Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse – Movie Review

Shameik Moore is back to voice Miles Morales in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Hello superhero fans, it’s Slick Dungeon! I’m here to review the newest animated Spider-Man film to hit theaters, Spider-man: Across the Spider-verse. There will be some spoilers below so if you haven’t watched the film yet you may want to do that first. I will try to keep it to light spoilers though.

If you have seen the first film in this series, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse you’ll be unsurprised to learn this film pushes the boundaries of animation. However, the sheer skill and technique present in the sequel is mind-boggling. At every moment, with every frame of this film, the animators are able to blend, create and innovate all at once in ways that are not only surprising but thematically brilliant. There are hundreds of characters here (a lot of them variations on Spider-Man) and each and every one has it’s own defining style. All this is to say, this is far and away the most visually ambitious animated film I have ever seen. I can’t say enough about how good this looks. Every frame has intention.

With a film looking this good you might expect it to simply fall into lazy tropes of so many superhero sequels we’ve seen before. And while there are certainly some aspects of the film which fall into that, this story is not a simple morality play. The film gets deep. And I don’t just mean deep for a kids film. It forces the protagonist and the audience to think about what a hero really is. Is a hero the type of person who will let one bad thing happen so thousands of good things can happen? Or do they try to save the individual and the group? What if they fail? What if their good actions have unforeseen horrible consequences? These are just some of the themes touched on here.

The film also allows quiet character moments to happen. Some of the best scenes in the film are not the moments where hundreds of Spider-men chase one another around, the bad guy surprises in ways one could only achieve in animation, or when we see favorite cameos and easter eggs. Two of the best scenes are when Spider-Gwen has a quiet heart to heart, upside down with Miles and when Miles’ mother tells him how much she loves him. The emotional impact of this film is incredibly surprising.

I don’t think this is the best animated Spider-man film ever made. I think this is the best Spider-Man film ever made. Seriously, it’s that good. I found myself thinking over and over in the theater, “I cannot believe how good this is.”

The voice acting is strong with the return of Shameik Moore as Miles, and Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy plus the addition of newcomers like Oscar Isaac as the Spider-Man from 2099.

This film honestly gives me hope for the future of animation. Why? It accomplishes things that can only be done in animation and tells an incredibly complex story while still defining heroes and villains well enough that even young superhero fans know when to cheer or boo.

I’ve seen a lot of films this year already and I can say hands down, without reservation, I enjoyed this film more than any other I have watched this year. One small warning is the movie does leave you wanting more at the end, but in the best way possible.

Really, my only criticism of this film? I could have used a lot more Peter Porker Spider-Ham but that’s just me.

If you are deciding what movie to go out and see in the near future, do yourself a favor and go watch this. If you are not impressed, you didn’t have your eyes open during the film.

Praisingly yours,

Slick Dungeon


Empire: Metropolis – Book Review

Empire: Metropolis by Tim Goff

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Rating: 3 out of 5.


Corber Port is the commercial center and largest metropolis of the tottering Solarian Empire. A devastating earthquake and fire have reduced much of the city to charred rubble roamed by gangs.

Tia Samos, once a prominent imperial citizen, is held captive in this urban wasteland by demons masquerading as mortal men. Tia’s former companions scour the city searching for her but are stymied at every turn.

Worse, dark forces plot to unleash yet another calamity on Corber Port – and Tia’s captors may be the only ones who can prevent it – if they choose to do so.


The last book in the Empire series left us at a crucial moment with Tia making a great sacrifice in order to save her friends. Peter, Kyle, and Rebecca had no power to stop Tia’s decision, leaving them with the only option of regrouping later to find Tia and attempt to rescue her from evil. In Empire: Metropolis we find our characters in the largest city in the Empire, attempting to make new lives for themselves, gaining increased knowledge, and even magical power. But at the same time, they must attempt to locate Tia, and Kyle’s nephew Barry, without allowing evil entities to gain knowledge of what they are doing. To make matters worse, there are places in the city where Kyle’s burgeoning magical powers are ineffective, there are those in power who stand to gain from keeping it that way, and in this city teeming with humanity, a demon on the loose could cause permanent havoc, not just for Tia and her friends, but all of the Empire.

Throughout the first three books in this series there has been a bit of a pattern emerging with small story threads occurring over and over again in slightly different ways. In Empire: Metropolis those threads start to come together to create a larger picture of why Kyle, Rebecca, Peter, and Tia all keep encountering the same evils, and what it will mean if they can’t defeat the darkness. But even the most corrupted of humans may still have some humanity in him. To stop the darkest of times, this man will have to remember what he was before he was taken by darkness. It’s up to Tia to figure out how to make that happen, while it’s up to her companions to save her before it is too late for her and everyone else.

So far all of the Empire books have been worth reading with a good blend of a fantasy setting, dark and cosmic horror, and even a bit of modern technology thrown in. The setting of Empire: Metropolis improves on the formula a bit by giving a real sense of the larger society and helps the reader to understand what life is like for common folks in the largest city in the Empire. The end still leaves the reader with some questions which will hopefully be answered in subsequent volumes. Tying the whole story together will be a real challenge but if the series stays consistent, author Tim Goff should be up to the task.

If you like your fantasy blended with a good dose of horror, a bit of the supernatural, and a bit of the cosmic, this series is well worth checking out.

Empire: Estate – Book Review

Empire: Estate by Tim Goff

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Rating: 3 out of 5.


Winning the decades long war against demon ruled Traag almost destroyed the Solarian Empire. Now the nation hangs by a thread. Worse, they didn’t get all the demons.

Tia traveled to bucolic Copiah House, stronghold of the once great Bestia Family, on what was supposed to be a simple business trip. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in a web of intrigue, wartime secrets, and black magic. Unraveling this mystery will take all of her skills – and more…


Traag has been defeated and the demons are weakened but not outright gone. Tia, Sir Peter Cortez, Kyle and Rebecca all travel on business but when they are attacked in the road by a group of bandits and thieves, they find themselves without proper transportation and stuck in Copiah House. It seems safe enough but there the group will meet old foes and new enemies and allies. The political and business efforts of Tia become even more difficult as she tries to navigate her way with nobles while facing money trouble. Peter gets a glimpse of what his future life might be and he finds it to be more complicated than expected. Meanwhile, Kyle is in the one place he dreads most and realizes there may be a major threat to the people he cares about most.

Empire: Estate continues to tell the story of the Empire saga, full of fantasy, magic, lore, family connections and what happens to a world recently recovering from a major war. It’s a unique blend of horror and fantasy along with a good dose of politics which keeps the reader turning pages. Each main character has a distinctive personality and this has only solidified since the first volume. As with all of the books by Tim Goff thus far, there are major surprises and plenty of action to be found. The world feels grounded in reality for the most part as the characters not only have to deal with people who delve into dark magic but also with the day to day troubles of not being cheated out of money when they need a vehicle repaired.

The most interesting part of the story still remains the fact that this takes place after a major war where opportunists can take advantage of the situation and even those who were heroes on the battlefield find they need to figure out a way to make a living outside of war.

If a mix between The Wheel of Time series and nightmares out of cosmic and supernatural horror intrigue you, Empire: Estate is well worth reading. This is the third in the series so it’s best to start with the first book but they have all been good reads thus far and I look forward to more in the series.

Fast X -Movie Review (Spoiler Free)

Vin Diesel is back in Fast X

Hey action fans, it’s Slick Dungeon here. I’m here to review the newest installment of the Fast and Furious franchise. It’s still pretty fresh in theaters so this will not have any major spoilers. Still, if that sort of thing concerns you, go see the movie first and then come back here to read the review.

Each and every Fast and Furious movie has tried to outdo the last both in stunts and character drama. Going into this film you can expect several huge stunt pieces, lots of talk about family and who is family and whether it’s good to have family or not. There aren’t any cars in space but the stunts are still as big and spectacular as you might imagine.

We have the return of some favorite characters, we have our franchise regulars, and a new cast of enemies. The best addition in this film? One person. Jason Momoa. It’s clear this guy is having the time of his life in this movie and he just chews up that scenery like it’s bubble gum. He’s so into it the movie feels like it just belongs to him and I kept just wanting more of him on screen.

Overall the movie does a good job of bringing together plot points and characters to tie things from previous movies together. On the other hand, the film leaves us with some major questions which I am sure will be answered in the subsequent films.

If you have watched the other movies in this franchise this is a good but not the best entry in the series. It does however have the best villain we’ve seen and that’s saying something. I’m excited to see where they can possibly go from here.

Speedily yours,

Slick Dungeon

F9 – Movie Review

Fast 9 brings back old faces and brings in new ones

Hey fast fans, Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review the ninth movie in the Fast and Furious franchise. There will be spoilers from some of the previous films as well as this one in this review. If that sort of thing bothers you, watch the movies and then come on back here to read the review. And if you need a refresher on the franchise you can check out my previous reviews. You can read my review of  The Fast and the Furious here2 Fast 2 Furious here, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift hereFast and Furious here, Fast Five here,  Fast and Furious 6 here,  Furious 7 here, Hobbs and Shaw here and Fate of the Furious here

The Fast and Furious films have consistently tried to outdo themselves. Each one tells a bigger story, has bigger stunts, and introduces us to new characters. It’s a little hard to believe but if you watch the whole series from start to finish you can see how a little group of street racers from Los Angeles turn into a team of elite super spies who consistently save the world. If you get over the silliness of the premise, the ride is always fun for these films. The ninth film came back with more story, more stunts, and new connections to tie everything together.

Did it work as a big blockbuster film or would this have been better left on the shelf?

Let’s dig in and find out.

Spoilers follow below!

We Go Back to the beginning

Way back in the first movie we found out Dom began his life of crime when he beat a man nearly to death with a wrench. And we learned he did that because the man was the race car driver Dom felt was responsible for his father’s death. What we didn’t know was the involvement of Dom’s younger brother Jakob. Jakob was the last person to touch the Toretto engine before the race car blew up. Dom realizes Jakob had cut a fuel line in the engine and Dom forever blames Jakob for the death of their father.

Once Dom is out of prison he tells Jakob he’ll race him. And the result of the wager on the race will determine the fate of both men forever. Dom tells Jakob if Jakob wins he can come back home and they’ll be a family. But if Dom wins, Jakob has to leave forever and never return. Then we see what we can assume is Dom’s first, and most consequential race of his entire lifetime. Dom wins and Jakob leaves.

I should mention in the movie all of this gets revealed in smaller flashbacks throughout the movie while the events of the larger story unfolds.

Thirty years later Dom is raising his son Brian aka “Little B” with his wife Letty. One day Roman, Tej and Ramsey show up at Dom’s door and tell him Mr. Nobody has been attacked by rogue agents and the villain from the last movie, Cipher has been abducted. Dom agrees to help on the mission to find Nobody and secure Cipher only because he knows Jakob is involved. At the site of the crash where Mr. Nobody’s plane went down, the team finds half of a weapon called Project Ares. This is a thing that can hack into and take control of any computer controlled system. Before the team can do anything else, Jakob attacks them and recovers this half of the Ares device. Most of the team is pretty shocked to find out Dom has a brother since he’s all about family and has never mentioned this guy.

The team eventually gets away and they learn the device has something to do with Han who died several films ago. Mia and Letty decide to go to Tokyo to see what the connection is. Jakob is working with a dude named Otto who is basically a wannabe dictator who is the actual son of a dictator. Cipher tells Jakob where the other half of Ares is.

To find Jakob, Dom goes to see the one guy who might know. This is Buddy (Michael Rooker) who was their father’s mechanic and took Jakob in after Dom chased him out of town.

While in Tokyo, Mia and Letty discover that not only is Han alive, he’s been protection a girl named Ellie for years. We get a sort of complicated backstory of how Han is still alive and it basically boils down to Mr. Nobody setting up a fake death for Han so Shaw can’t get to him, and then using Han to try to recover Ares. While trying to recover Ares, Ellie’s parents are killed and Han does the noble thing and protects and raises her.

Meanwhile, Tej and Roman meet up with Sean Boswell who was the main character in Tokyo drift, his buddy Twinkie, and a rocket scientist named Earl Hu. Yes. This is the movie where a Pontiac Fiero goes to outer space. These dudes are trying to figure out how to strap a jet rocket to a car.

Dom finds out from Queenie Shaw exactly where Jakob is because she takes him right there as she is stealing high priced diamonds and cars. Jakob basically tells Dom he has the chance to walk away and never come back. We all know Dom’s never going to do that.

Dom gets arrested but he’s rescued by a woman named Leysa (Cardi B.). Yes. This is the movie with a cameo from Cardi B. because, why not?

From this point on there is a whole bunch of action involving high speed chases, heavy duty electromagnets, a Pontiac Fiero going to space to crash into a satellite, and John Cena as Jakob tossing around like dozens of dudes.

In the end, Dom, of course, forgives Jakob and apologizes because he knows he walked away from his own family. Things end with everyone relatively happy. But we do get a mid credit scene where Shaw is beating on a punching bag where there is an actual human zipped up inside it. And right around then is when Han shows up at Shaw’s door, shocking Shaw since Han is supposed to be dead.

In Conclusion

This movie is sort of insane. I mean putting a car into space and expecting us to believe it? I mean, I don’t believe it but it was fun anyway. Bringing back old dead characters? This is not the first franchise to do that and it won’t be the last. Have a long lost brother come back into the fold of Dom Toretto’s family? Yeah, sure why not?

It’s pretty much a ridiculous film full of almost nothing but nonsense. However, it’s still at its heart about family both found and blood, and it’s an enjoyable wild ride. It’s not the best in the franchise but the stunts here are probably the wildest of them all.

In a lot of ways this franchise has already gone too far with what it does. But since it has, we might as well let them finish and just be along for the ride, whatever comes next.

Speedily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson star in the Fast & Furious spin off, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Hey action fans, it’s Slick Dungeon here. I’m here to review the one and only spinoff movie in the Fast and Furious franchise. In true spinoff fashion, you don’t have to watch this one in order to understand the events of the Fast and Furious movies. If you watch this one, it does help if you have seen the Fast and Furious movies which have Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs) and Jason Statham (Shaw) in them but it’s not totally necessary. The main things you need to know before watching the movie are pretty basic. Hobbs is a cop, Shaw is a criminal and the two of them hate one another. Other than that, just buckle up for the ride.

There will be some spoilers for this movie and possibly from Fast and Furious movies below so be forewarned.

This film takes two of the most popular characters from the Fast and Furious films, gets rid of the rest of the main characters, amps up the action and comedy but reduces the emphasis on driving fast cars. Was this film worth it or should we have just left Hobbs and Shaw in the original films? Let’s dig in and find out.

It’s a Rom-COM but with Bullets

Want a couple of good reasons to watch this other than Hobbs and Shaw? Let’s start with Idris Elba (Brixton Lore) and Ryan Reynolds (Victor Locke). They’re both entertaining as always. And there is an appearance by Kevin Hart that works pretty well too.

The movie starts with a contrast between the morning routines of Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw. Shaw is refined and wealthy and Hobbs is a by the book government spy. They both get a call from people they trust. It seems there is a woman they both need to find. This is Shaw’s sister (Vanessa Kirby) Hattie. Also trying to get to her is Brixton Lore who is a cyber-genetically enhanced terrorist capable of taking both Shaw and Hobbs out.

Turns out Hattie is carrying a virus inside herself and it needs to be extracted so Brixton doesn’t unleash it on the world. Hobbs and Shaw will have to team up to save her and to extract the virus without killing her and without getting killed by Brixton.

There’s a whole bunch of back and forth action and Hobbs and Shaw insulting one another. In the end they win against the bad guy, save the woman, and have a little more respect for one another.

The stunts here are not as spectacular as in the main films but the hand to hand fighting and shootouts are all great. Hobbs uses his size to gain advantage while Shaw uses speed and superior fighting skill to stop foes. But they are both evenly matched by Lore since he has advantages they can’t have.

We find out Shaw was set up to be the bad guy in the past and he’s not as bad as Hobbs thinks. We also get some backstory about Hobbs and why he isn’t in contact with his brother in Samoa.

Of course in the end Hobbs and Shaw have to work together to defeat Brixton with the help of a bunch of people. There’s more stunts, a little romance between Hobbs and Hattie Shaw and in the end our heroes win out.

In Conclusion

As far as an action film goes this one is fine. It’s not as engaging as the other Fast and Furious films but it’s still a decent watch. You don’t really need to know much about any of the rest of the movies for it to work. This does set up for a sequel but I’m not sure it’s needed.

If you’re a fan of the Fast and Furious franchise you may want to watch this just to complete the set but it’s absolutely skippable if you don’t want to watch it.

Statham and Johnson are good together and it’s a fun time but it’s not essential vieweing.

Argumentatively yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Fate of the Furious – Movie Review

Icy stunts are featured in Fate of the Furious

Hey Fast fans, it’s Slick Dungeon back to review yet another film in this huge franchise. The Fate of the Furious is the eighth film in the series and it’s just as full of ridiculous over the top stunts as you can possibly get. Until they make the next one that is. Note there will be spoilers here so if you haven’t seen the first eight of these movies you may want to watch before reading. I do have reviews of the first seven films if you want to save some time though. You can read my review of The Fast and the Furious here2 Fast 2 Furious here, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift hereFast and Furious here, Fast Five here,  Fast and Furious 6 here, and Furious 7 here.

The seventh film was the last one with Paul Walker in it. This movie had to continue the franchise, try to tie up some loose ends, be a spectacular action film, and provide a coherent plot with a great villain all while including a huge roster of characters. It’s a pretty big to do list for a film. Did this one pull off a stunt worthy of a torpedo sliding along the ice at high velocity or was it just an exploding submarine of a film?

Let’s dig in and find out!

Spoilers follow below!

Dom’s Gone Rogue

In this movie there’s a pretty complicated set up but I am going to try to summarize it the best I can. Deep breath. A few films ago, Dom thought his lifelong love Letty was dead and he was dating a woman named Elena. But Letty actually wasn’t dead, she had just lost her memory. Dom found out and rescued Letty, becoming a super spy in the process along with the rest of his team who have all gone from petty theft to global espionage because they are good at racing cars. Dom is on his long awaited honeymoon with Letty in Cuba where he races a local racer named Raldo so he can keep his cousin’s car from being taken. Dom takes the worst car in Havana to race against the fastest car there. With a bit of Dom’s magic engineering skills, including ripping doors off of the car with his bare hands, he wins the race even when Raldo cheats. But Dom does win the dude’s respect.

Also, in the last two films, Dom and his team have stopped a pair of brothers with the last name Shaw and a guy named Mose Jakande and saved the world in the process.

The thing that means the most in the world to Dom is family and that’s how he treats his team. All in all, Dom is a good guy who might be a little rough around the edges but you can count on him when you need him.

So, it’s extra strange when Dom is stopped by a woman who acts as if she needs help fixing her car. Turns out she rigged the car because she wants to get Dom to not only work for her, but betray his whole team. This woman is Cypher (Charlize Theron) and she shows him a video on her phone. We don’t see what it is but it’s enough to get Dom to agree.

Hobbs, one of the heroes of the last few films is recruited back to work to track down an EMP which can take out the functions of a city block. Hobbs goes to Dom’s team for help. We never actually see how the team recovers the EMP but things are exploding everywhere and they make it clear this is Roman’s fault. At the end of the job, Dom and Hobbs split off from the group and Dom rams his car into Hobbs to steal the EMP. Hobbs is unable to get out of the wrecked car in time, despite, you know, surviving an explosion and jumping out of a fourth story window and being mostly fine in the last movie. Anyway for the movie to happen Dom needs to get the EMP thing.

He delivers it to Cypher and it’s clear Dom is under her thumb. Mr. Nobody from the last movie gets Dom’s team together as well as Hobbs and Deckard Shaw. Hobbs and Shaw are the only two people in the world who have successfully located Dom when he didn’t want to be found. They hate each other but they have to work together.

There’s a bit of back and forth with the team trying to use God’s eye from the last movie and Cypher hacking back so they can’t. They pinpoint Dom to be right where they are. Dom and Cypher and the rest of her team attack and Dom gets God’s eye. Letty knows there is something wrong here and can’t believe Dom ever really betrayed them.

The team next see Dom in New York City where he is working with Cypher to get the nuclear codes from a Russian diplomat. Cypher is able to hack all the computerized systems in the cars in the area and the movie must have set a record for destroying the most cars in a single movie ever with that sequence. The team catches up to Dom but try as they might, he’s too good for them and gets away.

We find out Dom is being controlled by Cypher because it turns out when he and Elena were together, she got pregnant and Dom is now a father. Cypher has Elena and their son locked up in a secure glass cage under threat of death if Dom disobeys. Although it seems he is turning his back on his team who is his family, he’s really just doing what he always does, he’s protecting his family. Cypher hates Dom because the last two bad guys he has taken down were basically working for Cypher. She also has Elena killed so we know Dom is going to be royally pissed.

There’s an insane amount of stunt set pieces going on in the film. There’s a sequence involving a bunch of cars racing on ice in Russia, a sequence of Jason Statham having a shootout on an airplane while holding a baby, at one point Dwayne Johnson pulls out a concrete bench from a wall and does bicep curls with it, four cars try to draw and quarter Dom’s car but are unsuccessful, oh and did I mention Helen Mirren is in this?! Yeah she plays the Shaw boys’ mother. Plus, there is a nuclear submarine which is “car-jacked” although I would say it should be called submarine-jacking but whatever.

Basically if you took all the ingredients of an action film and threw them against a wall to see what sticks, it is in this movie.

And of course, Dom has set things up so he and his team will be safe and victorious. He even brokers a deal with Shaw’s mother so they help him out. Deckard and Owen Shaw rescue the baby. Dom comes to the aid of his team just in the knick of time and Cypher is forced to parachute out of her own plane, setting her up as a return villain.

