughs to be had within the films as a whole since the biggest mark against them is that the laughs are intended to be the characters' reactions to scenes of gruesome violence, a situation that has no bearing at all in generating laughs and instead features plenty of material that's disturbing at their utter lack of sorrow and grief as they can do no better than to crack a joke about the situation. Now, while the material does let up on this later in the series, at first it's a pretty tough sell.

Aside from this, there are a few personally things that should be mentioned. This was actually a personal record for me as it was the very first horror franchise I had seen in its entirety to completion, which isn't much of an honor since it was being released right at the time I became a horror fan, and has only a few entries in the franchise so it's not so big a deal but the fact remains that there's something to be said for being the first horror franchise l had ever seen to completion. Now, as expected l didn't really go crazy with the viewing order, it's straight-on in order of release, and that includes the latest effort more than a decade after the original end to the series.

And with that, it's time to get to the films:

Scream

This here is a pretty overrated but still enjoyable enough entry. One of the biggest issues here is the fact that, despite initially being targeted to be a commentary on the clichéd nature of horror, Slasher films in general, it seems to be more about offering a chance to utilize those clichés rather than poke fun at them. Far too often it expends a great deal of time to warn about a particular situation familiar in horror, such as running up the stairs to escape the killer or that he's not dead at all and comes back for one more scare despite being the subject of inhuman torture, then decides to play off a sequence that allows for such a moment to transpire. As well, many of the claims about this being funny are incredibly inaccurate as there's absolutely nothing in here that's really funny material, and the stuff that's here which is being called funny is reprehensible, deplorable and quite a stretch for anyone to call funny stuff. As such, it's the shining example that a reputation is far more damaging to a film than anything. That said, it does have some good stuff in some particularly chilling chases and stalking scenes including the rousing opening, some incredibly brutal, gory deaths and some fine moments of real suspense that are far more developed than expected. Overall, though, it's a victim of its false reputation and can't overcome that. (8.5/10)


Scream 2

Overall, this is a fairly worthy sequel and one that actually has a fair deal going on with it that makes it superior to the original. One of the better elements here is the film's rather emphasized use of suspense after the complete and utter dropping of comedy that ruined the original, which allows those scenes to be all the better. With the frantic scramble around campus to find the intended killer using only the cell-phone usage on campus to identify the caller, the killer appearing amongst a horde of similarly-costumed individuals in a play to a merely breathless escape from an incapacitated police car with the killer in the front seat and no other way out but to go over them is just a few of the truly spectacular sequences pulled off here that makes this one a lot more creepy and chilling than the original. Also on strong support is a nice body count that supplies some nice gore, some truly clever and original turns in the storyline that not only expand the original as well but provide enough to keep you guessing at this one, and when added together with some fine stalking scenes and excellent use of a school campus to set up some scares, it's got a lot to love. What isn't impressive is the killer's motive, which is an absolute travesty and a complete joke as to its inclusion, it just reeks of trying to be relevant to the times and offers nothing but ridicule, but otherwise, this is a solid and utterly enjoyable entry. (9.25/10)


Scream 3

Frankly, this one isn't as bad as some think it is. The fact that, for once, the stalking scenes are suspense is one of the greatest strengths as there's a slew of strong scenes, from the opening in the house to the chases backstage through the different areas of the film set, the assault on the house is fantastic and the ending back in the basement of the owner gives this one a thrilling finish. Giving this some nice action alongside some rather nice closure to the central storyline running through the franchise by filling in some nice holes in the series about everyone's connections to each other and really making this feel like a well-rounded trilogy. It does have a few flaws, mainly from the padded running time going through far too long explanations which really take forever to get through. This one also lacks in the slashing departments as the kills are hardly unique and not really featuring any gore at all. These small flaws are what keep the film down. (8/10)


Scream 4

This was easily the weakest of the series and didn't have a lot going for it. The biggest problem with this was the fact that there's just so much talk about the rules and regulations of horror versus real-life and it just got old after a while. It wasn't all that interesting to constantly hear from these supposed experts on the genres to blurt out something that can save their lives, then do the same thing to get them into trouble with the killer, exactly like what happened with the original which really turned me off the first time I saw it. As well, the finale was an unmitigated disaster, with no surprise from the killer's revelation, a motive which was just plain embarrassing to see used in a major film that also made no sense on top of that, and the ending in the hospital tends to go on for far too long, almost seemingly to bump it's running time up for no real reason just to make it a similar length to the others. A little more variety in the kills would've been nice though they were gory enough, and a few stalking scenes were good, but overall this one wasn't all that great. (7.75/10)


And now it's time to rank these:
1. Scream 2 (9.25)
2. Scream (8.25)
3. Scream 3 (8)
4. Scream 4 (7.75)

And with that, we wrap up the series. As usual, I must make mention that there is a TV series that spawned from this series which doesn't have any real connection to the movies other than adapting the killers' basic look (albeit changing this mask slightly) and the need to chase after them for a crime connected to a past tragedy, but I will not be covering that here for it's not a film and this is just a movie overview site. However, due diligence means it still deserves a mention and thus, having been mentioned, time to close it off here and see you all next time.