The team learn Dom has a kid and they understand why he had to act the way he did so they can all be together as family once again. Even Shaw is not completely unwelcome, except Hobbs still hates him (but that’s a tale for a spinoff movie)

And in a gesture to Paul Walker, Dom names his kid Brian. We leave the team in relative safety but with the looming threat of Cypher still out there.

In Conclusion

I tried to summarize things above but there is so much happening in these movies at this point it would be nearly impossible to catch it all. I didn’t even get into the side competition of Roman and Tej vying for the affections of Ramsey, nor did I talk about how Scott Eastwood comes on as the new guy working with Mr. Nobody.

If it sounds like there is just too much happening in this movie, well, yeah there is. But who cares? This franchise has driven off the cliff of believability long ago. It’s also quietly and without fanfare built up one of the most diverse casts in film franchise history. (Would be nice to see some LGBTQ representation here though) And for whatever reason, this cast of people who start out as petty thieves somehow become more or less believable as super spies. I mean the stuff they are doing defies physics in every way possible turning this into a superhero movie franchise essentially but the character drama is real. When Dom turns on Letty, it hurts as an audience member but we also know Letty won’t give up on him. And I honestly defy anyone who has come this far with the series to say they didn’t have a good time watching this. Are there huge plot holes? Yup. Are there moments with extremely weird and cheesy dialogue like, “I am the crocodile at the watering hole?” Yup. Does any of that matter? Nope. They’ve built up enough good will here with solid hits and being able to top themselves every time that I am just along for the ride.

Sure, there are movies in this series I prefer more than others. I really like the first, third and fifth movies myself but on the whole, no notes from me for these movies. And while Fate of the Furious may not be critically beloved or even have the biggest fan base as far as the rest of the movies in the series go, it’s still a solid action film full of great stunts, good character drama, and twists at every turn.

Speedily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Furious 7 – Movie Review

Vin Diesel and Jason Statham star in Furious 7

Hey action film fans, Slick Dungeon here! I’ve made it through seven, yes seven, Fast and Furious films in the lead up to the new one releasing this week. The seventh film ditches the word fast and is just called Furious 7. There was definitely not a plan of how to name these movies but whatever. This review will have spoilers for the first seven films in the franchise. If you haven’t watched the movies you may want to buckle up and drive furiously over to see the movies and then get back here fast to read the review. You can also take a look at my reviews of the first six films. You can read my review of The Fast and the Furious here2 Fast 2 Furious here, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift hereFast and Furious here, Fast Five here, and Fast and Furious 6 here.

Having six films already made means you are guaranteed to have people come to the theater to see the next movie. However, this franchise was dependent on two stars who really made the movies work, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. Both of them are in this movie, but tragedy struck before it was complete. Sadly, Paul Walker died in a car crash as a passenger of all things before the film was finished. Most of his scenes had been completed but there are a few spots where a combination of stand-ins, stunt men, and CGI had to take over the job for the deceased actor.

So, with some clear disadvantages this film still had to deliver an action packed story, wrap up some loose ends from the previous movie, and finish the film without one of the two main stars. Did the movie deliver or is it one that signals the franchise has run out of steam and should possibly be retired?

Let’s dig in and find out!

Spoilers follow below!

We’re all Back Home

The start of the film has Brian, Dom, Mia and the rest of the gang back home where they belong in Los Angeles. They are leading normal lives (at least for them). Brian isn’t driving fast cars, he’s taking his son, Jack to school in a minivan. Dom is still working on his dad’s car like always. Han has gone to Tokyo and this movie is where the timeline starts to really catch up so we can place Tokyo Drift right around the events that start this film.

Owen Shaw, the big bad guy of the previous film, has been hospitalized and his older brother Deckard is now out for revenge. He is planning to find out who put his brother in the hospital and take everyone responsible for it down.

To find out who did it, Deckard Shaw heads to LA and breaks into Hobbs’ office. He downloads the file on Dom’s team and ends up in a fight with Hobbs. While Hobbs is huge, Shaw is a skilled fighter and extremely fast. But he also cheats. He basically blows up Hobbs’ office, causing Hobbs to jump out of a window to save a fellow cop. This leaves Shaw with the file, Hobbs in the hospital and Dom unaware of what is going on.

Mia tells Dom she’s pregnant again and Brian is struggling to find meaning in the slower paced life he now has. She hasn’t told Brian about the pregnancy. Before she can have that conversation, Dom gets a package from Tokyo. Then he gets the call from Deckard Shaw we saw at the end of the last movie. The package was a letter bomb which destroys Dom’s house. Everyone is okay but it’s a close call.

Dom’s not Happy

Dom then finds out Hobbs is in the hospital and asks Hobbs how to find Shaw. Hobbs tells him Shaw is a ghost, the government won’t allow anyone to go after him, but he knows Dom is going to go anyway. Dom goes to Tokyo and we see the end scene from Tokyo Drift, although we don’t see the race between Sean and Dom. Still, we all know Dom would make mince meat out of the guy. Anyway, Sean gives Dom the necklace of Letty’s found at the crash where Han died. Dom knows this is a message to him.

At Han’s funeral in LA, Dom, Tej, Brian and Roman mourn the loss of their friends. Dom sees Deckard Shaw and goes after him in an underground tunnel. The two get into a head on collision and Dom gets ready to fight. Shaw has a gun on Dom and it looks pretty bad when suddenly a bunch of military troops descend on the scene and save Dom. Turns out this team is led by a man named Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russel) who is a super secret spy operative for the government.

Apparently there is a device called the “God’s eye” which is capable of using all cell phone cameras, security devices and pretty much anything electronic in the world to find someone through facial recognition. It’s pretty much able to see anyone anywhere anytime someone wants. It’s made by a hacker named Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) who is the only one capable of disabling it. Mr, Nobody wants Dom and his team to get Ramsey from a mercenary who has kidnapped her named Mose Jakande (Djimon Hounsou). In exchange, Mr. Nobody will let Dom use God’s eye to find Shaw.

In order to get Ramsey, Dom and his team will have to get onto a road in the mountains that is not normally accessible. The only way to do it is go by air. So, yes, this is the movie where they drop cars out of the back of an airplane and have the cars parachute onto the road. It’s a ridiculously insane stunt and I love it.

There’s a chase, a big shootout, a whole bunch of action but Dom’s team does get Ramsey. Ramsey agrees to help the team because she can tell a group as varied as this is either led by fear or loyalty. And she doesn’t see any fear of Dom from anyone on the team. But, to get God’s eye, they have to go to Abu Dhabi where a Saudi prince has installed a chip containing God’s eye into his car which is on the top penthouse of the tallest building in the world. Yeah, this is also the movie where they drive a car through three of the tallest buildings in the world. It’s a spectacular stunt.

Shaw is not so Easy to Catch

With God’s eye in hand, Dom is able to figure out where Shaw is at. He, Brian, and Mr. Nobody go to get the bad guy but they are ambushed when Jakande and his men show up. Mr. Nobody is injured but Brian and Dom make it out of there. But Jakande ends up with God’s eye.

Dom still has Ramsey though so he has a new plan. He’s going to head back to LA, let Shaw come after him, let Jakande come after Ramsey, and stop them all. How? Because he and his team know the streets of LA better than anyone.

Dom plans to take Shaw on himself. The rest of the team need to keep Ramsey close enough to the God’s eye she can hack into it but not so close she gets killed in the process. There’s a huge chase around LA, there are some fantastic car stunts, especially when two cars drift around each other and simultaneously pass Ramsey through the windows. Jakande comes with a full military assault drone and helicopter. Meanwhile Dom and Shaw face off once again. In the chaos of it all there is an explosion Hobbs sees so he…. umm… flexes his arm to break out of his cast… takes some pain meds… and is totally fine. Yeah, I guess the Rock is just a superhuman in these movies? I mean, that’s what he plays in most movies so, sure why not?

Dom battles Shaw to a standstill. Hobbs helps distract the helicopter. Brian has to go fix a satellite relay. In this scene you notice the absence of Paul Walker because in most of it, his face is in shadows or turned away. It still makes sense as far as the actions go but it’s pretty obvious this is mostly stunt coordination here.

And at one point Dom gets Shaw to fall through a broken street (yeah you read that right) and then uses his car to attach a bag of grenades to a helicopter midair (still read that right) which Hobbs then shoots and makes the helicopter explode. Dom nearly dies. Brian gives CPR with the help of Letty but she makes him stop so she can tell Dom she remembers everything at last. This is including the fact they were married. So Letty is all the way back and Dom is alive. But, just a little side PSA for folks here. Don’t stop CPR in the middle to try and bring someone back by telling them you remember stuff. If someone is in need of CPR continue until either trained medical professionals come, the person regains consciousness, or you become too exhausted to continue. Just figured I would put that here in case I ever need CPR, thanks.

We also see Hobbs put Shaw into a maximum security prison but it’s clear we are nowhere near done with Shaw in this series.

The end of the movie is kind of hard to watch. It’s not a bad ending by any means. It’s Dom talking about family and the usual stuff but it’s with the backdrop of Paul Walker’s death. They end the movie with Dom and Brian racing up to one another and Brian saying he can’t let Dom go without saying goodbye. They do use a CGI Brian here but it’s still really emotional and then they end the movie with a montage of Brian and some of his best moments from all the films. Not the ones full of stunts, but the ones where there are personal character connections and it’s really well done.

In Conclusion

Look, after seven films, I am totally beyond caring if stunts even sort of make sense here. So many people should have died in so many ways in this movie but it’s a roller coaster of a ride and I am here for it. The plot is a bit forced here with the whole God’s eye thing but Shaw makes a great villain. And there are still some great character moments between Brian and Mia and Letty and Dom. Without those moments throughout this franchise, we’d never buy Dom’s whole, “I don’t have friends, I have family,” routine.

From here on out I give this franchise full permission to pull off the most insane stunts they can because they want to. Just don’t forget to have those small moments in there too.

Speedily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Fast & Furious 6 – Movie Review

Fast & Furious 6 brings the biggest stunts so far

Hey action fans, it’s Slick Dungeon here! I’m back to review the sixth in a long line of Fast and Furious movies. This one is called Fast & Furious 6 and there will be spoilers for all six films in this review. If you need to, hop in your tank, catch up to a plane in take off, harpoon the movies, watch them, and race on back here to read the review. Or you can read my previous reviews instead. You can read my review of The Fast and the Furious here2 Fast 2 Furious here, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift hereFast and Furious here, and Fast Five here.

After five movies of fast cars, big stunts, certain characters coming in and out it seemed like Fast and Furious might have run out of ways to tell the same story. In order for the sixth film to be successful a truly new direction was needed. But what do you do with a group of illegal street racers who used to steal DVD’s? Obviously you still want this to be an action film, so stunts are required. There has to be a bad guy but there are so many people on Dom’s team, one bad guy is not really enough. So what was the solution? Why, make the whole team a group of super spies of course!

I know it sounds ridiculous but this franchise had already pulled off some unlikely stuff. So, did Fast and Furious 6 deliver on its promise or is it a forgettable sequel in a warmed over franchise? Let’s dig in and find out!

Spoilers follow below!

We’re spies Now

This film doesn’t start off with a huge stunt. It still starts with a couple of cars racing. This time, it’s Dom and Brian. But this isn’t for pink slips, it’s not to outrun a bad guy. Nope, this time they are racing to a hospital where Mia is giving birth to her and Brian’s son. It’s a fairly quiet beginning to a movie in this franchise. Dom and Brian are sure that Brian at least is out of this life of crime they have been leading from here on out. He’s got major responsibilities and putting his life in danger when there is a baby around is just irresponsible.

This lasts for maybe five whole minutes of the movie. We see Hobbs, the agent from the last movie who had it out for Dom. He’s investigating crimes in London that have been happening against Interpol. These robberies are being pulled off by a team that can get in and out of a place in ninety seconds or less. We sort of assume this would be Dom’s team and Hobbs goes into an interrogation room where there is someone who looks a lot like Dom from the back. But it’s not Dom. Hobbs throws this guy around the room until he finds out some vital information about where a man named Shaw’s team will strike next. Hobbs knows he is going to be one step behind so he decides to bring in some help. He finds Dom.

Dom doesn’t have a lot of reason to help Hobbs out. He’s in a country with no extradition, he’s wealthy and as far as he knows all the people he cares about are safe. Turns out he’s not quire right about that. Hobbs has a picture of Letty taken a couple of weeks ago. This should be impossible since Letty was supposedly dead. But if she is alive, this is the one person in the world Dom would want to help out.

So, of course, Dom gets his team together. We get most of the regulars from the first five films but this time they are working for Hobbs. Dom is just doing it so he can find Letty and that’s good enough for most of them but Brian is missing home so he wants the deal to be that everyone gets pardoned in exchange for helping. Hobbs agrees to the deal.

Hobbs shows them Shaw’s team and they are basically like an evil version of Dom’s team, almost one for one. There’s even a guy who is as big as or bigger than Hobbs.

Dom and his team try to stop the robbery by Shaw’s team but they have specially made cars that cause other cars to basically flip over on impact. They are some kind of modified formula 1 racers. At one point Letty sees Dom and shoots him. The team is able to figure out that there can’t be that many people in London who can make cars like this so they track down someone who must be connected. Before they get full information, someone comes in and kills the guy who made the modifications but not before he drops a name. Braga. This is a drug lord Brian put away a couple of movies ago.

Brain feels guilty for having Letty become an informant against Braga because this put her life in danger. To make things right, Brian decides to sneak into and out of America to see Braga in prison. Brian finds out Braga was being directed by Shaw the whole time. And we find out that when Braga’s man went to kill Letty, he didn’t shoot her, he shot her car instead. The resulting explosion knocked Letty from the crash site and caused her to lose her memory.

Meanwhile, Han finds out about a street race Dom can enter where Letty will be. Dom races Letty and beats her handily but he starts to reconnect with her. Her memories aren’t back but it’s clear she feels a connection to Dom.

Hobbs finds out Shaw intends to get a final component to a device that can essentially blind all electronic systems in a country. This thing is worth billions. Hobbs also knows the location where the component is being held so he figures they can catch Shaw there. But Dom and Brian realize Shaw is not going for the location, he plans to attack the convoy transporting the device.

There is a super complicated action sequence involving a tank, high tension harpoons, and a death defying jump in the air which almost undoubtedly should have killed both Dom and Letty.

After that there is another huge action sequence involving an airplane, high tension harpoons, and driving a car through the nose of a plane on fire. Yeah, it’s all ridiculous but in the most fun way possible. Han loses Gisele in the action. Presumably she dies but you never know with this franchise. Owen Shaw also falls out of an airplane so again, presumably dies.

At the end of the movie, Dom demands his payment for the job. 1327. That’s the address of his home in Los Angeles. Dom and his family are able to go home, free and clear, no longer criminals. Brian and Mia get to be home and raise their son.

And finally, Han makes it to Tokyo. We see the chase where Han’s car is overturned and explodes. But this time, there is someone there who drops Letty’s necklace at the scene. We don’t know who this is yet but he’s played by Jason Statham and he becomes a major part of the franchise. We’ll get to him later.

In Conclusion

Is this movie ridiculous not only in plot but in the death defying stunts? Absolutely. Is this film a great time at the theater because of all that? Again, absolutely.

Also, knowing that before filming of Fast & Furious 7 is complete, Paul Walker dies, a lot of these scenes hit with more emotional intensity than one would expect. I know we really say goodbye to Brian as a character and Paul Walker as a person in the seventh film but in a lot of ways, this movie feels like a goodbye to him. Particularly heartbreaking is a scene where Mia gives Brian the go ahead to help Dom out because they watch each others backs. She tells them, “You’re better together.” And this is true both for the characters of the film and for the two actors. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker are completely at their best when they are on screen at the same time.

From this point on in the series you have to either decide to keep watching, crazy stunts, insane villains, and car thieves becoming super spies and be all in on it or pretty much just stop watching. I for one, think it’s still a lot of fun and as odd and unlikely as everything is, I still just have a good time watching these, this sixth one included.

Speedily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Fast Five – Movie Review

Fast Fine ups the stunts

Hey action fans, it’s Slick Dungeon here! I’m back for the fifth movie in the Fast and Furious franchise, just called Fast Five. This review is going to have spoilers for the first five movies in the franchise so if you haven’t seen them yet, hop in your ten second car, buckle up, hit that NOS button to get to the movies, speed watch through them and race on back here so fast police security cameras can’t spot you, and read the review after. Or, you can read my reviews of the first four films instead. You can check out my review of The Fast and the Furious here, 2 Fast 2 Furious here, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift here and Fast and Furious here.

The first four Fast and Furious movies sort of fall into a similar pattern. There’s a set of outlaws, there are cops trying to catch the outlaws, usually there is a drug deal going down, and there is a race that settles things. While that is certainly simplifying the movies, they did essentially pull this trick off over and over again. But with the end of the fourth film, the franchise set itself up to be able to change direction, introduce new characters, bring beloved characters together in the same film, and sort of change the DNA of what a Fast and Furious film could be. That’s a lot to ask of a film so pulling it off would be a particularly challenging feat.

So, did the movie deliver, not just on more action, more stunts, more cars and more races, but also make the films something more than a standard playbook? Let’s dig in and find out!

Spoilers follow below!

The Whole BAnd Gets Together

At the end of the fourth movie, Dom Toretto was in a bus on his way to jail. But, Brian was about to pull off a major escape plan for Dom. There’s a stunt at the beginning where the team makes the bus roll over, allowing Dom to escape. Somehow no one is killed in the crash but we’ll just go with that. With Dom’s release this makes Brian, Mia, Tego Leo, Rico Santos and Dom all wanted fugitives.

They go on the run to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, although Dom is separated from the group. Brian and Mia are trying to lay low and they go to see Vince from the first movie. Vince is leading a fairly decent life and even has a little family. But Vince also has a way for Brian and Mia to get enough money to live for a while. There’s a job where they can steal some cars off of a moving train. Vince, Mia and Brian go to do the job, along with a couple of guys who work for a drug lord named Herman Reyes. This guy runs everything in Rio. In the middle of the job, Brian realizes the cars they are stealing are impounded by the DEA, and Dom shows up out of nowhere to help steal the vehicles. The guys working for Reyes are interested in one particular car but Dom arranges it so Mia gets that car and drives off with it. In the middle of the job, two DEA agents are killed by Reyes’ men. The theft sequence is a lot of fun and it’s a pretty big set piece with lots of fast cars, explosions, and physics defying action.

Dom and his people get the car Reyes’ men wanted back to his garage. Inside the car, they find out there is a computer chip that’s really important to Reyes for some reason.

Next we get introduced to a major character in the franchise. DSS Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne, “The Rock” Johnson) is a no nonsense officer who is willing to take down his man with efficiency and precision. He’s after Brain and Dom and heads to Brazil to get them. He also recruits a rookie police officer who can’t be corrupted because she’s got it out for Reyes. Everyone else in Rio is on Reyes’ payroll. Hobbs figures out there is something missing from the car in the garage Dom was using.

Meanwhile, Dom figures out the chip is a delivery schedule which has every location where Reyes is conducting his illegal business. Dom has a plan to get everyone out of the life they are living, no longer worried about being on the run from the law. But he’s going to need a team.

This is where we get a bunch of characters from the previous films to come together for the first time. We have Brian, Mia, and Dom together but we also add Roman and Tej from the second film, Han from the third film, and Gisele from the fourth film. Dom explains what everyone’s role is and the movie, in essence becomes a heist film from here on out.

Dom finds one of Reyes’ drug spots, gathers all the money there together and burns it, telling the henchmen that Dom is coming for all of Reyes’ money. This causes Reyes to consolidate his funds.

And consolidate he does. Reyes owns the city so much that he is able to put all of his money into a police station for safe keeping. It’s over a hundred million dollars so if they pull off the job, everyone will get around eleven million a piece. They have to get some fast cars together, figure out how to bypass security, and get away without being caught by Hobbs.

At one point Hobbs catches up with Dom and tries to arrest him but it’s in the middle of a huge crowd and Dom just straight up has Hobbs and his men outgunned so Hobbs walks away. But Dom notices the rookie officer found the cross necklace Dom got from Letty around her neck. He goes to get it back from the rookie cops apartment and she lets him go because she believes Dom didn’t kill the men on the train.

Dom and our gang of anti-heroes try to get cars that can go fast enough to get past security cameras but even the fastest cars with the best drivers are spotted. But Dom still has a plan. Also, Gisele flirts with Reyes and gets his fingerprints from her bikini so they will be able to open the safe.

Dom’s plan for cars that can get in and out of the police station? It’s fantastic. Steal the cop cars. Such a bold idea and it’s one of the best parts of the whole movie. Dom, Roman, Han, and Brian bet each other a million dollars on the race out of there with the police cars. And this tine, Dom doesn’t cheat, there is no NOS, and driver to driver, Brian finally wins. But Roman and Han say Dom let off the throttle and let him win, leaving the audience and Brian with doubts of who is really the best driver.

Vince, who has split off from the group because he was in with Reyes’ men, grabs Mia before Reyes’ men can kill her. Vince gets to be part of the family again. And Dom says he can be part of the job to steal the money.

Also, Mia is pregnant, and Roman says Dom letting Brian win was a baby gift. Dom makes a toast to family and they get ready for the big job.

Cops descend on MIa, Brian Dom, and Vince. Dom stays to let everyone get away and we get to see a fight between Hobbs and Toretto. These are two huge dudes who do major damage to everything around them, including crashing through walls. Dom has Hobbs dead to rights and could smash his head in with a wrench but he doesn’t. Hobbs manages to take in Vince, Brian, Dom and Mia. But he hasn’t caught the rest of the team.

On the way to the station, Hobbs is attacked by Reyes’ men. The rookie officer decides to cut Mia, Dom, Vince and Brian loose so they have a chance of surviving. Most of Hobbs’ men are killed and just when it seems Hobbs is about to die, our heroes save him.

Vince has been shot and he tells Dom he has to meet Vince’s son Nico. Nico is named after Dominic. Vince’s death is pretty personal for Toretto since this is a guy he’s known since they were little kids. Dom is determined to finish the job. Most of the team doesn’t want to but Hobbs says he’ll go with Dom, at least until Reyes is dead. After that, the rest of the team agrees to go along with the original plan.

The remainder of the movie is big stunts, fast action, and pure fun. Hobbs drives a truck through the police station walls so Brian and Dom can tow a huge vault along the streets of Rio. We’re beyond caring about the physics of things in these movies now but it looks great.

You can probably imagine the ending here. Dom’s team ends up with the money. Hobbs gives Dom 24 hours to get away which is plenty of time for him. Brian and Mia end up on a beach in a place where we can assume there is no extradition, with Mia showing her pregnancy. Han and Giselle end up together, Roman and Tej stay friends and rivals, and Dom goes to visit Brian and Mia. We end the movie with Brian essentially challenging Dom to a final race, driver to driver, no tricks, no cheating. We don’t see that in this movie though.

In Conclusion

A lot of the movies in this franchise are hit or miss but this one ends up being too much fun not to like. This takes us from a repetitive series of races to something else. While there are still quiet, and important, character moments, the real spectacle of these films starts to shine here. The stunts are huuuge and impressive. The car racing is fantastic and this film gives the whole series some much needed new direction. And adding a good foil in The Rock really helps as well.

In the end this one gives a lot of the vibes of the first one. It’s basically a good time at the theater and I can’t really find fault with that.

If you haven’t seen this one in a while, it’s totally worth a rewatch.

Speedily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Fast and Furious (2009) – Movie Review

Paul Walker and Vin Diesel both return in Fast and Furious

Hello action fans, Slick Dungeon here! We’ve made it to the fourth movie in the Fast and Furious franchise. This is is just called Fast and Furious, not to be confused with The Fast and the Furious. This film is the fourth movie but chronologically it takes place third in the series. Just a warning, this review will contain spoilers for the first three films plus this one. If you want to get caught up quickly, you can read my review for The Fast and the Furious here, 2 Fast 2 Furious here, and Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift here.

The first film set up our characters with a nearly beat for beat exact match of Point Break. The second movie veered into generic action territory, but with plenty of fast driving. And the third film took us international, while ditching the focus of the main characters from the first two films. In the fourth, we have all the elements of the first film back. Paul Walker, Vin Diesel. Michelle Rodriguez, and Jordana Brewster who all starred in the first movie are back for this one.

With all of the main stars returning, a bigger budget, and more pressure than ever to make a movie people would enjoy, this was going to be a difficult feat to pull off. So, did the film live up to expectations, or was this a sequel without a point other than to make money? Let’s dig in and find out.

Spoilers follow below!

The Story and the Stunts are Bigger

Much like the first film, this movie starts with a big action piece involving fast cars and a huge semi-truck in the Dominican Republic. The fast cars are trying to steal oil tanks right off the back of the truck. The team trying to grab the tanks includes Dom, Letty, Tego Leo, Rico Santos, Cara and Han Lue. The fact that Han is here signals to us that this happens before the events of Tokyo Drift. The stunt is pretty incredible and I feel like this stunt is the first of the really large and complex stunts the movies start trying to top every time. The robbery is successful for the most part. The driver of the truck even saves his iguana which I have total respect for.

After the job, we find out Dom is still on the run after the events of the first film. But the law is onto him and it’s time for him to split off from the group to protect his people. Han decides to go to Tokyo, and Letty stays behind as Dom heads to Panama City. While there, Dom gets a call from his sister Mia telling him Letty is dead.

Then we see Brian running around the streets of Los Angeles in a suit of all things. Turns out Brian has gone legit again and is working for the FBI once more. He’s trying to figure out how to get to a drug dealer named Braga. And, of course, his best way in, is to figure out what is going on in the underground race circuit. Dom goes back to LA and watches Letty’s funeral from afar. He asks Mia to show him the crash site where Letty died. There Dom finds evidence of nitromethane. This leads Dom to David Park who is the only guy in the area who sells the stuff. Meanwhile, Brian’s information has turned up the same guy so he also goes looking for David. Brian arrives on the scene just as Dom is about to toss the dude out of a window. Brian races up to the room and finds Dom there. He keeps Dom from killing David but Dom gets away. And, yeah, Dom is still pretty pissed that Brian was a cop the whole time.

Brian takes David Park in to the FBI and is able to gain entry into an illegal street race. This is an audition to be a driver for Braga. The man who is looking for drivers is named Ramon Campos and he says he wants real drivers. They have to run a course through streets full of traffic based on GPS coordinates downloaded into their cars. It’s a pretty fun race and we all know the only person who might even have a chance of beating Dom is Brian. It gets close in the end and Brian looks like he’s going to win but Dom knocks Brian off the road. Dom knows that one of the people driving for Braga killed Letty and he’s out for revenge so nothing will stop him. We even see a sequence where Dom imagines the crash in his head and Letty’s death. Takes notes on this because this will become a thing in the later movies as well.

Even though Brian lost the race, he’s able to have one of the other drivers arrested so now he also gets the job. Dom meets one of Braga’s top lieutenants, Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot). She flirts with him but Dom is clearly a one woman man as he turns down Gisele after he basically describes Letty as his perfect woman.

The job the drivers are required to do is to transport a bunch of money across the border through a complicated series of underground tunnels based on GPS coordinates. The scene looks pretty good and it’s a fun race in this part of the movie. Once they get to the other side, drug dealers do what drug dealers do and try to kill the drivers. But, Dom has a plan. He wants to see a rival driver named Phoenix die because that guy killed Letty. So Dom rigs his car to explode enabling Brian and Dom to get away. Phoenix does live though.

Somewhere in there, Dom also learns that Letty was actually working for the FBI when she died. Dom beats Brian to a pulp when he finds this out but Brian tells Dom that Letty was only doing it to clear Dom’s name. Dom feels like a jerk for that one.

Once Dom and Brian get away, they stash the payload they were carrying in an impound lot that Braga owns. Braga has no idea he’s got his own stash right under his nose. Brian sets it up so that Braga will meet, the FBI will be able to arrest the guy, and in exchange, Dom gets to go free. Things do not go as planned.

Turns out Campos was Braga all along, and the FBI move in just a little too soon and blow the arrest. Brian and Dom make it out alive and for some reason Brian is to blame for the mess up, even though it was someone else who made the call to move the FBI in too soon.

Dom still has a vendetta against Phoenix and Brian reconnects with Mia. Brian and Dom decide to go and get Braga, even though he’s in Mexico, outside of US jurisdiction. Dom is just there to get Phoenix. Dom and Brian do capture the drug lord but then it’s a car chase back through the mountains. While the first sequence through the mountains looks pretty stylish, this return trip is kind of a confusing mess of an action sequence and it was pretty hard to follow what was happening.

In the end, Brian is almost killed by Phoenix, but Dom saves the day by hitting him with his car and Braga goes to jail. And Dom, allows himself to be captured this time.

We see a court scene where Dom is sentenced to twenty-five years to life in prison with no possibility of parole, despite the fact that Brian vouched for all the good Dom did.

The last scene is Dom in his orange prison suit on a bus headed to jail. But as the bus goes down the highway, three high speed cars pull up. Brian is in one, Mia is in another and Tego Leo and Rico Santos are in the third. We don’t see what happens but I think we can all assume Dom is about to be sprung from prison.

In Conclusion

The beginning of this movie starts with a fantastic car stunt and it hints at bigger and better ones to come. Some of the more personal parts of the film come through as well. We get to see Brian reconnect with Mia and you can feel how much the loss of Letty gets to Dom. The plot with the drug lord is still pretty thin here but the racing and driving is great. The chase through the caves is probably the weakest of those sequences but it’s still fun to watch. It’s nice to see the core cast back here and it’s especially good to see Dom and Brian in the same movie again.

This film series will still go on to bigger, faster, and crazier stunts but this is where things start to get a little flexible with physics. There are definitely times where cars crash and people almost certainly should have died or been severely injured but walk away fine.

It does work best if you watch this one right after the second one but even watching it out of order is still kind of fun because you can start to figure out how the filmmakers realized they needed to retcon the timeline a bit.

If you haven’t seen this one in a while, it’s still worth checking out, just don’t expect the most complex plot here.

Speedily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

A pair of races show off the signature drift in Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift

Hey action fans, it’s Slick Dungeon here! I thought I would drift on over to you to review the third film in the Fast and Furious franchise, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift. Be forewarned there are spoiler for The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious and Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift in this review. So, if you have not seen those films, buckle your seatbelts. hit your NOS, take a sharp turn, watch the movies and race on back here to read the review.

If you want to see my previous reviews you can check out the review for The Fast and the Furious here and my review for 2 Fast 2 Furious here.

Also, before this gets mentioned in the comments below, yes I know, this order is not the best way to watch the movies, but the theater where they are showing these is putting them on in release order so there you have it. I will be reviewing in release order but the chronology definitely gets a bit weird with watching them that way so just bear with me.

The first movie gave us a glimpse into the niche underground world of illegal street racing in Los Angeles. The second movie lost one of the main stars with Vin Diesel unable to return but gave us a pretty standard action film full of fast cars and furious drug lords. So where did that leave us for the third film? In Tokyo… for, umm… some reason? But yes the Fast and Furious series first goes international with this film which does not focus on the stars from either of the first two films.

This movie needed to please action fans, bring people who were familiar to franchise back to the box office without its main stars and do so in a setting the movies hadn’t explored at all.

So, did the film accomplish this objective or did it just drift right into a side wall and crumple any chance of future films? Let’s dig in and find out.

Spoilers follow below!

Bro, Do You Even Drift?

The film starts out with our main character, Sean Boswell getting into an altercation with a fellow high school student. They have beef with each other so what’s the best way to solve it? Yeah, a race, of course. Sean races a guy named Clay in a suburban construction site where new homes are being built. Sean wins the race but Clay’s Ferrari is demolished and so is Sean’s car. Sean literally drives his car through a wooden frame of a house. Apparently Sean has a history of this kind of behavior and as a result, he has a choice to either go to jail or go live with his estranged father who is a Navy officer stationed in Tokyo, Japan.

Sean arrives on the scene, not too happy about his fate and is given two rules by his father. First, he’s supposed to come straight home after school and second, he’s supposed to stay away from driving any cars. Guess what rules he breaks? We see a scene of Sean getting used to school in Japan where he meets Twinkie (Bow Wow) who is an army brat hustler, and Neela (Nathalie Kelley) a girl who seems interested in Sean but is dating someone else.

After school, Sean goes with Twinkie to an underground race. There he meets DK, which stands for Drift King (Brian Tee) and Han Lue (Sung Kang). Sean learns a few things pretty quickly. First, DK is connected to the Yakuza. Second, Han seems to be more cool and collected than DK. And most importantly, he learns this underground race circuit is nothing like the one he is used to. Instead of a ten second drag race, these races rely on a new maneuver we learn about called drifting. Essentially the car makes a sliding turn and glides along the track. Sean doesn’t have anything to race but Han gives the dude a chance and loans him his car. And it turns out Sean is a terrible driver. He smashes the hell out of the car and barely even finishes the race.

The next day Han shows up and tells Sean he has to go collect money from a Sumo wrestler. Sean does it but it doesn’t go well. But, Sean is now essentially working for Han because Han knows it gets under DK’s skin. Also, Han agrees to teach Sean how to drift. Sean is still a terrible driver. He gets more intimate with Neela, which makes DK really mad because she is his girlfriend. Sean improves his drifting skills just enough to beat out one of DK’s thugs, although he still damages the car a bit. DK finds out about Sean and Neela and DK beats the crap out of Sean.

Han tells Sean he only races if it’s for something really meaningful. He’s not that interested in winning. Han shows off his drifting skills to impress some women and it’s clear Han is a much better driver than even DK.

DK’s uncle who is the Yakuza member of the family shows DK that Han has been stealing from them. Enraged, DK comes to Han’s garage where Han admits to stealing, saying they are not in the boy scouts. Twinkie causes a distraction to allow his friends to get away. DK chases after everyone and there is an insane moment where the cars drift through Shibuya crossing, the most heavily crossed intersection in the entire world, and go on this huge car chase. Han proves he’s the best driver in the movie by getting between DK and Sean, allowing his friends to get away. But in the end, Han flips his car. We see him trapped in the vehicle and the whole thing explodes. (Write this down cause several movies later this will be a thing)

Sean heads back to his dad’s place where there’s an armed standoff but Sean’s dad is a no nonsense Navy officer so DK leaves. In an attempt to fix things, Sean decides to go see DK’s uncle. Twinkie gives Sean some money so DK’s uncle won’t just kill him on sight. Sean somehow makes it in to see the uncle and he proposes a peaceful solution which will satisfy DK, Sean and DK’s uncle. Guess what it was? (Checks notes) Yep, a race! If Sean can drift race down a mountain before DK can, DK has to leave town. And vice versa. For some reason, the Yakuza member is totally good with the plan that might get his nephew kicked out of town forever.

There’s a race and Sean bangs his car up really bad but DK literally ends up driving off the mountainside. DK seems like he’s ok though. Sean gets to stay and be part of the Tokyo drift scene and he also gets the girl.

But what About that CAmeo?

If after reading all of that, you started to wonder if you were really watching a Fast and Furious movie at all, don’t worry, there’s a cameo and it’s possibly the best part of the movie. Sean is ready to race when he’s told there’s a challenger who wants to meet him. This is a guy who has been beating drivers all over Asia. And what’s more, he is said to have known Han, who he considered, “family.” And, yes, as soon as we heard that the audience assumed this had to be one of two people, either Brian or Dom, but most likely Dom. And sure enough Vin Diesel as Dom Toretto shows up. He tells Sean he got the car he is driving after beating his friend Han. Sean warns him that this is no ten second race. Dom replies he’s got nothing but time.

Any objective observer watching these movies would know, Sean is one hundred percent going to crash his car and Dom Toretto is going to smoke him with superior driving skills. In fact, out of all the heroes in all the Fast and Furious movies, I think Sean is the only one who crashes, or at least hits walls, ever single time he gets behind the wheel. Dom will eat this dude for breakfast. Still, it was nice to see Dom back here and although it’s a quick cameo it does make it feel like a part of the franchise.

In Conclusion

This film did the worst out of all the sequels when it comes to box office. I can understand why there are people who really don’t like this one at all. Lucas Black’s performance feels a bit too, “aw shucks” for the most part. But Han is definitely a breakout character and he’s the most magnetic personality in the whole film. You can tell he’s the one really in charge, even when he just stays in the background.

But for all of its flaws, this film does something the first film pulled off well. It takes us into a little known world and shows us a niche community where we get to see a small family story. This doesn’t have the chemistry of the first one but it does feel a lot more personal than the second film. Personally, for me, this is one of my favorites of the franchise because we still get to see cool car stunts, the story makes sense (mostly) and there are real consequences to the actions of the characters.

This one is not for everyone but I enjoy it. And if you want to know about one of the key characters in films later in the franchise you do have to watch this one. It’s best to just go with it and have fun along the way and not get bogged down in the details of why it’s set in Tokyo or if there really is an underground drift circuit there. (Although it’s Tokyo so yeah they have everything there)

If you are looking for a fun time watching cars slide around with a bit of action and a pretty decent cameo, this one is worth a watch.

Speedily yours,

Slick Dungeon

2 Fast 2 Furious – Movie Review

2 Fast 2 Furious takes us to Miami

Hey film fans, Slick Dungeon here, back to review the second installment of the Fast and Furious franchise, 2 Fast 2 Furious. Paul Walker is back for this one but there is no Vin Diesel in sight here. But there is still plenty of action, lots of fast cars, a few good stunts and plot that is, well… pretty thin. Note there will be spoilers in this review for both The Fast and the Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious. If you want to catch up and read my review of the first movie, you can do so here.

The Fast and the Furious set up a situation with Dom Toretto and Brian O’Conner which leaves Brian in trouble with the law and Dom presumably free. One would expect the sequel to try to continue those stories but there was a major problem in doing that for this movie. Vin Diesel was filming a different action movie xXx and couldn’t come back for 2 Fast 2 Furious without leaving that project. So, instead of having the two breakout stars of the first film come back, we only get Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner.

The good news is this second film does introduce us to some of the recurring cast we’ll see in later movies, including Roman Pearce played by Tyrese Gibson, Monica Fuentes played by Eva Mendes, and Tej Parker played by Ludacris.

The first film was better than it had any right to be, although it accomplished that in large part by borrowing a plot from an older movie. The sequel needed to be more action packed with bigger stunts and to keep the interest of people who saw the first one without one of the main stars.

So, did they accomplish this goal or was this a forgettable sequel? Let’s dig in and find out.

Spoilers follow!

We’re Moving to Miami

This film starts with a street race in Miami, Florida. There are three cars ready and raring to go but the race can’t happen without even numbers so the organizer of the event, Tej Parker calls in a fourth driver. This is Brian O’Conner, the undercover cop who let a felon go at the end of the last film. Brian wins the race handily and earns himself some money. But just after that, the police show up and Brian tries to get away. He’s got a super fast car and he’s a highly skilled driver so it should be easy. However, the police have some kind of harpoon style weapon they shoot at his car. Once this hits, it seems to deliver a sort of EMP jolt to the car, cutting out the electronics and basically making the car stop. Brian is taken into custody.

This time the arrest is not a ruse, it seems Brian really is on the run from the law. Lucky for him, there are some people who can use his help. One of Brian’s former superiors, Agent Bilkins (Thom Barry) and a US Customs agent named Markham want to catch a drug lord named Carter Verone. They need someone who can gain the trust of Verone, while also not giving away the fact that there is an FBI agent named Monica Fuentes who has already been monitoring Verone. They try to give Brian a partner but after a simple question it’s clear this police officer knows nothing about cars. Brian demands to choose his own driving partner. This is Roman who we first see wearing an ankle bracelet while competing in a demolition derby.

Roman is an old friend of Brian’s who has gotten into some trouble. After a brief fight, Roman and Brian hash things out a bit and Roman agrees to help the police in exchange for his record being wiped clean. Brian will get the same deal so if they pull off the job, they won’t be going to jail.

Monica Fuentes arranges it so that Roman and Brian can audition to work for Verone. They arrive at the mansion along with a number of other street racers. Verone takes everyone’s identification and tells them his Ferrari was impounded. The job is to go retrieve something important from the car and come back with it first. There’s a chase scene where Brian and Roman both show off their fast driving skills and, of course, they get to the Ferrari first. I don’t really know how they knew how to get there since no one gave them directions but we’ll ignore that for the sake of the movie.

Anyway, just as Roman and Brian are about to take the package back, Markham shows up, hoping to arrest Verone. Roman sees the guy with a gun pulled and Roman starts firing his own gun. This was clearly not supposed to happen. Markham thought Brian and Roman were running when they were just doing what they were supposed to. Roman and Brian do get away from Markham and end up back at Verone’s place.

Verone is impressed enough to hire the two of them. But we find out the only thing they got from the car was a cigar. Also, Verone promises there will be a job for the two of them if they meet him at a club later. Monica lets Brian know Verone plans to smuggle money on his private jet from an airstrip nearby. Brian and Roman go back to police headquarters where Markham is beyond mad and Roman is furious the cops showed up at all. Turns out there were GPS units on the cars they were driving. This was back when GPS units were not all that common so it’s no surprise that Roman and Brian weren’t expecting that.

After they leave police headquarters, Roman and Brian realize they have a few problems here. First, Verone’s men seem to be following them around. Second, it’s going to be tough for them to get anything done if they are constantly being tracked by the police. So, what’s the solution? I mean, it’s a Fast and Furious movie so obviously a street race! Roman and Brian have a tag team race to get two more cars. The race it set up by Tej and it’s a pretty good race sequence. Ultimately, Brian and Roman succeed and have two cars, GPS free to use when they need them.

This whole time, Brian has been making puppy dog eyes at Monica which Roman notices. When they get to the club where they are supposed to meet Verone, Monica is there and seems to flirt back with Brian a bit. Verone sees this. Verone has Roman and Brian go in the back with him where he has an police detective tortured. He wants a fifteen minute window of time where there will be no cops monitoring him so he can gather his drug money.

Monica warns Roman and Brian that Verone plans to have them killed as soon as the job is over. Roman and Brian go see Tej and make some contingency plans of their own.

On the day of the job, things start as they are supposed to. Brian, Roman and two of Verone’s guys go to get some money out of a trailer Verone owns. The cop who was supposed to keep the area free for fifteen minutes lets his conscience get to him and he tells the cops to move in. This now means Brian and Roman are caught between the police and Verone’s men. There’s a nifty car chase as Brian and Roman misdirect everyone. They pull into a warehouse with cops in hot pursuit. They think they have the men surrounded when the warehouse doors open up and a bunch of big trucks come out and basically demolish the police cars. Then there is a scramble where what seems like every high end race car in Miami comes out of the warehouses and speed off in all directions. The cops think they still have GPS on the cars so they aren’t worried and Markham is in waiting at the airstrip. When the cars Brian and Roman were driving arrive at the airstrip, it’s Tej and his partner Suki who are driving.

Roman and Brian each have one of Verone’s men in the cars they won racing the night before. Roman hits an ejector seat button to dump the thug. Before Brian can do the same, Verone tells him the plan has changed. He now has to meet Verone at the docks. When Brian gets there Verone puts a gun to Monica’s head and takes her on the boat. Verone’s thug is supposed to kill Brian but before he can do so, Roman shows up to save the day. Verone does manage to get Monica onto the boat and they are already speeding away.

How does Brian stop Verone? Well, again it’s a Fast and Furious movie so he drives real fast, launches the car off a ramp facing the water and lands on the boat. It’s the biggest stunt in the movie. And when it happens, Roman breaks his arm and Brian is banged up quite a bit as well. This was before everyone in these movies seems to take no damage from major car crashes.

In the end, Roman and Brian are cleared, Verone is arrested (although he swears revenge), and Monica is safe and sound. Roman does pocket a bit of the cash from Verone’s take though. That’s where we leave our heroes for this movie but we’ll see more of them in the future.

What About Dom and Mia?

On top of Vin Diesel missing, since this film takes place in Miami with Brian on the run, there is no Mia from the first movie. I’ll say, Brian sure moves on quickly from her and seems to have roving eyes everywhere he goes. If Brian has a weakness in this movie, it’s definitely pretty women. I feel like the relationship with Mia not even being addressed in this movie was a mistake. Like, they could have at least had a phone call or something on Brian’s end where he might tell her not to worry or something like that. But nope, we’re going to pretend that whole thing didn’t count in the first movie here I guess. It makes sense why Dom isn’t here. He’s still back at home or maybe on the run. Brian probably wouldn’t want to call him because presumably everyone is watching Dom. But Mia has nothing to do with the whole thing so she’s getting ignored for no reason.

Did This Work at All?

2 Fast 2 Furious is not a great film. It’s miles away from the quality of the first movie. The dynamic between Diesel and Walker are missing and this film feels like it could literally be called something else. It’s got a fairly caricatured villain, the plot is really thin, and while the acting is fine, no one is going above and beyond here. That’s not to say there is nothing good in the movie. The car stunts are still fun, although I would argue the ones from the first film tend to look better. And Roman and Tej are both good additions to the franchise and probably the most entertaining parts of the whole movie. Eva Mendes is also great in her role here.

While the first movie was meant to be a B film that feels more like a quality picture, the second feels like a movie meant to be a quality picture which feels like a B film. On a pure action level, this film does work but it doesn’t obtain the greatness of the first one by any stretch of the imagination.

In Conclusion

There are still a lot of films to go in this franchise. We’re going to witness a bunch of odd twists and turns here, especially once Vin Diesel is truly back. But the second movie just needed to be a half decent action flick. And it does deliver on being about half way decent. It did well enough to garner another sequel but if this film had come out first, the whole franchise would have been forgotten. It’s still one you need to watch if you want to be completely caught up with the franchise but just remember this one is meant to be nothing more than a good time.

I will say though, compared to some of the later sequels, this one does at least seem to adhere to the laws of physics for the most part.

Overall this is still an enjoyable watch but it might be the least enjoyable of the sequels.

Speedily yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Fast and the Furious – Movie Review

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker star in The Fast and the Furious

Hey film lovers, it’s Slick Dungeon here! The tenth (not counting spin offs) Fast and Furious movie is about to hit theaters this month. In anticipation of that, the movie theater in my area is showing all the older movies so I thought it would be worth taking a look and seeing how we went from a small band of illegal street racers to an expansive family of super spies. I’m going to review the first movie in the series in this post, The Fast and the Furious. Heads up there will be spoilers so if you haven’t seen the movie, hop in your car, hit the NOS button, get to the theater and watch the movie, then race on back here to read the review.

I think most film lovers have had an experience like this. Way back in 2001 I was stuck with a day where I didn’t have much to do. I had seen everything else in the theater except for The Fast and the Furious. I had no particular interest in watching it because I’m really not a car guy and other than Vin Diesel I had no idea who any of the actors were. But, I had hours to kill and nothing else to do so I thought to myself, “how bad can it be?” Turned out this movie was a whole hell of a lot better than it has any right to be. There are a few reasons for that and I’ll get into it below but it was a surprise to me.

So, why was a movie about a bunch of car thieves and undercover cops so much better than expected? Let’s dive in and find out.

Spoilers follow below!

The World of Illegal Street Racing in Los Angeles

The movie starts out with a still impressive car stunt. We see several cars, neon lights glowing below them, racing up next to a semi truck with precision speed. One car literally drives at pace under the truck while the others pin the truck in its lane. The people in the cars shoot out harpoon like devices so they can hop into the truck and take the payload. It’s an amazing and well timed robbery which just looks downright cool.

Next thing you know we’re in a local market where a man comes in and orders a tuna sandwich. This is our hero, Brian (Paul Walker). He’s obviously there to flirt with a woman named Mia (Jordana Brewster). It’s not long before some of the people who run this little market and automotive shop (odd combination but whatever) come in and are giving Brian some grief. A fight breaks out and we meet our other hero, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel). Dom breaks up the fight but tells Brian he’s banned from the shop.

That night we see Brian, who had been trying to race a car on a deserted street earlier, gather at a street race. This is no regulated race. It’s just a huge group of people with really fast cars illegally racing one another for money and pink slips. They are organized enough they even have someone monitor police scanners so they wait for cops to be distracted by a major crime before they start racing. I would have thought the amount of people involved in illegal street racing was relatively small but it seems like there are hundreds in attendance and at least a good third of those people have seriously expensive (and fast) cars.

Anyway, Brain bets Dom the pink slip to his car that he can beat him in a race. Brian nearly edges him out but Dom Toretto is a seasoned racer who ultimately wins the day. Brian has to give up his car but before that happens, the police descend on the scene and start to round up as many people as they can. Dom ditches his car and starts to get away on foot. He’s nearly cornered when Brian shows up to save the day for Dom. He gets Dom to hop in his car and they race out of there.

Unfortunately for the two of them, Brian unknowingly heads into the territory of Johnny Tran (Rick Yune) who has a vendetta against Dom. Its not long before Brian’s car is shot to shreds by Johnny’s bullets and Dom is warned to stay away from the area. In Dom’s words this means Brian still owes him, “a ten second car.” In other words, just because the car was shot up and nearly unusable, it doesn’t mean Brian is out of debt and he needs to get Dom a super fast car as quickly as possible.

Brian and Dom go back to Dom’s place where a party is happening. Dom is pretty angry with his crew, especially Vince (Matt Schultz) and Leon (Johnny Strong) who left him to be picked up by the cops. Vince is especially upset Brian has been welcomed in because Vince wants to date Mia but she’s clearly more into Brian.

The next day, Brian brings in a beat up old car which has an incredible engine to Dom’s garage. Jesse (Chad Lindberg) sees the potential in the car right away because he has a genius mind for engines. Then we see the real twist of the movie. Brian is taken under arrest at the auto shop he works at. But this arrest is a ruse, Brian is an undercover cop. He’s trying to figure out who these people with precision driving skills are who are stealing from truckers. He knows anyone good enough to drive that way must have some connection to the world of illegal street racing. Dom seems to be the central figure in this world. He’s the guy who can’t be beat so if it isn’t Dom stealing, he has to know who is.

Brian thinks it could be a guy named Hector who (Noel Gugilemi) was at the race the other night. Brian breaks into the garage but Dom and his crew see this happen. Vince is convinced Brian is a cop but Brian uses some fast talk to make Dom believe he was just investigating other racers who will be racing at an upcoming event. Dom decides they should see what Johnny Tran has in his garage. While there, Brian notices a bunch of brand new electronics, similar to the types of things that have been stolen recently.

Brian lets his superiors know what he found and they agree to raid Tran’s place. Meanwhile, Brian and Mia are on intimate terms. The raid doesn’t really turn up any evidence and Brian is given thirty-six hours to figure out who is doing the robberies. Lucky for Brian, an event called “Race Wars” (yeah I know, it was a terrible idea for a name even then) is coming up. At this event he should be able to catch whoever the real thief is. Brian is convinced it’s Dom but he’s also started to see Dom as more of a human than just a thug. Brain had read Dom’s criminal file about how he had almost beaten someone to death. Dom relates the story, while showing Brian an old car. It turns out, Dom’s dad died in a fiery crash years ago at a race track. Dom was at the track when the driver who crashed into his father showed up and before he knew it he had a wrench in his hand and was beating the man to a bloody pulp. It’s clear Dom regrets the action but knows he couldn’t help himself. He also knows his life turned out much different than he thought it would. Dom explains to Brian that the ten seconds or less while he is drag racing is the only time he feels free. This seems to resonate with Brian.

At Race Wars, Jesse, who is not much of a driver, loses a race to Johnny Tran. Rather than give Tran the car like he is supposed to, Jesse speeds off. This puts a target on Jesse’s back.

Later, Brian sees Mia arguing with Dom and then Dom, Leon, Vince and Dom’s girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) hop in their cars and speed away. Brian confronts Mia and admits he’s an undercover cop. He enlists her help to track down Dom before anything seriously bad can happen to Dom and his crew. Mia is majorly upset with Brian but doesn’t want to see her brother harmed so she helps.

In the best sequence of the entire film, Letty, Dom, Leon and Vince try to rob another truck. They use the same method as at the start of the movie but this time they don’t have Jesse with them to help monitor police scanners and make sure equipment is working right. Things go sour when the trucker starts blasting shotgun shots at everyone. In a complicated series of events, Vince, ends up hanging off the side of the truck, shot in the side, with his arm nearly cut off with the cable from the harpoon they used. Brain manages to rescue Vince but he’s in bad shape and they are in the middle of nowhere. Brian realizes the only way to save Vince is to radio for a helicopter as a police officer. He does it to save Vince’s life but Dom and everyone else are pretty mad at Brian.

Brian eventually rolls up to Dom’s house where Dom is about to take his dad’s car out to find Jesse. Johnny Tran shows up seconds after Jesse does. Tran shoots Jesse and rather than arrest Dom, Brian goes after Tran. Another seriously fun car chase happens and Brian ends up shooting Tran. Then he sees Dom race by. Brian and Dom end up at a stoplight together. Dom tells Brian the stoplight they are at is exactly a quarter of a mile away from the railroad track ahead. Dom says on green he’s going to go for it. Brian knows the only way he could possibly get Dom to come with him is to beat him in this race. The two do race off towards the tracks just as a train is coming. They barely make it across the finish but this time, they tie. Brian is fine but Dom doesn’t see another car coming and ends up in a pretty bad crash. The sound of sirens gets closer and Brian knows he could take Dom in for all kinds of crimes, right here and right now. But that’s not what he does. Instead, he gives Dom the keys to his car and tells him he still owed him, “a ten second car.”

Is this Plot Familiar?

If you’re an action movie fan and you just read that summary, it may have felt extremely familiar. Why? It’s a nearly identical plot to the Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze classic Point Break. The only real difference here is we are dealing with cars instead of surfboards. Point Break is a great movie with tons of fun action so it’s worthy of being copied. But I will say, The Fast and the Furious delivers more high octane adrenaline than that one did.

Paul Walker is essentially the Keanu Reeves character and Vin Diesel is the analogy to Patrick Swayze’s character.

No movie is ever completely original. All films owe what they put on screen to something that came before. But it’s rare to see such a similar film do so well. In fact, this did better than the remake of Point Break, because although it’s about cars, The Fast and the Furious shares more of the genetic make up of the original Point Break than the remake of Point Break does.

That’s not to say there aren’t some original things in The Fast and the Furious. The stunts are fantastic, and although there is some CGI here, none of it is really for the car stunts. Also, they introduce NOS (Nitrous Oxide) as an almost super powered way to make a car go faster. A lot of the action is keyed around when the drivers hit the button that releases it. But overall, yeah, it’s a really similar movie to Point Break.

This Shouldn’t Have Worked

This was a low budget movie (for an action film) with a mostly unknown cast centered around a really niche type of lifestyle, released with almost no fanfare, that just chugged away at the box office. If you watch it now, especially in theaters, it has the quality of a classic film. Paul Walker has an almost Robert Redford like appearance. And Walker gives a performance far above what one would expect for a B film about car racing. Vin Diesel is never overly expressive even at the best of times but that style of acting just fits Dom Toretto’s character perfectly.

And while Michelle Rodriguez is great in this movie (as she is in most movies) the real chemistry here is between Diesel and Walker. They have a kind of mutual rivalry and respect thing going that you can just feel in this movie.

We know now this film kicks off a franchise where insane things start to happen on screen. We get to the point where physics don’t matter at all, people can survive nearly anything, and this little band of car thieves are somehow super spies. But we would not be able to get to a single bit of that if this first film had flopped.

This was in no way a flop. It was number one at the box office and beat out several other highly anticipated films to get there. The movie was made for $38 million but has made over $207 million. That’s a healthy profit from an unlikely film.

In Conclusion

I still think, in some ways, this film can be argued to be the best film in the Fast and Furious franchise. It’s full of heart, even if it is a copycat of another film. It also sticks fairly close to reality. While the car stunts are cool and impressive, it doesn’t feel like they are things that couldn’t happen. People get injured, and car crashes seem to leave people hurt in this movie. Bullets are lethal or at least dangerous. And the bit of romance/love interest stuff that goes on here is understated but necessary. We see both the heroes of the movie, Brian and Dom, do things that are heroic, even if they are committing crimes. It just feels like a classic movie that wasn’t meant to be anything but a good time at the theater where you get to enjoy your popcorn, see some cool stuff, and feel like it all ends the right way. And after all, isn’t that why we go to the movies in the first place?

While I don’t think anyone would call this film high art, it’s certainly a good time. And if you haven’t gone back to see where the beginning of all the madness happens in a while, I highly recommend you check this one out again.

Speedily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review – The Fantastic Four #14

The Fantastic Four Issue #14. Writer: Stan Lee, Artist: Jack Kirby

The last time we checked in with The Fantastic Four in their own series, they had defeated and enemy on the moon known as The Red Ghost. The FF are heading home expecting a heroes welcome as they’ve become the first people to successfully land on and return from the moon. This was years before it happened in reality so it was still anyone’s guess what would really be found there.

The first page gives us a small recap and then Ben Grimm says he wants to take over the controls of the ship, although Reed Richards brags he designed it to practically land itself.

Sure enough, as they land in New York, there is a huge mob of people there to cheer on the team. They were already notable as heroes and explorers in New York City but it seems this return trip solidifies their status as not only heroes but super celebrities. It’s depicted in the way one might expect The Beatles to have been greeted at the height of their fame. Reed Richards even has two rival fan clubs both desperately trying to touch him or maybe get a lock of his hair. Meanwhile, a super star wrestler named The Golden Angel challenges The Thing to a fight to the finish. The Thing just tosses this dude in a trash can and walks away. Sue Storm is badgered by people wanting her to sign Hollywood contracts or sell their deodorant on television. Lucky for her, she can just turn invisible. Johnny Storm sees the problem with the crowd here and makes a whirling tunnel of warm air which creates a vacuum of suction to get the team back to the Baxter building. This is clearly one of the sillier powers Johnny has displayed but I think as an audience we’re past caring about that sort of thing now.

The team goes back to their penthouse apartments and tries to get in a bit of relaxation time. Although, in the fashion of the day, Sue Storm says she’s going to, “do a little housecleaning” instead. Reed dictates his notes on the rocket fuel he invented for the trip and goes to find Sue to have her type them up. When he finds her, she’s taking a look at some of Reed’s cameras on the bottom of the sea. She immediately switches it off when Reed enters. Reed knows she’s hoping for a glimpse of The Sub-Mariner and then goes off feeling kinda sorry for himself. Sue brings the roving camera back to the Baxter Building.

Meanwhile, we see a mysterious man speaking with a doctor who says the man is cured. This man says he knew he was cured long ago but was waiting for the world to forget him. The man seems to have a vendetta against our heroes after he experienced a fall that people seemed to have thought killed him. He’s also planning to get a scapegoat to do the job for him. This person goes through a list of enemies The Fantastic Four have defeated before until he thinks of The Sub-Mariner. It turns out our mystery man is The Puppet Master. This is a person who can control others simply by making a clay sculpture out of them with his magic clay. And of course, he’s ready with a sculpture of Sub-Mariner.

Namor, The Sub-Mariner is looking for his lost people under the sea when he’s pulled away by a powerful force. It seems he’s compelled to do as Puppet Master asks. Namor then uses something called a, “Mento-fish” which can sense human thoughts ad transmit them to any point on earth through, “mental electro waves!” Yeah, I dunno, doesn’t make much sense to me either. Anyway, Namor uses this fish to call to Sue Storm. Thinking Namor is in distress, Sue goes to him. She sneaks past her team while invisible to do so, and thinks this meeting will at long last decide her feelings for Namor.

Sue meets Namor at a pier on the lower east side of New York. Namor uses a, “hypno-fish” to hypnotize Sue. The fish puts Sue in an air bubble and they go under the sea. Puppet Master decides not to put the FF under his control, figuring his revenge will be sweeter if they retain their free will. Namor then transmits a mental image to the remaining members of the superhero team to tell them he has Sue Storm. He basically dares them to come after her, which, of course, they do. Before setting out, Reed and Johnny go to deliver their secret files to the police commissioner and Ben goes to let Alicia know where he’ll be so she doesn’t worry.

When Ben gets to the building, he’s overcharged for parking. He agrees to let Alicia come along with him, and then Ben stacks up the cars in the parking lot so he can fly outta there. But off panel he says he put them back so I guess no harm done?

Reed has gotten the loan of a deep water diving vehicle so he can search for Namor and the group piles in to go find him. They have to evade some attacks set up by Namor, including sharp quills shooting at their vehicle and a whirling tornado of water. Johnny flames on with white hot flame to dissipate the tornado and nearly drowns until Reed saves him. Namor springs a final trap where the heroes get trapped in a giant clam and knocked out with chloroform gas the clam naturally produces. Yeah, not sure I believe any of that but we’ll just go with it. Namor brings them back to his headquarters.

Namor has a giant octopus guarding Sue who is inside a glass globule the octopus could probably crush. Reed realizes pretty quickly this behavior is not typical of Namor. He’s always professed his love for Sue so putting her in this kind of danger seems extreme even for him. Namor then challenges the heroes to fight him one by one. First up is Johnny. He’s defeated because Namor has a strange living undersea weapon that absorbs any kind of heat. The Thing sees the use of this weapon as cheating so he grabs Namor who easily gets away. Namor throws some kind of sea foam on Ben which hardens and traps him in place. But The Thing breaks out anyway. Reed Richards tangles Namor up in his stretchy arms, trapping him, as Ben goes to save Sue.

Ben Grimm tosses the octopus by the tentacles and saves Sue. He tells her to hold her breath as they swim through the water. And we get this super sexist gem from Stan Lee, as The Thing thinks, “First time I ever saw a female who could keep her mouth shut so long!” Yeah, I mean I know it was different times and all, but there are some real sexist gems dropped by Stan the man in these days.

The Puppet Master has been watching from afar in his own submarine. He ups the stakes by telling Namor he has to do more than defeat the FF, he has to slay them. Alicia seems to sense Puppet Master’s presence and lets Reed know what’s going on. Sub-Mariner grabs some deadly sea tubes which will release a poisonous gas but still hesitates because he doesn’t want to harm Sue. Namor does eventually release the gas but also realizes he’s being controlled. Luckily for everyone involved, Reed put on special, “flex-o-gen” masks on the team and Alicia so they wouldn’t breathe in the fumes. Reed, Ben and Johnny all want to clobber Namor but Sue stops them, telling them she knows he’s under some kind of influence.

Remember the octopus The Thing threw? So that finds The Puppet Master’s submarine and attacks it. Puppet Master tries to carve a clay sculpture of it to control it but apparently the octopus doesn’t have enough of a brain for it to be controlled. This breaks the control on Sub-Mariner and the team have to escape because a hole in the dome of Namor’s place is letting in water. Johnny fixes it and Namor thinks he’s been invaded by the Fantastic Four. He sees Sue and asks if she’s come to share his underwater kingdom. She tells him no, that her loyalties are with Reed. But she keeps open the love triangle by saying her heart has not made a final choice yet. It honestly makes you feel a little bad for Reed here since he’s made it pretty clear he is in love with Sue. Namor does let them go because he wants to go back to looking for his lost people. Sue still hopes he’ll someday be their friend and we end the issue with the promise that the Fantastic Four are about to head for one of the most bizarre adventures of all time in the next issue.

With an issue about telepathic fish, people who live under the sea, and a dude who can control minds through clay, saying the next issue will be bizarre is a pretty bold statement here.

It’s still early days in the Marvel 616 universe here but it’s always great to see a good villain come back. And in this one there are two worthy villains. For one, the team isn’t certain Puppet Master is actually back, although we as the audience know he is. And secondly, the love triangle between Namor, Reed and Sue is always interesting. Namor is a compelling character in that he never quite crosses the line to total villain (at least in the eyes of the Fantastic Four) but he’s not an outright hero either. One gets the impression with him that if Sue Storm was not around, the Fantastic Four could be in real trouble from him.

The way villains keep returning in Marvel 616 comics really helps build out the universe and makes it feel like things are happening all over even when we’re not reading the comics. It takes a while before there’s a great connection between everything but the building blocks are definitely starting to shape up.

Next up on the reading list, we’ll be getting small again with Ant-Man in the pages of Tales to Astonish #43!

The Only Way to Get Started With Star Wars

The first Star Wars film was Star Wars: A New Hope debuting 1977

Hello internet, it’s Slick Dungeon here!

This week marks a special treat for Star Wars fans. I, myself, am a huuuge Star Wars fan so I’m pretty pumped about the fact that Return of the Jedi is playing in my area. For those of us who are big Star Wars fans this is something fun to go do and we always get a kick out of seeing some of our favorite films back in theaters. But, what I realized recently after talking to someone who has never seen any of the Star Wars movies is if you are new to Star Wars you might have no idea where to start.

I’m the type of Star Wars fan who loves it all. Yes, even that one that you’ve heard is terrible, or that other thing people are arguing about online. I find at least some entertainment value in everything Star Wars I have ever consumed. Yes, including that other one you heard not even Star Wars fans like. I like it. What this means is I have a pretty big base of knowledge when it comes to my favorite fandom. And that makes me the perfect person to guide someone who is overwhelmed by the sheer amount of Star Wars out there. You may not know how to begin and feel like there is so much media, it’s pointless to even try.

Well, good news if that’s you. I have you covered. I’m going to throw a lot of information at you here but if you stick with me through this post I’ll tell you the only way to get started with Star Wars.

I’m going to go through what Star Wars has to offer in all kinds of media, including film, television, books, video games and more. I’ll focus on the films mostly because that’s how 90% of people are introduced into the storylines but if you’d rather see what there is in the way of books, games, or whatever, I’m going to throw those in there as well.

The MOvies

As of this writing there are eleven live action films that have been released and it can be daunting to figure out what order to watch them in. There is an original trilogy, a prequel trilogy, a sequel trilogy and two spin off movies which don’t have to be watched to get the larger context but can be fun to fill in gaps. There is also an animated movie that debuted in theaters but doesn’t really belong in the list when you’re first trying to watch the main story. We’ll cover that one in the television section.

With these films there are two basic ways to watch. One way is in release order, as in, you watch them based on what year the film released. The other way is in chronological order. This would be going through the movies by episode number, with the spin offs squeezed in roughly around the time periods they would happen in the larger storyline.

With either method, the spin offs are technically optional, but I still recommend watching them.

Also, there are a couple of other methods some Star Wars fans use to watch the movies but that’s more advanced level watching so I’m just sticking to the two methods here.

Chronological Order

If you watch the movies in chronological order you get a fairly linear storyline and it’s pretty easy to follow the events in the films. It won’t be hard to keep track of the characters and you’ll know who the good guys and bad guys are. The problem with this method is it’s not very adventurous and it will make what would have been original twists in the movies seem like mundane facts everyone should know. I’ll give you the chronological order but I will say it is not my recommended way of watching for the first time.

  1. Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  2. Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  3. Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  4. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  6. Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope
  7. Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  8. Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  9. Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  10. Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
  11. Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Release Order

Using the release order method you’ll feel like you were dropped into the middle of an episodic drama where there is missing information but you’ll still get a sense of the larger story. As you go through all of the films, many of the gaps will be filled in and a lot of the drama is intensified. It’s the way us original Star Wars fans saw them after years of speculating what would happen while we waited for the next installment. There are plot holes the size of a spaceship in some of these movies but they get filled in eventually either with other films in the series or through television, comic books, novels, and other media. Watching in release order will allow the viewer to have a lot more questions about the story and the twists and turns are a lot more fun to see unfold this way. I highly recommend using this method if you are new.

  1. Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  3. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  4. Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  5. Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  6. Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  7. Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  8. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  9. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
  10. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  11. Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker


It used the be the case the only way to consume Star Wars was through film. Then came novelizations, comic books and video games. But recently there is a new Star Wars phenomena. Television. There are live action shows and animated shows. These shows take place during different periods in the larger storyline but in general, the television shows tend to fill in gaps in time between films. If you put the films and shows together, you start to get a massive storyline with hours and hours of stuff to watch. You can, in fact, just watch the television shows if you want to and not see the films. But, if you do that, you’re missing the most vital part of the story. While I don’t recommend it to someone new to Star Wars, television can be an entry point. I’m going to list the shows here and tell you how they fit in with the movies. Some shows are better than others but it also depends on what kind of show you like. There are shows full of action and cameos and fun easter eggs for hardcore fans. There are also shows that are slow burn character dramas. Whatever you like in the way of television, you can probably find a Star Wars show that fits your preferences.

I’ll give you the list of live action shows and the list of animated shows. As a rule of thumb the live action shows tend to lean toward a more adult audience and the animated shows are geared a bit more towards the younger crowd. There’s really only one show on here, Andor which you might think twice before showing to kids. Everything else is generally family friendly, depending on your viewing preferences.

Live Action Television Shows

  1. Obi-Wan Kenobi – This focuses on a singular character and takes place between Solo: A Star Wars Story and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
  2. Andor – This also focuses on a singular character and it’s more of a slow burn character drama. It takes place after Obi Wan Kenobi but it is also between Solo: A Star Wars Story and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
  3. Star Wars: Holiday Special – This was a live action holiday special variety show George Lucas was contractually obligated to make. Not recommended to anyone but a superfan and it’s hard to find. It takes place between Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope and Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.
  4. Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure – This is actually a movie made for television in the 1980’s and it takes place on the planet Endor which is featured in the movie Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. It’s made for kids and has a bit of a cult following but definitely looks like it was made in the 1980’s for television. It takes place after Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back but before Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.
  5. Ewoks: The Battle for Endor – This is a sequel to Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure. It was also made for television and takes place in the same time period as the first Ewok movie.
  6. The Mandalorian – The most well known of all the live action shows. This is the one that stars Pedro Pascal and if you are going to start watching Star Wars through a television series, this would be my recommended entry point. It takes place between Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens. It connects to the larger stories but you can follow this story without knowing a lot about Star Wars to begin with.
  7. The Book of Bobba Fett – This show has strong connections to The Mandalorian and they tie in together but the focus of this show is on a character from the movies. This takes place in the same relative time period as The Mandalorian.

Some of these shows are better than others but as I said above, the best entry point in TV shows for a new fan is far and away The Mandalorian. There is some question as to whether numbers 3, 4, and 5 on the list above count as “cannon” to the main story. I included them just because they are live action shows you could watch. One thing to make clear here is that you do not have to watch any of these shows for the films to make sense. Instead, the shows tend to do the job of filling in story gaps for the movies rather than being a launchpad for any of the films.

Animated Television Shows

  1. Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles – A fun, silly show perfect for young kids and Lego enthusiasts. It talks about things in the movies but doesn’t count towards the larger story.
  2. Lego Star Wars: The Padawan Menace – Similar to the above, this is a silly Lego version that relates to Episode I but is not actually part of the main story. Lots of fun to watch.
  3. Star Wars: The Clone Wars – This is an animated film which takes place between Episode II and Episode III. The movie itself wasn’t well received but it is the official start to the fantastic animated series The Clone Wars.
  4. The Clone Wars – This is a series that ran from 2008 – 2014. It’s a great show full of intense action and intriguing drama. This is not only great for kids but adults can find a lot of value in this show as well. It does a great job filling in a lot of the blanks between Episode II and Episode III and really adds context to the story. If you are going to begin watching Star Wars through animated television, I highly recommend starting with this series.
  5. Star Wars: The Bad Batch – This is a series that follows The Clone Wars which focuses on a few characters. It’s still going on but it started in 2021. I don’t recommend watching it until you have seen The Clone Wars but once you have seen that one, it’s a great follow up.
  6. Star Wars Rebels – This is a Disney series that takes place between Episode III and Episode IV. It shows the beginnings of the rebellion we see in Episode IV but it doesn’t focus on the characters from that film. The animation leaves a bit to be desired but the storylines are great and it’s definitely a good one for kids.
  7. Star Wars Droids – This was a cartoon from the 1980s and it focuses on the droids from the Star Wars films. It takes place between Episode III and Episode IV but doesn’t really count towards the larger story. It’s fun to watch if you like 80’s cartoons but otherwise, definitely skippable.
  8. Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out – Another Lego movie, pretty fun and it obviously lampoons Episode V but again, doesn’t count towards the larger story.
  9. Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – This was a series that aired from 2016-2017. It’s a bit of an outlier in that it is a Lego show that is episodic. At one point it was supposed to count towards the larger story but it doesn’t really fit. It’s still a fun watch, especially for kids, though.
  10. Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales – This is another Lego special which focuses on the droids. And again, like the other Lego shows doesn’t really count for the whole story but is sure fun to watch.
  11. Ewoks – This was the partner show to Star Wars Droids in the 1980s. This show focuses on the furry creatures known as Ewoks from Episode VI. I liked it as a kid but this probably doesn’t hold up that well compared to other cartoons of the time.
  12. Star Wars Resistance – This is an animated series that takes place between Episode VI and Episode VII and focuses on a group of pilots. It’s a fun show but definitely geared towards the younger crowd. It does follow a bit of a story similar to how The Clone Wars, The Bad Batch, and Rebels do.
  13. Lego Star Wars: The Resistance Rises – Another Lego special. This takes place just before Episode VII but again doesn’t count towards the larger story.

I’ve left off several shows that are either upcoming, anthology series, or don’t count as cannon to the story. Those have their merits but most of the ones on the list above are worth watching (although if you hate Lego stuff don’t watch those). For my money, the best shows to watch on this list are The Clone Wars, The Bad Batch, and Rebels. The rest are fun but those three have really engaging stories and there is some top notch animation in Clone Wars and Bad Batch. If you want to start watching Star Wars with animated series, I strongly recommend starting with Star Wars: The Clone Wars and then watching the follow up The Clone Wars series.

Video Games

Video games are a bit tougher to categorize. In order to give you all the possible games you could play that were related to Star Wars in some way, I’d have to practically give you a history of video game consoles. Instead, I will keep this simple and just include the ones that are now considered cannon. Just know there are a whole lot more games I could have put here.

  1. Star Wars Battlefront 2 (2017) – This one is a cannon game. It’s a fun game and it does count toward the larger story though you don’t have to play it to understand the movies. It’s basically a first person shooter in space.
  2. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – This is an action adventure style game which focuses on a character who is not in the movies but does fill in some gaps between Episode III and Episode IV. It’s not only a great Star Wars game, it’s a great game. If you want to start your Star Wars journey with a video game, I recommend this one.
  3. Vader Immortal: A Star Wars Series – This is a virtual reality game where it tells a little side story about someone Darth Vader hires. But mostly it’s fun because you get to pretend to swing around a lightsaber.
  4. Star Wars Battlefront (2015) – This is fourth on the list, after Star Wars Battlefront because the main story happens in a time period later in the Star Wars universe. But technically both games cover multiple time periods so it’s a little confusing. Also, this is actually a reboot of a different Star Wars Battlefront just to make it even more confusing. But like the other one on this list, it’s an FPS style game with a bit of story that relates to the movies.
  5. Star Wars Squadrons – This is a space battle game where you get to fly different kinds of ships and blow stuff up. It’s got a decent story as well. It’s a fun game but I wouldn’t recommend starting here as an entry point.
  6. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor – This is the sequel to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and it counts toward the story. I wouldn’t play this one without playing the first one but this is the newest Star Wars game out there. The gameplay is fun and the story is as interesting as the first one (though I have not played to the end yet)

There are a few more games slated to come out but I won’t get into those here. If you just have to get started with Star Wars through video games, then I definitely recommend Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. But if you love FPS games, the Battlefront ones are good too.


There are soooo many Star Wars books out there. Broadly they can be divided into two types, Cannon and Legends. Cannon means they count towards the current Star Wars stories. Legends means they once did but no longer do, or were written as something as a fun book but not meant to count towards the bigger story. To save us from the longest blogpost in human history, I am going to just put the Cannon books here. There are tons of Legends books I recommend people read but it really helps if you’re familiar with Star Wars at large before diving into those.

Also, there are many eras in the Star Wars timeline. The one that goes farthest back is called The High Republic. The thing with these books is they are coming out in phases and we are currently on phase 2. And in Star Wars tradition, phase 2 jumps even further back in time than phase 1. So I am putting these in order by chronology, not phases. Just know there are more books to come for phase 2.

The High Republic Phase 2

  1. The High Republic: Path of Deceit
  2. The High Republic: Convergence
  3. The High Republic: The Battle of Jedha
  4. The High Republic: Cataclysm
  5. The High Republic: Path of Vengeance

I wish I could tell you what all those books are about but I have not yet read them. (Watch this blog for reviews on them eventually) But I can tell you these books do not focus on the characters from the movies with the exception of a character named Yoda. If you know nothing about Star Wars and want to start with the books to get the story from the very beginning, these are the ones to start with. They are a mix of books made for adults and kids though. And one of them is an audio drama. What I like about the High Republic books is they tell a big, connected story, but you get different types of media to enjoy it in.

The High Republic Phase 1

  1. The High Republic: Light of the Jedi
  2. The High Republic: Into the Dark
  3. The High Republic: The Rising Storm
  4. The High Republic: Out Of The Shadows
  5. The High Republic: Tempest Runner
  6. Star Wars Insider: The High Republic: Starlight Stories
  7. The High Republic: The Fallen Star
  8. The High Republic: Midnight Horizon
  9. The High Republic: Tales of Light and Life

Again I have not read all of these but what I have read so far I have enjoyed. If you want a real Star Wars experience without watching the movies, read phase 1 first and then read phase 2 which is the order they were released in.

Fall of the Jedi Era

  1. Padawan
  2. Master & Apprentice
  3. Queen’s Peril
  4. Queen’s Shadow
  5. Dooku: Jedi Lost
  6. Queen’s Hope
  7. Brotherhood
  8. The Clone Wars Anthology: Stories of Light and Dark
  9. Dark Disciple
  10. Thrawn: Ascendancy: Chaos Rising

This era takes place just before and during Episodes I, II, and III. You’ll notice I’ve left out the novelizations of the films on this list. That’s for two reasons. First, they are constantly printing new books so where those go in the list of books is constantly changing. Second, you may only want to read and not watch the movies, in which case you wouldn’t be interested in the novelization of the films. The movies are meant to be experienced visually first.

This is one of the most interesting eras in Star Wars as wars are burgeoning and plots are being hatched in the shadows which will lead to a calamity of war and destruction.

Reign of the Empire Era

  1. Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good
  2. Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil
  3. Ahsoka
  4. Inquisitor: Rise of the Red Blade
  5. Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel
  6. Lords of the Sith
  7. Tarkin
  8. Most Wanted
  9. Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars
  10. A New Dawn
  11. Crimson Climb

This era is set between Episodes III and IV. Things start to take a darker turn here as a new power rises in the galaxy but with this rise also comes rebellion against those in control.

Age of Rebellion Era

  1. Leia: Princess of Alderaan
  2. Thrawn
  3. Thrawn: Alliances
  4. Thrawn: Treason
  5. Guardians of the Whills
  6. Rebel Rising
  7. Rogue One
  8. From A Certain Point of View
  9. Battlefront II: Inferno Squad
  10. Smuggler’s Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure
  11. Heir to the Jedi
  12. The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure
  13. Doctor Aphra: An Audiobook Original
  14. From A Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back
  15. Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure
  16. Battlefront: Twilight Company

These books take place in and around the time of the first three movies released. You have an evil empire in control with a small band of rebel fighters trying to overcome the powers that be. It’s my favorite era of Star Wars.

New Republic Era

  1. The Princess and the Scoundrel
  2. Alphabet Squadron
  3. Aftermath
  4. Alphabet Squadron: Shadow Fall
  5. Aftermath: Life Debt
  6. Aftermath: Empire’s End
  7. Alphabet Squadron: Victory’s Price
  8. Lost Stars
  9. Last Shot
  10. Poe Dameron: Free Fall
  11. Shadow of the Sith
  12. Bloodline

This era happens between Episode VI and Episode VII. It focuses on a time where it looks like the good guys have won but there are secret plans for a new evil power to rise. It’s one of the less explored eras in Star Wars which makes it pretty fun.

Rise of the First Order Era

  1. Force Collector
  2. Phasma
  3. Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens
  4. Before the Awakening
  5. The Legends of Luke Skywalker
  6. Canto Bight
  7. Cobalt Squadron
  8. Resistance Reborn
  9. Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire
  10. Galaxy’s Edge: A Crash of Fate

These books take place before and during the so called sequel saga which comprises Episodes VII, VIII and IX. There is still a lot of territory to explore here so I am sure we’ll see more books to fill in here.

As you can see, there is no shortage of printed material to choose from when it comes to Star Wars. Most of the stories are self contained but connect to the larger story. You don’t have to read any of them to get into the movies. As far as quality of the writing goes, it varies, as does the subject matter. These are all generally kid friendly but some of them are slower and some of them are non-stop action. If you like to read, Star Wars will provide you with hours and hours of reading material.

Comic Books

I love a good comic book. And if it’s a good Star Wars comic book? Sign me up! There are tons of series out there and like the books they fall into legends and cannon. I’m only going to list the series that are cannon here. I’ll do my best to list them in order chronologically to the story, but these tend to jump around a bit. Pro Star Wars comics reading tip though – my favorite way to read this is to throw on the Star Wars soundtracks on a loop as I read them. That just makes it feel more like the films and gives me that good ol’ Star Wars movie vibe.

The High Republic Phase 2

  1. Star Wars: The High Republic Phase II Vol. 1 – Balance of the Force
  2. The High Republic: The Edge of Balance: Precedent

These are still being released so there’s not too much to catch up on here. It takes place thousands of years before most of the events in the movies.

The High Republic Phase 1

  1. Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures, Vol. 1
  2. Star Wars: The High Republic Vol. 1: There is No Fear 
  3. Star Wars: The High Republic: The Edge of Balance, Vol. 1
  4. Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures, Vol. 2
  5. The High Republic: Trail of Shadows
  6. Star Wars: The High Republic Vol. 2: The Heart of Drengir
  7. The High Republic: The Edge of Balance Vol. 2
  8. The High Republic Vol. 3: Jedi’s End

These are all a fun read but again, not really connected to the movies… yet.

The Fall of the Jedi Era

  1. Star Wars: Age Of Republic – Qui-Gon Jinn #1 
  2. Darth Maul
  3. Star Wars: Age Of Republic – Darth Maul #1 
  4. Star Wars: Age Of Republic Special #1 
  5. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Graphic Novel Adaptation
  6. Star Wars: Age Of Republic – Obi-Wan Kenobi #1
  7. Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin
  8. Star Wars: Age Of Republic – Jango Fett #1
  9. Star Wars: Age Of Republic – Count Dooku #1
  10. Star Wars: Attack of the Clones Graphic Novel Adaptation
  11. Jedi of the Republic: Mace Windu
  12. Star Wars: Age Of Republic – Anakin Skywalker #1
  13. Star Wars Adventures: The Clone Wars – Battle Tales
  14. Star Wars: Age Of Republic Special #1
  15. Star Wars: Age Of Republic – General Grievous #1
  16. Forces of Destiny: Ahsoka & Padmé #1
  17. Star Wars: Age Of Republic Special #1
  18. Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir
  19. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005))

You’ll notice here that I did put in the movie adaptations. That’s because in my opinion the comics do a great job of translating the films, better than the novels do. But, if you don’t want to read those, feel free to skip and watch the movies instead!

Reign of the Empire

  1. Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 1: Imperial Machine
  2. Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 2: Legacy’s End
  3. Age of Rebellion: Darth Vader #1
  4. Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 3: The Burning Seas
  5. Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 4: Fortress Vader
  6. Jedi: Fallen Order: Dark Temple
  7. Han Solo: Imperial Cadet
  8. Lando: Double or Nothing
  9. Star Wars: Solo Graphic Novel Adaptation
  10. Star Wars: Han Solo & Chewbacca Vol. 1: The Crystal Run

Age of Rebellion

  1. Star Wars: Age Of Resistance Special #1
  2. Star Wars Rebels Manga Vol. 1
  3. Star Wars Rebels Manga Vol. 2
  4. Star Wars Rebels Manga Vol. 3 
  5. Kanan Vol. 1: The Last Padawan
  6. Kanan Vol. 2: First Blood
  7. Forces of Destiny: Hera #1
  8. Leia, Princess of Alderaan Vol. 1
  9. Rogue One: Cassian & K-2SO Special
  10. Star Wars: Thrawn
  11. Vader: Dark Visions
  12. Star Wars: Obi-Wan — A Jedi’s Purpose
  13. Star Wars Adventures: Tales From Vader’s Castle
  14. Star Wars Adventures: Return to Vader’s Castle
  15. Guardians of the Whills: The Manga
  16. Star Wars: Age Of Rebellion Special #1 
  17. Star Wars: Rogue One Adaptation
  18. Star Wars: A New Hope Graphic Novel Adaptation (Star Wars Movie Adaptations)
  19. Age of Rebellion: Grand Moff Tarkin #1
  20. Princess Leia
  21. Star Wars Adventures: Smuggler’s Run
  22. Age of Rebellion: Han Solo #1
  23. Chewbacca
  24. Han Solo
  25. Star Wars: Age Of Resistance Special #1 
  26. Target Vader
  27. Star Wars: Age Of Rebellion Special #1 
  28. Star Wars Adventures: The Weapon of a Jedi
  29. Star Wars (2015) Annual #4 
  30. Star Wars Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes
  31. Darth Vader Vol. 1: Vader
  32. Star Wars Vol. 2: Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon
  33. Darth Vader Vol. 2: Shadows and Secrets
  34. Vader Down
  35. Star Wars Vol. 3: Rebel Jail
  36. Darth Vader Vol. 3: The Shu-Torun War
  37. Darth Vader Vol. 4: End of Games
  38. Star Wars Vol. 4: The Last Flight of the Harbinger
  39. Doctor Aphra Vol. 1: Aphra
  40. Star Wars Vol. 5: Yoda’s Secret War
  41. The Screaming Citadel
  42. Doctor Aphra Vol. 2: Doctor Aphra and The Enormous Profit
  43. Star Wars Vol. 6: Out Among the Stars
  44. Star Wars: The Last Jedi – The Storms Of Crait #1
  45. Doctor Aphra Annual #2
  46. Lando
  47. Star Wars Vol. 7: The Ashes of Jedha
  48. Star Wars Vol. 8: Mutiny at Mon Cala
  49. Doctor Aphra Vol. 3: Remastered
  50. Doctor Aphra Vol. 4: The Catastrophe Con
  51. Doctor Aphra Vol. 5: Worst Among Equals
  52. Star Wars Vol. 9: Hope Dies
  53. Star Wars Vol. 10: The Escape
  54. Star Wars Vol. 11: The Scourging of Shu-Torun
  55. Doctor Aphra Vol. 6: Unspeakable Rebel Superweapon
  56. Age of Rebellion: Lando Calrissian #1
  57. Star Wars Vol. 12: Rebels and Rogues
  58. Star Wars Vol. 13: Rogues and Rebels
  59. Doctor Aphra Vol. 7: A Rogue’s End
  60. Age of Rebellion: Boba Fett #1
  61. Age of Rebellion: Jabba the Hutt #1
  62. Star Wars: Age Of Rebellion Special #1
  63. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Graphic Novel Adaptation
  64. Lost Stars Vol. 1
  65. Star Wars Vol. 1: The Destiny Path
  66. Darth Vader Vol. 1: Dark Heart of the Sith
  67. Bounty Hunters Vol. 1: Galaxy’s Deadliest
  68. Doctor Aphra Vol. 1: Fortune and Fate
  69. Darth Vader Vol. 2: Into the Fire
  70. Star Wars Vol. 2: Operation Starlight
  71. Bounty Hunters Vol. 2: Target Valance
  72. Doctor Aphra Vol. 2: The Engine Job
  73. War of the Bounty Hunters
  74. War of the Bounty Hunters Companion
  75. Darth Vader Vol. 3: War of the Bounty Hunters
  76. Star Wars Vol. 3: War of the Bounty Hunters
  77. Bounty Hunters Vol. 3: War of the Bounty Hunters
  78. Doctor Aphra Vol. 3: War of the Bounty Hunters
  79. Star Wars: Crimson Reign
  80. Star Wars Vol. 4: Crimson Reign
  81. Darth Vader Vol. 4: Crimson Reign
  82. Doctor Aphra Vol. 4: Crimson Reign
  83. Bounty Hunters Vol. 4: Crimson Reign
  84. Star Wars Vol. 5: The Path to Victory
  85. Doctor Aphra Vol. 5 — The Spark Eternal 
  86. Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 5 — The Shadow’s Shadow
  87. Star Wars: Bounty Hunters Vol. 5 — The Raid on the Vermillion
  88. Lost Stars Vol. 2
  89. Age of Rebellion: Luke Skywalker #1
  90. Age of Rebellion: Princess Leia #1
  91. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Graphic Novel Adaptation
  92. TIE Fighter

I know this is a looong list. But remember, comics are fast, light reads. And while I enjoy most of these, I think the Darth Vader and Dr. Aphra comics are some of the best comics (not just Star Wars comics) I have ever read. You definitely don’t have to read them all but a lot of them interconnect and make the stories more fun.

The New Republic

  1. Star Wars Adventures: Shadow of Vader’s Castle #1
  2. Star Wars Adventures: Ghosts of Vader’s Castle
  3. Shattered Empire
  4. Lost Stars Volume 3
  5. Star Wars: The Mandalorian Vol. 1: Season One Part One
  6. Star Wars: The Mandalorian Vol. 2 – Season One, Part Two
  7. The Legends of Luke Skywalker: The Manga
  8. The Rise of Kylo Ren
  9. Life Day #1

As you can see from the short length of this list, this is some of the less explored territory in the Star Wars timeline. There are some great stories here and anything with The Mandalorian is usually worth a look.

Rise of the First Order

  1. Age of Resistance: Supreme Leader Snoke #1
  2. Age of Resistance: Captain Phasma #1 
  3. Age of Resistance: Finn #1 
  4. Age of Resistance: General Hux #1
  5. Age of Resistance: Kylo Ren #1
  6. Age of Resistance: Rose Tico #1
  7. Star Wars Adventures: Destroyer Down
  8. Age of Resistance: Poe Dameron #1 
  9. Poe Dameron Vol. 1: Black Squadron
  10. Age of Resistance Special #1 
  11. Poe Dameron Vol. 2: The Gathering Storm
  12. Poe Dameron Vol. 3: Legend Lost
  13. Poe Dameron Vol. 4: Legend Found
  14. Star Wars: The Force Awakens Graphic Novel Adaptation
  15. Captain Phasma
  16. The Last Jedi: DJ #1
  17. Age of Resistance: Rey #1
  18. Star Wars: The Last Jedi Graphic Novel Adaptation
  19. Poe Dameron Vol. 5: The Spark and the Fire
  20. Allegiance
  21. Galaxy’s Edge
  22. Halcyon Legacy
  23. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Graphic Novel Adaptation

These are decent comics but most of them are here just to get the audience geared up and excited for the sequel trilogy movies.

I think comic books can be a great way to get into Star Wars. If you’re not going to go with the movies, I think comics are the next best avenue for exploring the universe.

Tabletop Role Playing Games

This list would be incomplete without me at least mentioning some Table Top Role Playing Games (TTRPGs). If you are not into movies, video games, books or comic books, you can still enjoy the Star Wars universe. It certainly helps to at least have seen the movies but it’s not a requirement if you want to play these.

  1. Star Wars: Edge of the Empire
  2. Star Wars: Age of Rebellion
  3. Star Wars: Force and Destiny

There are a bunch more Star Wars TTRPG’s than these but these three are pretty easy to find and get a group together to play. They let you be in charge of the story. It’s a lot like playing Dungeons & Dragons, only it’s in the Star Wars universe. I’ve spent a lot of hours playing these so I won’t bore you with the details but the only real difference between the three is at what time period in the Star Wars universe these things happen. I recommend them all if you do like TTRPGs.

The ONly Way to Get Started with sTar Wars

I’ve hit you with a lot of information here and you’re probably wanting me to get right to the point. Well, here’s the thing, there are tons of ways to get into Star Wars. I strongly suggest watching the movies in release order to begin with. But if you would rather read, watch TV shows or play video games, that’s totally fine. There is no wrong way to get into Star Wars.

So what’s the only way to get started with Star Wars? The way you want to! You might take a look and not like it at all. That’s totally fine. Some of the stuff on here is not for everyone’s taste. But I hope you give it a shot with one or more of the myriad avenues available to you. If you do get into Star Wars, I’ll have plenty to talk about with you.

Expect more Star Wars related content to pop up on this blog. If that’s not for you, no worries, I’ll still blog about other stuff.

Until then,

May the Force be with you!

Scream VI (Spoilers) – Movie Review

Ghostface returns in Scream VI

Hello horror fans and slasher stans, it’s Slick Dungeon here! I finally made it out to the theater to see the sixth installment of the Scream franchise. This review is full of spoilers for Scream VI with possible spoilers for every previous Scream movie. If you haven”t seen this movie yet, you may not want to read this post. But if you’d like to see in depth reviews of the other Scream films you can do so here – ScreamScream 2Scream 3Scream 4Scream 5. And you can check out my spoiler free review of Scream VI right here.

Scream VI in Historical Context

Scream introduced us to meta criticism in the first film. The second and third films expanded that technique when applied to sequels. The fourth Scream movie got into remakes and reboots and the fifth Scream took us on a tour of what a “requel” was and wha that meant. Scream 5 was generally positively reviewed and took home a healthy amount of box office. This may have been more than could be expected for the film considering this is the first one where Wes Craven could not take part. The movie brought back some main characters but more importantly introduced us to a few new ones who were set to essentially take over the franchise.

And franchise is the operative word here. Scream VI is giving us a take on what it means to be a franchise and how that can both hurt and help art. Yet. at its core, this is still a slasher film.

This also moves our characters from the more familiar territory of the fictional Woodsboro to the real world environment of New York City. (Although as many movies set here do, this one was mostly filmed in Canada)

Probably the most famous incident of a horror franchise going to New York was Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. While that movie franchise really needed something fresh to make it work, the majority of that film takes place on a boat with only a minimal amount of action happening in New York at all. It’s not the best of the Jason movies but it can be fun to watch on a lark on occasion.

So Scream VI plays into that right off by switching the standard Arabic numbers in the title with Roman numerals. The filmmakers are already daring us to call this Ghostface takes Manhattan. And in a nice bit of logo design they use the last part of the M in Scream to make the symbol in blood red font.

There was a ton of pressure here for the film to do well for a few reasons. First, if this failed, what was the point of even making another Scream? Second, our main hero of the whole franchise, Sidney Prescott herself, Neve Campbell could not return for this film. She made it clear to the filmmakers this was a business decision and nothing personal. Simply put, it seems the studio was not willing to give Neve Campbell her due. This decision not to pay Campbell well is baffling considering how central she is to the whole franchise. This meant that Scream VI not only had to carry over new characters, it had to make sure these characters were interesting, and they couldn’t bring back the biggest star of the show for the film. It was uncertain if a Scream film could work at all without Sidney Prescott.

So, did the film succeed in what it was trying to do? Or, was it another wasted attempt to keep a film franchise fresh by moving locations and hoping for the best? Let’s dig in and find out.

Spoilers follow below!

The Cold Open

Every Scream film starts with a phone call. This one starts with a text on a dating app. We see Laura Crane (Samara Weaving) nervously waiting for a date to show up at a bar in Manhattan. She gets a message her date is lost. She does her best to describe the bar she’s at and where it is over the app. But then her date asks if he can call her. Laura has to decide if she trusts this guy enough to talk to him or just call it a night. It’s a horror film so, of course, she takes the call. We hear her talk to her date who seems sweet enough but just lost. He starts asking for descriptions of the place as he tries to figure out what street he is on and they get into what Laura does for a living. She’s a film professor who has expert knowledge on slasher films.

Despite her expert knowledge, and the fact she is a woman living in a city where women need to be on their guard, Laura goes outside to look for her date who says he thinks he sees the place. Laura walks into a deserted alley when the voice on the phone changes to that of Ghostface. He pops out of nowhere and stabs Laura.

Normally this might be where a Scream opening would end. But in this one, Ghostface removes his mask. This is absolutely unheard of in these movies. We’ve only ever seen Ghostface revealed when the third act happens. This gives us the impression we might see the movie from an entirely new point of view. That of the killer.

The man behind the mask puts the costume away in a backpack and walks down the street as if nothing happened. This person is Jason Carvey (Tony Revolori). On his way home, Jason bumps into Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) and speaks to her. They clearly know each other from class and are on friendly terms with one another. Again, this gives the impression we’re going to know way more than we usually do about the killer in a typical Scream film.

When Jason gets back to his home we see he has a shrine to Stab and Ghostface. He gets a call from his roommate Greg. He admits to Greg he was a bit overeager and wanted to “practice” before the main show. But, this is not Greg, it’s Ghostface. Jason tells what he thinks is Greg that Laura became less and less human to him the more he stabbed her. That she was like a piece of meat to him. Eventually Ghostface asks this guy to play a game with him. The game this time is not movie trivia, it’s hot or cold. The man gets hotter as he gets to the refrigerator where he opens the door to reveal a very dismembered Greg.

Jason is then stabbed. Ghostface asks if Jason feels like a piece of meat. Jason wants to know about the “movie” he and Greg were going to make and Ghostface says, “Who gives a f–k about the movies?”

That line right there had me intrigued. We’ve never seen a Ghostface who doesn’t, in some way, care about the movies. I saw the potential for this movie to go about a thousand ways here, including someone who had maybe never even seen a Stab movie just wanting to kill people who have done real world violence in the name of Stab movies. We’ll get more into whether or not this line makes actual sense later in this review but this is where my head was at when I saw this the first time. I was exceptionally intrigued here.

We then cut to the title screen for Scream VI.

A Tale of Two Sisters

We go back to the party where Tara is having a bit too much fun. She’s past the point of good judgement and seems way too willing to go upstairs with a guy she just met. But, lucky for Tara, she has friends in the vicinity. These friends include Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding), her new roommate Quinn Bailey (Liana Libereto) and Chad’s new roommate Ethan Landry (Jack Champion). Chad warns Tara not to go anywhere with a stranger but Tara doesn’t want to live her life based on what happened to her over three days a year ago.

Meanwhile, Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) has taken steps to process through her trauma. She has been going through therapy, taking medication, and trying to confront the fact that not only does she come from a lineage of killers but understand how she felt in touch with some of her darker feelings when she defended herself and killed Richie in the last movie. In fact, Sam is so intense in this that she’s been unable to keep a therapist who is willing to work with her.

Sam eventually meets up with Tara at the party just as Chad is pulling Tara out of a bad situation. Sam gets into a bit of an argument with someone who throws a drink at her. Sam, justifiably yells back at the person but the whole thing is caught on film. It seems there has been an internet conspiracy in the last year saying Sam was the real killer in Woodsboro and making Richie out to be a hero. It’s obvious this footage will not look good for Sam but she was simply defending her sister.

Tara is annoyed at how overprotective Sam has become but considering what happened in the past, it’s hard to blame Sam.

We also find out Mindy has found some happiness with a new girlfriend Anika Kayoko (Devyn Nekoda). Chad is a good friend to his roommate Ethan and what Chad dubs as “the core four” from the last movie are living relatively happy lives. But we know this can’t last for long.

A Detective Bailey (Dermot Mulroney) calls Sam into questioning because her ID was found at the scene of Jason’s death, along with a Ghostface mask worn in the previous attack. This detective is also Quinn’s father. Things are starting again and as the audience we know there is no stopping it.

Some Familiar fAces Return

On the way to the station, Sam gets a call from Richie’s phone. She apparently never deleted his contact from her phone and, of course, the voice on the other end is that of Ghostface. Ghostface then jumps out and attacks Tara. Sam and Tara make their way into a local bodega where several New Yorkers try to help the sisters but they all end up dead. This Ghostface is fine with killing in public, using guns, and seems way more relentless than in any of the previous films.

The sisters do manage to get away and make it to the police station. Word travels fast and when they get there, the Carpenters meet not only Detective Quinn but Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) who was last seen in Scream 4 but was never confirmed to be dead. Apparently, she has decided rather than be a victim, she’s going to catch perpetrators and is now an agent of the FBI. Why she never showed up in the last movie is a little unclear, especially since she says she has a special interest in Ghostface attacks.

Also, since this is her hometown and this is of special interest to her, Gale Weathers shows up as well. The sisters are not happy with her because she wrote a book about the previous attacks even though she promised not to. Gale lets them know Sidney has gone into hiding due to the attacks. I’m not sure how much sense this makes considering she has talked about how hiding doesn’t work but at the same time we all want Sidney to have her happy ending so this is somewhat welcome news.

The Attacks Escalate And the Rules are Established

The next victim is Sam’s therapist. Ghostface makes quick work of it and then steals Sam’s file. So far, at each crime scene there has been a Ghostface mask left behind. Each one is from a different previous Ghostface killer and it seems to be counting down from the most recent one towards the original ones worn in the first film.

Mindy, the film expert of this movie, lays down some rules. First she says the killer is making a “sequel to the requel.” But she says they aren’t in a sequel because no one just makes sequels anymore. This, is a franchise. Not just a one off movie, not a sequel, but a huge juggernaut type of franchise. Kinda like Scream itself.

Here are Mindy’s rules:

  1. Everything is bigger than last time.
  2. Whatever happened last time, expect the opposite. Franchises only survive by subverting expectations.
  3. No one is safe. Legacy characters are only cannon fodder at this point, usually brought back only to be killed off.
  4. Franchises are just continuing episodic installments designed to boost an IP. Main characters are expendable in these films. And Mindy rattles off a bunch of final girls here to demonstrate her point. She even includes James Bond, Iron Man and Luke Skywalker as main characters who died so the franchise can continue.

Mindy then goes through the suspect list and points out Ethan and Quinn as potential suspects. Mindy even calls out her girlfriend as being a suspect because you can’t trust the love interest. Ethan and Quinn and Anika fire back reasons for Sam, Chad, Mindy and Tara to be suspects.

Kirby and Detective Bailey figure out the connection to the masks and before anyone knows it, there are rumors Sam is the prime suspect in the killings. We all know this to be false but it looks plausible from the outside.

Sam is upset when she sees this on the news and she and Tara make up a little bit. Chad dubs Sam, Tara, Mindy and himself as, “the core four.” And things look a little better for the group. It doesn’t last.

Sam has been seeing a neighbor across the street romantically. This is Danny (Josh Segarra) and he sees someone in a Ghostface outfit looming over Quinn Bailey. He calls out and tries to help but no one sees or hears him in time. The person in the mask kills Quinn’s boyfriend as he showers. Then we hear sounds of Quinn in what everyone thinks are the throws of passion but she’s being attacked. Quinn is no more.

Mindy gets hit in the arm and Anika is practically gutted but she still seems to be able to move around. Danny maneuvers it so a ladder goes from his window to Sam and Tara’s window. And there is an incredibly tense scene where they have to go across the ladder with a killer after them. Anika does her best but falls and dies.

I will say this about this movie. Usually in slasher films you don’t really care that much when someone dies because they typically haven’t been developed enough as a character. Anika has a short amount of screen time here but with the way Mindy reacts and the connection she had to Anika comes through, her death actually feels really meaningful and like a huge loss to poor Mindy.

Sam blames herself for the situation. Someone took their knives so they couldn’t fight back and Danny tells her not to trust anyone, including him.

Ethan was the only one of the group who wasn’t around at the time but he says he was in the study hall. Mindy moves him to the top of her suspect list.

Quinn’s dad shows up and says he was taken off the case and seems pretty upset. He says if you mess with his family you die. And he says it in a really awkward and creepy way.

Gale shows up to the scene and says she knows where the masks are coming from. She takes everyone to what amounts to a hidden museum of Stab memorabilia. It’s an old theater full of all kinds of stuff we’ve seen in the other films.

While they are looking around Sam takes a look at the display of her father and starts seeing him talk to her again like she did in the last movie.

Mindy and Kirby have a really good conversation about horror and have to admit they are both horror experts.

Gale has a chat with Sam and at one point we hear Dewey’s theme and it just brings a little lump to your throat.

Gale Gets a CAll

The Carpenter sisters come up with a plan to lure the killer out by tracing the phone call. Kirby thinks she’ll be able to catch him but Mindy does point out that in public in broad daylight is exactly how her uncle Randy died.

Sam does get a call and it is traced. But there’s a twist. The call is coming halfway across the city, from Gale’s apartment. The killer is not near Sam and Tara, the killer is near Gale. Sam and Tara steal Detective Bailey’s cop car and race over there.

Gale then gets a call and Ghostface mentions he and she have never spoken on the phone. And I realized, holy moly, he’s right. Out of all the legacy characters, the only one who never got a call from the killer was Gale Weathers herself.

Gale’s boyfriend is quickly disposed of. Gale puts up a good fight but ultimately, she is stabbed and does not make it. Sam and Tara do show up in time to chase Ghostface off before Gale dies and her last words are to tell the Carpenter sisters to tell Sidney the killer never got her. Kind of an odd thing to say since this one obviously did.

The Most Intense Subway Ride of All Time

Sam considers just letting the killer take her because its all about her. But the core four reject that idea outright. They get the idea to lure the killer to a secure location to end the killer for all time. Detective Bailey suggests they go to the Stab shrine where it is sealed off. He also tells them to travel in public to give the killer less of a chance to catch them.

Due to crowded subways, Mindy and Ethan are separated from Sam, Danny, Tara and Chad. In both of the crowded subway trains there are tons of people in horror themed masks. Seriously, there are so many horror easter eggs in this scene I couldn’t catch all of them.

And because it’s actually two subway rides with two sets of people it’s anyone’s guess as to who the killer is or where they are. The whole sequence is absolutely brilliant and heightens the tension immensely. The end result though, is Mindy gets stabbed. Ethan comes to her aid but Mindy was hurt badly.

Mindy, more than being hurt, seems pretty annoyed she didn’t guess the killer correctly again.

The Killers Are Revealed

Sam makes Danny wait outside of the closed off crime scene while Sam, Kirby, Tara, and Chad go into the Stab theater/shrine. In the museum, Sam starts seeing more visions of Billy Loomis and she grabs the knife he used in the first movie so she can have something to defend herself with.

Detective Bailey calls Sam and says Kirby was fired from the FBI for being mentally unstable. Sam tries to leave when the Stab movies start playing on the old theater screen.

Chad and Tara have a moment and finally kiss. The moment, of course, doesn’t last long. Ghostface jumps out and attacks. Sam meets up with the pair and tells them the killer is Kirby. There is a whole lot of running around and chasing and everything you’d expect from a Scream movie but the main point of these films is always who the killer is.

For a while it seems like there are two killers until Kirby comes in and shoots at one of them. There is a standoff between Bailey and Kirby where it seems like either of them could be involved until Bailey shoots Kirby. I don’t think there were many Scream fans buying it could be Kirby but if there was any doubt, it’s removed here.

Turns out there are three killers in this film. Detective Bailey, as we knew, is Quinn’s father. But Ethan is also one of the killers and it turns out he is also Bailey’s son. The third killer is Quinn who we thought we saw die earlier in the movie but this was just a staged ruse. Detective Bailey is also Richie from the last film’s father. In other words, the Baileys are mad that Sam killed Richie and they just want some plain old revenge. They were framing it to look like Sam just snapped and went on a killing spree.

There is still plenty of action and chasing around but in the end, the Carpenter sisters prevail and it turns out that somehow Mindy and Chad survive as well. It would have seemed physically impossible to me but we’ve seen people in these films already survive extreme amounts of stabbing. Kirby also makes it through.

When Sam kills Bailey we do see her go extreme similar to what happened in the last movie. And for a moment at the very end Sam takes a look at her father’s Ghostface mask as if she might want to wear it again. But, she chooses Tara and drops it. It’s clear if Tara was to die, Sam would be unhinged. But with her sister still there, she has enough restraint not to go mad. First

The last act of this film is by far the weakest as far as plot goes but it’s still fun to watch.

A Few Notes on the Film

First and foremost, long live the Carpenter sisters. Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera are fascinating to watch together and the performances here are next level. Chad and Mindy are really fun to watch as well. The whole core four is worth the price of admission.

The third act is problematic because it borders on the ridiculous. Dermot Mulroney comes off as a bit cartoonish through most of the movie so it’s really easy to guess he is involved in the killings. Quinn and Ethan are harder guesses to be sure but there are clues to it and if you are paying close attention you can guess them as well.

There are definitely things in this film just meant to surprise that don’t exactly add a ton of value but on the other hand, I can’t say I wasn’t entertained. Even the sillier parts are still worth watching. And the change of location actually seems to have done some good here. Rather than just be an excuse to show the main tourist highlights of Manhattan, the environment throws a whole new set of obstacles and challenges in the protagonists way.

In my mind there would only have been two ways to make this a better film. The first one, I felt like they almost went with but then abandoned. That would be if we watched the whole movie play out from the killer’s point of view. I think that could have thrown a whole new light on the entire franchise. But, had they done that, it may have come off as nothing more than a gimmick so it would have to walk a pretty tight rope there.

The second way to make this better, and the one I wish they really had gone with, would have been to make the killer be someone who really wasn’t interested in the Stab movies. I mean, what if Ghostface, for one movie, thought he was going to protect the Carpenter sisters and the best way to do that was to eliminate anyone too obsessed with them or the Stab movies? It would have escalated to the point where Sam and Tara would have had to confront this individual and if it was, say, one of the core four, they’d be in a real quandary over whether they should kill a friend who is protecting them but in the worst way possible.

Detective Bailey, as Ghostface, basically says he doesn’t care about the movies. But we know that’s not true at all. Not only did he pay for this Stab shrine of Richie’s, Bailey also came up with this insanely elaborate plan to make sure Sam died there. It would have been a heck of a lot easier for him to have Quinn kill Sam and Tara and have Ethan kill Chad and Mindy, and then do a little behind the scenes police work to cover up the evidence. So, clearly he cares a lot about these movies.

In Conclusion

I’m going to compare Psycho to Scream VI for a minute here. No one, and I mean no one, really remembers the last ten minutes of Psycho. The last ten minutes of that film are static shots of Norman Bates sitting in a chair as a therapist explains the pathology Bates has. It’s perhaps the most forgettable, uninspired, and dull ten minutes of any film, let alone a Hitchcock film. Yet, no one says Psycho is a bad film because of it. Why? Because the rest of it is so memorable.

Scream VI strikes me the same way. The third act is ridiculous. It’s silly and it’s full of plot holes. But the intensity and mystery and horror shown in the firs two acts handily make up for those failings in my mind. I’m really curious to see where this franchise goes next. It’s anyone’s guess and I’m sure there are plenty of surprises in store. I just hope they feel more like the first two acts of this film than anything else.

If you saw this one, what did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Stab-ily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Top 5 Solo TTRPGs


Hello TTRPG fans! It’s Slick Dungeon here. You know how it’s awesome to have a group of friends to game with? Well, it is! But, do you also know how it can be nearly impossible to get a whole group of people together because of scheduling, work, family obligations and the fact that no one can even agree on a game to play sometimes? I’ve got a solution for you. Try one of my favorite solo TTRPGs! These are all available on Drivethrurpg and are worth checking out. Some are games in and of themselves and others are ways to adapt a great game. These are in no particular order and they are just my favorites. Let’s get right into it!

5. Alone in the Dark, Solo Rules for Blades in the Dark

Alone in the Dark

Blades in the Dark is a game where everyone basically plays a rogue. It’s full of heists and scoundrels and infiltrating cults and all the awesome sneaky stuff you love if you love rogues. But did you know you can play this one without a Game Master? All you need is this rulebook for going it alone. It’s $3.99 if you want just the PDF (probably all you need really) but if you want to pay a little more you can get a softcover or a hardcover for $10.99 Check it out here.

4. Dungeons & Dragons

The Wolves of Langston

There are a bunch of different 5E adventures I could put here but The Wolves of Langston is one I have played and enjoyed. It doesn’t take a ton of work upfront as long as you know 5E rules. You basically just make a character and off you go on this adventure. You can get it for $19.99. Check it out here.

3. Call of Cthulhu

Alone Against the Flames

I really can’t recommend this one enough. I love Alone Against the Flames and I’ve played it several times, usually coming to a rather tragic end. It’s fun and it teaches you the rules of Call of Cthulhu so it is perfect for beginners. You can grab this for $12. Check it out here. Plus, if you love this, there are a whole bunch more of the Alone Against series which are really fun to play.

2. Stars Without Number

Stars Without Number Solo

Feeling spacey and want to play in the vast expanse of the universe? Stars Without Number is a great game with a solid rule set but it’s tough to play without a group. Unless, you have the Solo Adventures ruleset for the game. This one is a bargain at $5 for the PDF (probably all you need) or you can splurge and get a hard or soft copy for around double the price. Check it out here.

1. Ironsworn


There’s a reason Ironsworn is at the top of everyone’s solo rpg list. First, it’s got that full fantasy flavor you want. Second. it’s nice and gritty if you want it to be, or you can scale it back a little to give your hero a bit more of a chance to succeed. Third, it has everything you need to play on your own right there, including rules, setting, character creation and advice on how to play the game in a few different ways. And last but not least, you can get this for the fantastic price of nothing. That’s right! If you get the digital version it won’t cost you a penny. You can, of course, pay more for the print versions if you wish but the entry point here is free. Check it out here.

Well, that’s my list. Now, go out and get yourself something to play when your group falls through and have fun!

Solitarily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Scream VI – Spoiler Free Movie Review

Ghostface is back in Scream VI

Hello horror fans and slasher stans, it’s Slick Dungeon here! I finally made it out to the theater to see the sixth installment of the Scream franchise. I’m going to do a longer review full of spoilers in the next few days but this one will be spoiler free. If you haven”t seen this movie yet, you should be fine to read this post. But if you’d like to see in depth reviews of the other Scream films you can do so here – Scream, Scream 2, Scream 3, Scream 4, Scream 5.

If you like horror movies, and in particular, if you like slasher films, you’re probably well aware of the Scream franchise. Each movie has its strengths and weaknesses but most people prefer the first film to all of the others. With this sixth installment, for me, I think I have a new favorite in the series. I will always love the first film but this sixth one is at least tied with that one. The action is thrilling, the story is (mostly) believable and the setting actually works. Unlike most slashers, I actually found myself caring about these characters, and what happens to some of them had me both on the edge of my seat and near tears on occasion.

This is not a perfect film and I have some issues with it, especially in the third act, but those problems are small enough the rest of the film overcomes those problems for me.

If you’ve seen a trailer for this movie you probably know it is set in New York City. So many horror franchises have attempted something like this, trying to get characters into a new, famous environment but it almost always feels like a gimmick. But here, the characters really feel like they live in New York and for good reasons. It’s not a Ghostface tours New York movie but rather a movie that follows our main characters from last time who just happen to be in New York. Yes, we still see some of the iconic buildings and all that but this film is just really well grounded.

Also, I don’t think this is a spoiler, but just in case you have never seen the trailer, mild spoiler warning. There is a scene in the subway that was literally one of the most intense horror scenes in a slasher I have ever watched. It was brilliantly done.

I will say this film is decidedly bloodier than any of the earlier films but it’s not as gruesome as a lot of other horror films out there. If you like horror it’s not going to shock you or anything but compared to other Scream movies this is hands down the one with the most gore.

As always there are more horror easter eggs than you can shake a stick at. And there is meta commentary but I don’t want to get into that in this post. I don’t know if it’s the best meta commentary but it’s still pretty smart like all these movies are.

And I would be remiss if I did not talk about the performances of Jenna Ortega, Melissa Barrera, Mason Gooding, and Jasmin Savoy Brown. They all deliver stellar performances that felt real and intense and I think even more than in Scream 5 they really come through as interesting characters.

I also really liked most of the cold open but again, no spoilers here so won’t talk about it now.

If you’re debating about whether or not to go see this film and you have seen the rest of the Scream movies, I highly recommend you go check it out before it leaves theaters. You definitely don’t need to see it in 3D or anything but just go see it as soon as you can.

For those who have seen it, what did you think? Let me know in the comments but please keep it spoiler free here.

Stab-ily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Scream (2022) aka Scream V – Movie Review

Jenna Ortega stars in Scream (2022)

Hello horror fans and slasher stans, it’s Slick Dungeon here! I’m gearing up to go see the sixth installment of the Scream franchise soon but before I do that, I wanted to review all of the previous movies here. For these reviews I plan on going in-depth so if you have not seen the movies, I advise you not to read this review yet. Scream is a great slasher franchise but the best parts of it are surprising events and reveals so definitely have a watch first because reviewing without spoilers is never easy with these movies.

When I do review Scream VI, I will have a first reaction spoiler free review followed by a spoiler heavy review. For the rest of these, watch first or risk the fun of the movies being taken away by reading. I’m going to be talking about individual scenes, characters, and themes so it’s all fair game in these reviews. I will only spoil things from the first five movies in this review so you don’t need to have seen all the Scream films to keep yourself spoiler free, just the first five. If you want to read my review of any of the previous films you can do so here – ScreamScream 2,  Scream 3 and Scream 4.

Scream 2022 in Historical Context

While Scream movies are fun to watch on their own, regardless of what was going on in the world, it can help to have some historical context to better understand what the films are trying to say. The first film was one of the earliest to make meta commentary on horror films and it revived the slasher genre. Scream 2 and 3 were commentary on sequels and trilogies respectively. And Scream 4 makes the point that horror is different more than a decade after the third movie.

If you take a quick look at what movies are playing in any given theater, you can place where Scream (2022) is. Almost every well selling film in theaters is a sequel or a reboot, or they walk a gray area where we have legacy characters from an original property introduced to new characters in the modern era in an attempt to please both old and new fans. Some easy examples of films like these are The Force Awakens and Halloween (2018) where it is a sequel to the original film series but it also has a plot almost identical to the original. Some stakes are raised when dealing with beloved characters and the newer ones get time to develop so the audience can become attached to the fresh blood (pun intended).

These kinds of films are a gamble because you risk simply pleasing the long time fans in making a fan service project which only the core fandom appreciates, you focus completely on the new material in an attempt to bring in the new crowd and alienating long term fans, or you risk ruining the franchise entirely by attempting to please both sets of fans and have a film of lesser quality as a result.

When Scream announced it was going to be back in theaters and just call the movie Scream instead of Scream 5 it was an obvious comparison to think this would be just like Halloween (2018). Scream fans weren’t happy with the title change but could understand why the filmmakers would make the choice. We’ll get more into this later but the difficult fan split is one Scream (2022) was going to have to navigate by default. In other words, there was no world where everyone would be happy with this movie. You had people going in who would hate it simply because it wasn’t what they had spent years speculating it would be. And, on the other hand, you had people who may have never even seen a horror movie, let alone a Scream film before.

Also, this sequel was in limbo for a long time for several reasons. First off, Wes Craven, had passed away. And without him as a director, it was unclear if anyone could helm the ship. Secondly, Scream was stuck in the whole Miramax debacle created by the absolutely horrid behavior of Harvey Weinstein. Figuring out where this property would land was no easy task.

Finally, at this time, slashers weren’t all that popular. People had gotten used to seeing films with a more psychological nuanced approach to horror with films like The Babadook, Get Out, and Midsommer. All fantastic films in their own way, but not the bloody, action oriented slasher style of film popularized before the 21st century. It was unclear if Scream could pull this off at all, especially considering Halloween (2018) was a decent success but not entirely groundbreaking and had some mixed reaction from both old and new fans.

With all this in mind Scream (2022) needed to walk a delicately balanced tightrope just to keep people in theaters until the end of the movie.

So, did the filmmakers succeed here and pull off the impossible, making a new film off an old franchise that could live up to the hype of long time fans, while at the same time introducing an entire new audience to characters they would care about?

Let’s dive in and find out.

Spoilers follow below!

The Cold Open

In any film you have to grab audiences right from the beginning. The first thing shown on film has the potential to either get the audience excited enough to keep watching or awful enough to make someone walk out of the theater. But with a Scream film this necessity is elevated to the next level. It also has to be original and completely surprising to the audience. And this audience is usually a savvy horror fan audience who has seen nearly every scenario played out in other horror films and knows what to expect in a Scream opening. The expectation of surprise makes it much more difficult to surprise the audience.

This movie starts just as the first one did, with the ringing of a phone. There is no sound of a scream as there was in the first though. We see a house in the suburbs very much like the house Casey Becker was in at the start of the first movie. Inside we see Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) stare at a landline phone and just switch it off. Right away, this movie is establishing it is different from the original. It almost makes no sense there is a landline at all here.

Tara is texting with her friend Amber (Mikey Madison) on her cell phone. She invites Amber over and entices her with an unlocked liquor cabinet. Tara takes a puff of her asthma inhaler and the landline rings again. Tara gives in and answers the phone.

The voice on the line is the one we’ve all come to hear, the voice of the Ghostface killer. The voice asks for someone named Christina and then seems to accidentally clue Tara into the fact this caller knows Christina from “group.” He gives his name as Charlie and tries to leave a polite message. Tara pushes to find out what kind of group “Charlie” is talking about. Charlie then says Tara sounds exactly like Christina describes her in group. Tara keeps pushing Charlie for more details. And Charlie mentions Christina said Tara loves movies. In particular, Tara loves scary movies. Charlie then says Christina wondered the other day, “What’s your favorite scary movie?” This is a direct nod to the original. The older crowd is probably expecting Tara to say something like Halloween or Alien or something like that but Tara goes with The Babadook. She says it’s an amazing meditation on motherhood and grief.

And not to belabor the point, but Tara is right, that is what The Babadook is. Whether it’s a great film or not can be debated but it certainly qualifies as a new generation of horror films. Charlie thinks it’s too fancy but Tara says it’s “elevated horror.” Still scary but with complex emotions and underpinnings.

As a side note, I kind of hate the term elevated horror, because to me, horror is horror. A movie is not necessarily better or worse because it goes into deep intellectual territory. And even if you love so called elevated horror, you may still enjoy just a fun slasher film, which is what Scream is at its core.

Charlie asks Tara if she’s seen Stab, the movie within the Scream movies that depicts the events of Scream films. Tara says she has seen it a long time ago at a sleepover. Charlie seems surprised Tara doesn’t know more about it considering she lives in Woodsboro, and Christina talks about it all the time in group.

I should also mention, at this point, Tara is playing with a kitchen knife in a wood block, practically identically to how Drew Barrymore as Casey Becker does in the first Scream film.

Tara remembers the movie being “super nineties, everyone had weird hair, really over lit.” Charlie asks if she remembers the beginning. Tara says she doesn’t, other than it started with a kill scene. Charlie says that’s right and that it’s a girl at home alone who answers a wrong number and starts talking with the killer who makes her play a game.

As the audience, we know where this is going. Tara is the girl in the opening. And, considering how many times we’ve seen the person at the beginning of the movie die after answering the phone, it seems Tara can’t possibly be long for this world.

Charlie then asks Tara if she’d like to play a game. Tara gets frightened and hangs up the phone. She uses her phone to secure the alarms on her home and automatically lock the doors. And she texts Amber, telling her what the situation is.

We see here, this is a whole new world, where the technology has changed and while the killer may be savvy, the potential victims have more defenses than they used to.

The phone rings again and Amber is texting her concern for her friend. But then she says Tara should answer. Tara texts to ask how Amber knows her phone was ringing. The text comes back saying, “This isn’t Amber.”

Now we have a threat to Tara coming from two directions. First, is the voice on the phone the killer? It’s safe to assume it is because of the history of these movies, but this one may be different, so maybe the voice is the misdirection. And, while we don’t know who Amber is yet, it’s likely she’s in trouble because it’s not her texting. The juxtaposition of the cell phone and the landline is really interesting here because now we know, even if, Tara has more defenses, the killer can use at least some of those defenses against her.

Tara goes to dial 911 on her cell but she gets a text telling her if she doesn’t answer the landline, Amber will die. This is just like what happens with Casey, only this time, it happens over a cell phone.

Tara picks up the phone and says, “This isn’t funny Amber.” The killer replies, “I told you, this isn’t Amber.”

That line just delivers chills so well. If we had any doubt earlier, now it’s really obvious Tara is about to die. She’s doing things just like Casey did but with modern technology. And the killer is on to her. The killer then sends video of Amber brushing her hair and says Amber shouldn’t leave her phone lying around for anyone to clone.

The killer then gets to his game. Stab movie trivia with three rounds. Tara begs him to ask her about movies she knows something about like, It Follows, Hereditary, or The Witch. All instances of what Tara calls elevated horror. (You should watch those movies btw)

But the killer presses on asking about who the main character in Stab was. Tara knows it was Sidney Prescott who lived on Elm. And the killer mentions Sidney is in every movie but the last one. The killer asks who wrote the original book the Stab movies are based on. Older fans know this is Gale Weathers. Tara takes a minute to remember but she gets it right. The killer then wants to know who plays the girl who answers the phone at the start of the Stab movies.

Sometimes reviewing a Scream film is like peeling an onion because of the layers here. Tara is obviously the person the killer is referring to in this movie but in the Scream movie it was Drew Barrymore but in the Stab movie this was played by Heather Graham.

It looks dicey for Tara for a moment but Tara has an intensely powerful tool that was never available to Casey Becker. Google on her phone. She looks up the answer and gets it right.

The final question is, “Who was the killer in Stab 1?” Tara is absolutely confident she has this one. It was Billy Loomis who was Sidney’s boyfriend who was played by Luke Wilson.

This is a really clever twist because in the Scream movies the Stab actor who did play Billy Loomis was Luke Wilson. But, us older Scream fans know there were two killers at the end of Scream. Yet, we’ve never seen the end of Stab 1 in the Scream movies so we don’t know if the movie within the movie does have two killers.

The killer tells Tara she got it wrong, there was Billy Loomis and Stu Macher. The movie here is playing with us because in the first Scream movie. Drew Barrymore gets the name of the killer of the first Friday the 13th film wrong by not remembering the twist to that movie. So, weirdly, the Scream movies have now been around long enough, they are the twist in the answer.

And, knowing Tara got the answer wrong, we’re sure she’s going to die, and so is Amber, most likely. That’s how the first Scream played out so no reason to expect otherwise here.

Tara runs to the door to go get to Amber who apparently lives nearby. But when she opens the door, she’s stabbed by someone in a Ghostface costume. She pushes the person out of the house and re-arms the security. This has alerted the police as well. But then, it seems the killer is able to disarm the system. Tara and the killer go back and forth with this for a while as Tara gets more panicked. And the landline rings once again. The killer has a bonus question, asking if he made it inside the house before she could rearm. Ghostface then pops up and stabs Tara again. Tara takes some major hits and almost makes it to the door, just as sirens and lights blare outside. The killer raises the knife and we cut to the title card.

Considering the history of the films, the audience assumes Tara is no more.

We meet the New Characters

At the start of a Scream film we usually don’t care who it is too much. We know they won’t be around for long. So, the filmmakers had a choice after Tara is attacked. They could either catch us up with Sidney Prescott, as has happened in every other Scream film, or they can introduce us to new people here, with the assumption that whoever we see next is our main character.

We cut to a bowling alley in Modesto, California, where a woman seems to be on her break and we see her take some prescription medication. This is Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera). She’s joined by Richie Kirsh (Jack Quaid), her boyfriend who also works at the bowling alley. They have a bit of really silly banter but seem happy enough to be together. Sam gets a text and calls the person who texted her. This is Wes Hicks (Dylan Minnette) who is Tara’s friend and the son of Deputy Judy Hicks who we were introduced to in Scream 4. He tells Sam that Tara was attacked. And Wes tells Sam, Tara is alive.

This little bit of information just turns the whole film on its head. There has never, not ever, been someone who survived the first phone call in a Scream movie. Tara already has legendary status in this franchise and it’s the one piece of information that could surprise older fans. Bizarrely, but effectively, the twist of the cold open happens after the cold open, setting us up for some entirely different story expectations.

Sam wants to know who did this and Wes tells her it was someone in a Ghostface mask. Sam looks horrified at the news. She tells Richie she has to go to be there with her sister and Richie says he’s going too.

We go back to Woodsboro where we meet Wes, Amber, Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown), Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding), and Liv McKensie (Sonia Ammar). Chad is dating Liv and he delivers the exact dialogue Billy Loomis does to Sidney about taking their relationship to the next level, only he’s talking about connecting on location sharing on their phones. Wes thinks this is a bad idea because you’d want to become more anonymous with a killer on the loose.

We find out Chad was just interrogated by Judy Hicks about Tara’s attack. The information about it being a Ghostface attack is still not out to the public but Mindy is sure by the second or third killing it will be. Amber says there wasn’t a first killing because Tara is alive. Mindy says Tara could still die or the killer could come back for her.

The last person in our little circle of new characters/suspects is Vince Schneider (Kyle Gallner) who seems to have briefly dated Liv. Apparently he’s been online stalking Liv, posting creepy stuff and he knows Tara. He’s not a part of the friend group but they know him. Amber notices bruises on Chad’s arms and says Tara fought back hard. Chad says the bruises are from football practice.

Wes gets a text from Tara and everyone from the friend group but Liv goes over to see her.

On the drive to Woodsboro, Sam gives Richie a rundown of the Stab movies and what happened in Woodsboro in the past. Richie says he’s never seen the Stab movies but they sound an awful lot like Halloween. Richie asks if Sam knows why someone wearing the mask would want to kill her sister. Sam says she doesn’t know.

At the hospital we see a banged up but recovering Tara. Sam makes it and Tara seems surprised her sister even came. Sam tells Richie she used to babysit everyone there. This is kind of a horror nod, although I’m not sure if it was intentional but Jenna Ortega who plays Tera has been in a lot of horror films, including one called The Babysitter.

Richie is introduced to everyone and we learn the Carpenter sister’s mom is out of town. She doesn’t seem to be the most attentive mother. Amber suggests giving Tara space and everyone but Sam and Richie clear out. Amber makes sure Tara has her extra inhaler. Richie waits outside the room so Tara and Sam can catch up. Ortega and Barrera start to have great performances here with Tara telling Sam how scared she was and Sam wanting to be there for her sister.

The rest of the friend group go to a local hangout spot where they are playing pool where they talk about how Sam kind of suddenly abandoned Tara and hasn’t come back until now. Mindy starts suspecting Wes of having motive of attacking Tara. But she also says they are all suspects. Essentially, Mindy is taking up the Randy role of the previous films. The only one Mindy rules out is Liv because she’s, “way too boring to be a psycho.”

The Attacks Escalate

Vince shows up and he and Chad get into an argument to the point where Vince pulls out a knife. He goes outside and the rest of the group is kicked out as well. Vince is, shall we say, relieving himself when he’s caught in glaring headlights and we hear the Nick Cave song, Red Right Hand which has played in most of the Scream films, so we know whoever is in the car, is the killer. Vince goes to see who it is but there is no one in the car. And then Vince is stabbed by Ghostface.

At the hospital, Sam and Richie are watching over Tara. Richie has started to watch the Stab movies to prepare himself for what is coming. Sam goes to get something to eat. She takes a pill and looks into the mirror to see a bloody vision of Billy Loomis talking to her. We learn she is taking anti-psychotics from Billy and he says she can’t run from who she is and she should tell Tara why all this is happening. As the audience, we have no idea yet why Sam would have anything to do with Billy Loomis but it was sort of nice to see Skeet Ulrich back in the series, even if he’s nothing more than a hallucination.

Then Sam’s phone rings. It’s the voice of the killer. He says he knows her little family secret. Sam dares him to come and get her and Ghostface pops out of the door behind her. Sam gets away and finds police to help her but the killer is gone. The call came from Amber’s phone but since her phone was cloned, that doesn’t mean much. Also, the police at this point have found Vince’s body. Richie says maybe Amber is the killer. Deputy Hicks asks Richie where he was during all this and he gives the very weak excuse of watching Netflix.

Hicks and Sam get into a bit of an argument and we learn Sam used to be a troublemaker and Hicks is now a sheriff.

Sam asks Richie and Amber to leave so she can talk to Tara. She then gives Tara the information as to why everything is happening. Turns out, Sam, is the daughter of Billy Loomis. Sam and Tara are actually half sisters. Sam confronted her mother about this and accidentally reveals who her father was in front of the man who raised her. And this is what caused the divorce of the Carpenter sisters parents and Sam to leave. Sam was sworn to secrecy by her mother which led her down a bad path to the point she had to leave.

Tara tells Sam to get out. This is one of the best scenes of the whole franchise. It’s emotionally raw and you really feel the tension between the sisters. Outside Tara’s door, Sam runs into Richie, who has heard the whole thing. Sam tells Richie to leave. And that this is the part in horror movies where you want to yell at the characters to get out and Richie should get out now. Richie insists he’s not leaving and tells Sam he loves her. Richie asks what the next move is. Sam says they need to go talk to an expert.

Welcome Back Dewey, and We get the Rules

The expert, as it turns out, is Dewey. He makes sense as the expert considering he’s been through this whole thing four times already. But he is the first legacy character we see and it’s already a third of the way in. Dewey is watching the news about the attacks in a little trailer all alone. Apparently his and Gale’s on again off again relationship is solidly in the off stage. He even turns on Gale’s show.

Sam knocks on the door and Dewey demands to know one good reason he should talk to her. She says she is Billy Loomis’ daughter. Dewey points out that’s a terrible reason for him to talk to her. He reluctantly lets them in and is immediately suspicious of Richie. But he does give them the rules for surviving a Stab movie.

The rules are as follows.

  1. Never trust the love interest. They seem sweet, caring, and supportive but then welcome to act three where they’re trying to rip your head off.
  2. The killer’s motive is always related to something in the past.
  3. The first victim always has a friend group that the killer is a part of.

We know rule one is true because Billy Loomis was the killer in the first Scream. But we also know, this is not always the case, since Derek is not the killer in Scream 2. This one seems like it could go either way, but in this world, a lot of times it does turn out to be the love interest. We know rule 2 is true again because this is what happened with Billy Loomis. But it’s also not true because Stu Macher’s motive was just peer pressure. Again, it could go either way. Rule three we have seen be the case in several of these movies but Casey Becker was only barely a part of Sindey’s friend group so this one doesn’t have to be true.

Just as with most of the other films, this one lays down rules which can be broken but are widely assumed to be correct.

We get a brief glimpse of Sidney getting a call from Dewey. We learn she’s got kids and is married to someone name Mark. Dewey tells her what’s going on and warns her to stay away. Sidney wisely agrees not to come back.

Dewey then bites the bullet and texts Gale to tell her what is going on. We know Dewey can’t resist helping Sam so he shows up to the Meeks house where we see a tribute wall to Randy. Turns out he was Chad and Mindy’s uncle and we get to see Randy’s sister Martha.

Sam tells the group who her father was and they go over who might be a suspect. And we learn Vince’s mother was Stu Macher’s sister, so even that death is connected.

What’s a Requel?

Mindy clues into the fact this is not a sequel, it’s a requel. Mindy says fans are torn on the term but Liv asks if it was like the one the Knives Out guy did. This is funny on a couple of levels because what Liv is really referring to is The Force Awakens directed by JJ Abrams but she is mixing it up with The Last Jedi which actually was directed by the Knives Out guy, Rian Johnson.

Anyway, Mindy talks over how everyone hated the last Stab movie. Basically, she’s talking about toxic fandom. And she goes over what a requel is and that Sam is the star. It’s what I described at the start of this blog post, but applied to Scream. And, this is why Scream (2022) is not actually titled Scream 5. The filmmakers are playing with the audience by taking the real world thing of the fans being disgruntled and literally have it happen in this movie. After the sixth installment, we all pretty much call this Scream 5 but they opted to fool us all here.

Mindy give us requl rules. So, this movie actually has two sets of rules to lay out expectations, one involving the original and one involving the current film.

The requel rules are as follows.

  1. The kills must be connected to the original
  2. Legacy characters have to appear
  3. The killer has to be connected to someone that came before

These rules seem to be true in this film so far. The kills are connected to the original because Sam is related to Billy. All three main legacy characters, plus Deputy Hicks have all appeared already. And the last one could still be proven true but we won’t know until the reveal of the killer.

Mindy seems convinced the most logical killer is Sam. We know she didn’t attack Tara, but a lot of time there are two killers so she’s not ruled out.

The Obligatory Psycho Scene

All of the Scream films have had some connection or throw back to Psycho. In this one, it happens at the Hicks residence. First, Judy Hicks grabs a knife much like the one Norman Bates uses. Then, in a gender swapped scene, Wes showers as Sheriff Hicks gets a call from the killer. The killer says there are two deaths but when Hicks corrects him, the killer says by the time she gets back home, he’ll have gutted Wes.

Hicks races back home and we see a ridiculously long scene of Wes doing all the things that usually lead to jump scares, including not answering the phone, getting food from the pantry, and opening the refrigerator door. Yet when Wes does all these things, nothing happens. It subverts all of our expectations and goes on so long it starts to become funny.

But before we see all that, Ghostface kills sheriff Hicks outside the house in broad daylight. Just when we think Wes is safe, he locks the front door and gets attacked by Ghostface. It’s an uncomfortably violent attack.

Sam shows up but it’s all over already. There Sam meets Gale Weathers for the first time. They kind of bond over how Judy didn’t like either of them. Gale sees Dewey and they catch up a bit. Dewey thinks she’s just here for the story but she says she’s there for him. And we see pretty rapidly why they broke up. We also find out Dewey was asked to retire. And we find out Gale is running her show from New York.

Things Get worse

Richie seems to have gotten hooked on the Stab franchise. Sam realizes with all the cops investigating Sheriff Hicks’ house, no one is watching Tara. Sam and Dewey race back to the hospital where a very injured and still recovering Tara hears a noise and the lights go out. Tara manages to get to a wheelchair but Jenna Ortega really sells how much pain Tara is in here.

Tara’s phone rings but it’s Sam calling her. Tara doesn’t answer because she’s trying to get away. She finds bodies on the floor as she wheels herself down the hall. Sam races to the hospital.

Richie gets to Tara first but then he’s attacked by Ghostface. Sam calls Richie’s phone and Ghostface answers. Ghostface says Sam can pick if Tara or Richie dies. Sam hesitates, seemingly unable to decide, when Ghostface tells her, “Maybe you’re too weak for this franchise.” Sam says, “Maybe you’re right. Or maybe I’m just stalling for time f–khead.”

The elevator doors open and Dewey immediately gets some shots off at the killer.

Sam’s ruse here just elevates her to epic status, the same way Tara has already been elevated there. She’s smart. she knows how to turn things around on the killer, and she’d do anything to save her sister. In a lot of ways she’s like Sidney and it’s great to see.

There’s a big action scene in the hospital but the end result is Dewey dies. He only dies because he goes back to make sure the killer is dead by shooting the killer in the head. When he goes back, he gets attacked by Ghostface and loses.

David Arquette who plays Dewey is such a huge part of this franchise. His death was hinted at by Mindy earlier but even with it telegraphed it still really stings. And in a weird way the killer seems to feel the way a lot of fans do. As the killer delivers the final blow he tells Dewey, “It’s an honor.” And honestly, it kind of feels like it has been an honor having Dewey in these movies. He is hands down the most wholesome character and the most selfless one in the entire franchise. So, I’m just pausing here for a moment to say we should all give a big thanks to David Arquette for his five performances. It’s been great and we’re going to miss Dewey.

Sidney Returns and we reach the end of the Second Act

The only thing that could bring Sidney back to Woodsboro happens in this movie. When Dewey dies, she has to come to pay her respects. She meets up with Gale and all of our hearts break just a little more, knowing Gale or Sidney could also be next.

Sam and Tara get a moment to talk where Tara says she doesn’t blame Sam for who she is but she does for leaving her. Sam decides they are going to do the smart thing and get out of Woodsboro. Sam also meets Sidney who knows about Sam’s past. Sidney tells Sam running doesn’t work. Sidney and Gale want Sam to help them kill the killer.

Sam decides to leave anyway and she, Tara, and Richie get in the car to go. Sidney has put a tracker on their car.

In the car, Tara can’t find her inhaler and wants to go back to Amber’s house to get her extra one. Richie protests but finally agrees to go. At Amber’s house, which is actually, Stu Macher’s old house, there is a party going on. Amber, Liv, Chad, and Mindy are all there.

The Killer is Revealed

I could give you a blow by blow recap of everything that happens at Amber’s house but it is fairly close to exactly what happens at Stu Macher’s house in the first movie. I’ll give you the most vital parts but I’m definitely skipping some here.

There are a few changes and twists to what happens but they’re kind of minor. Mindy chastises Amber for going down the stairs alone and Chad seems suspicious of Liv when she wants to go upstairs with him.

Gale and Sidney do show up to the house. And we get the Randy scene from the first movie but this time it’s Mindy watching Randy have the same experience in the first movie.

Liv goes outside. Chad goes to look for her and is attacked. He’s wounded pretty badly but the killer runs when Amber and Richie show up with Tara. Richie tells everyone at the party to leave and most of them do. I will say Richie is pretty funny in his delivery here when he tells them leave. Richie goes to get beer from the basement and says he’ll be right back. Live comes back in upset her ride didn’t show up. So we’re down to Mindy, Liv, Tara, Sam, Amber and Richie as suspects.

Gale and Sidney race to the house to try to save the day. Mindy is attacked, Sam tries to save her. Amber sees the mess and thinks it’s Sam. Richie comes out of the basement and Liv rushes into the room. Amber says she was with Tara but everyone else was wandering around so one of them has to be the killer.

Liv found Chad and has bloody hands. She swears she’s not the killer and Amber says she knows and shoots Liv. We now know Amber is the killer and she welcomes us to act three.

Sam and Richie runs and Richie says there are always two killers. We do know this is not true at all. There has been at least one movie with a single killer. Regardless, both Sam and Richie have reason to suspect each other. Sam does have a knife though. Richie pitches the idea of Tara being the killer but Sam doesn’t buy it for a second.

Sidney and Gale finally arrive at the house to hear a scream. This is Amber running out of the house. Sidney and Gale know it’s a trap and Amber fires her gun. Gale is hit but she asks Sidney to go finish it for Dewey.

Sam finds Tara tied up in the closet but she seems to hesitate and we cut back to Sidney. She gets a call from the killer. Sidney says he’s the most derivative one of all since it’s staged at Stu’s house. Sidney says she’s bored and hangs up. She fires into a closet where Richie is hiding and wounds him. Sidney tells him to come out but he says he won’t since Sidney is firing her gun at everything. Ghostface pops out from behind Sidney and attacks her. Sidney goes down and she tells Richie to grab the gun but before he can, Sam grabs it. Richie cheers for her and says, “Thank God you’re okay.” And then he stabs Sam in the stomach and says, “Because I really, really wanted to be the one to kill you.”

Yep, Dewey called it perfectly here. And now we’re just left to wonder why.

The answer? Toxic fandom. Richie and Amber want to reboot the Stab series with them as the stars. Richie wants to bring things back to basics for the Stab movies. Richie and Amber essentially embody all the worst parts of obsessive fandom. They even met on Redditt where some of the worst fandom can exist. And with Sam’s father being Billy Loomis, Sam makes the perfect villain for their movie.

A lot of stabbing and fighting and yelling go down. Amber goes to get Tara from the closet. But big win, Sam trusts her sister who then flips the script and calls Richie. She nails Amber hard with a crutch and Sam is able to get away. Sidney has been injured but she’s not dead yet.

Gale and Sidney whale on Amber who nearly gets away but Gale and Sidney team up and long story short, Amber becomes a human s’more, allowing Gale to get some revenge for Dewey.

Richie is still going after Sam pretty hard and it’s a tough fight until Sam sees the image of a bloody Billy Loomis in a mirror. She then tells Richie she’s introducing a new rule. “Never f–k with the daughter of a serial killer.” Then she stabs Richie a ton of times. She even cleans of the blade the way Ghostface does now and again.

I’ll say it once more, the Carpenter sisters are legendary.

Sam shoots Richie in the head after Sidney reminds her they always come back. Amber does come back for a last scare but Tara shoots her and says, “I still prefer The Babadook.” This brings us full circle from the beginning.

At the end we see Mindy is still alive and so is Chad. Tara asks to go to a different hospital. Sam goes to thank Sidney and Gale. Gale says she’s not going to write a book about this whole thing. Sam asks if she is going to be okay and Sidney tells her she will, eventually.

We end with Sam and Tara hand in hand in the ambulance with news reporters converging on the scene.

A few notes on the film

The last credit says, “For Wes.” which is great since without him, there is no Scream. Also, having one of the characters named after him in this movie was a nice touch too.

Most of this movie is pretty well done. The acting is great, although at times it’s hard to buy both Richie and Amber as anything but the killers. Still, I can’t say I guessed this on the first try. I really only take issue with the third act because it is so similar to the original. I know what was the point but it felt a little forced.

Mindy and Chad seem like good characters, especially Mindy, but we don’t get a ton of screen time with them so it would have been nice to see a little more there.

I think the film does make good points about how obsessively loving something can turn people toxic but this one doesn’t exactly criticize the horror genre like the first few did. Mostly, this film is telling us what is wrong with film these days is not the films themselves, although they can be bad, rather the fans are what can sour a franchise. I think there is an argument to be made here. Most people don’t turn into deranged killers like Amber and Richie but there are way too many people who are exceptionally vocal online any time a beloved franchise does something like gender swap roles, or bring in people of color to make the film more representative of the world we live in.

Long Live the Carpenter Sisters

Being a horror fan it’s easy to be predisposed to like someone with the last name Carpenter. The name is an homage to John Carpenter who directed Halloween. But if the performances by these actors and their characters were uninteresting, this would be meaningless.

Both Sam and Tara play things about as smart as you can imagine, other than trusting Richie and Amber. Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera were full of chemistry with each other. They are completely believable as sisters and they both give top notch performances here. What’s great about them both surviving is this is like getting two Sidney Prescotts for the price of one.

Tara has an interesting story and she’s played well but we could have gotten to know her a little better through this movie. Sam is especially interesting considering her past and her dependence on anti-psychotics. She’s got major character potential but the one movie can only take us so far with that. For these issues, I don’t blame Ortega or Barrera at all. This is more about the writing and the fact that you can only take up so much time in a single film.

Horror is not an easy genre to act in. Most actors are called on to put out a huge range of emotions, not just fear, and these two women nailed their performances, leaving the audience just wanting more. Thankfully, there is more in the sixth film.

In Conclusion

This may not be the best Scream film but it’s up there with one of the best. There are some issues, mainly in the third act, but overall this delivers on the promise of restarting a dead franchise without killing it. It does introduce us to some pretty interesting new characters and gave us a chance to see the legacy character go at it one more time.

I will also say, this film works better in achieving its goals than The Force Awakens or Halloween do. It’s a fun movie with some decent meta commentary and lots of fun horror easter eggs and it’s got plenty of action. The violent scenes are the bloodiest so far but still not so gory that it’s distracting.

I definitely recommend watching this film to anyone, although I strongly recommend watching the others firs.

Next time I’ll be back with my spoiler free review of Scream VI. Did that one live up to the hype? You’ll have to read to find out. (Or you know, go watch the movie and form your own opinion)

Stab-ily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Scream 4 – Movie Review

Hayden Panettiere and Emma Roberts star in Scream 4

Hello horror fans and slasher stans, it’s Slick Dungeon here! I’m gearing up to go see the sixth installment of the Scream franchise soon but before I do that, I wanted to review all of the previous movies here. For these reviews I plan on going in-depth so if you have not seen the movies, I advise you not to read this review yet. Scream is a great slasher franchise but the best parts of it are surprising events and reveals so definitely have a watch first because reviewing without spoilers is never easy with these movies.

When I do review Scream VI, I will have a first reaction spoiler free review followed by a spoiler heavy review. For the rest of these, watch first or risk the fun of the movies being taken away by reading. I’m going to be talking about individual scenes, characters, and themes so it’s all fair game in these reviews. I will only spoil things from the first four movies in this review so you don’t need to have seen all the Scream films to keep yourself spoiler free, just the first four. If you want to read my review of the first Scream you can do so right here. And if you missed my review of the sequel, Scream 2, you can check it out here. If you need to read my review of Scream 3 you can do so right here.

Scream 4 in Historical Context

After the Scream franchise revived slashers and made horror cool again they tied up their trilogy in the year 2000. Eleven years went by with horror going in new and different directions. There were plenty of reboots and remakes of popular titles from slashers past.

And in the years since Scream made it scary to answer your phone, a new phenomena was starting to pop up in the world. Social media was beginning to have a major influence in our lives. It wasn’t films that made people famous anymore. All you needed was your phone and your favorite platform and to film yourself doing something interesting and before you knew it, everyone could recognize your face.

Even considering making another Scream film was a gamble at this point. On the one hand, it was a well known property with beloved cast members, directors, and writers. On the other hand, the series seemed to have concluded so what new could be said by these films? It would obviously make money given the fanbase but was it simply a cash grab or did Scream 4 have something to contribute to the conversation about horror, movies in general, and the social media climate at the time?

Let’s dive in deep and find out!

Spoilers follow below!

The Cold Open

Every Scream film starts with a phone call. It’s just not a Scream film if it doesn’t. Naturally, this film, just like the first one, starts with the sound of a phone ringing. We know by now not to get too attached to anyone at the start of one of these films so when we see a young woman pick up the phone, we know there is a good chance she’s not making it to the title screen.

Sure enough the voice on the other end is the Ghostface killer voice. The woman hangs up the phone and goes and talks to another woman about the movie they are going to watch. They plan on watching Saw 4 and the woman who didn’t pick up the phone talks about how she thinks it’s not scary, it’s just gross with all the gore. And she complains there is no character development so you don’t care who dies. It does echo complaints some people have about the Saw franchise (and lots of other horror franchises) but we also know these are characters we don’t care about who are going to die. Once again, Scream films comment on tired tropes while still committing the exact same tropes right in the Scream films.

The woman complaining about the Saw movies says she has a Facebook stalker. Her friend tells her to delete him and then goes to look at the picture and realizes it’s a picture of Channing Tatum.

The phone rings again. And, of course, it’s the Ghostface voice again. The woman is getting impatient with him and she passes the phone to her friend who we find out is named Trudie (Shenae Grimes). Trudie asks who it is and Ghostface says he’s the last person she’s ever going to see alive.

Trudie’s friend thinks it’s a prank. Trudie hangs up but the phone rings again. But then Trudie gets a message from her Facebook stalker who tells her to answer the phone. Trudie goes to check the front door is locked. Trudie gets a message daring her to open the door and we find out Trudie’s friend is named Sherrie (Lucy Hale). Sherrie opens the door but no one is there. Trudie gets another message that says, “I’m not outside. I’m right beside you.”

Ghostface pops out and stabs Trudie. And then he kills Sherrie. We hear a scream and we get a title card. Only, it’s not for Scream 4. This title card is for Stab 6, the movie within the movie.

The camera pulls back to reveal two other women have been watching this scene on television. These women are Rachel Barnes (Anna Paquin) and Chloe (Kristen Bell). Rachel complains how the whole killer with a meta plot thing has been done to death, obviously criticizing Scream itself. Chloe, on the other hand, thinks there is just something extra scary about a killer with a knife. It’s not zombies or aliens or anything like that and it’s something that could happen to anyone.

If you ever wonder if the people making Scream films are horror fans all you have to do is listen to the dialogue because this is the kind of debate horror fans have all the time and it just feels like a realistic conversation.

Rachel complains there is no element of surprise and you can see everything coming. And then in something no one saw coming, Chloe stabs Rachel. This is definitely not something we’ve seen in a Scream film before. It’s always a masked killer. Rachel asks why and Chloe tells Rachel it’s because she talks too much and she should shut up and watch the movie and stabs her again.

And we get a title card. Only, once again, this is not for Scream 4. This time it’s for Stab 7. And the camera pulls back and we see two more women watching television. This time the person who paused the movie talks about how much she loves the Stab movies. The audience at this point is starting to wonder if this will go on endlessly, just showing more Stab reveals and never getting to the Scream film.

The other woman in the room says she doesn’t get it. And they start debating what the movies are about if the beginning of one movie is the really the end of another movie. She’s pretty much summing up where the audience is with the Scream movies right now.

We then find out these women live in Woodsboro so we’re getting closer to our movie. It’s explained the original trilogy is based off true events that happened to Sidney Prescott. But then apparently Sidney threatened to sue the filmmakers so they just started making stuff up from that point on.

We find out the one who likes Stab movies is named Jenny (Aimee Teegarden) when she gets up to investigate a noise she heard. The phone rings and we learn the other woman is Marnie (Britt Robertson) when Jenny asks her to answer the phone. And, of course, it’s the voice of Ghostface. Marnie asks who it is and the voice says, “This is the last person you’re ever going to see alive.”

We then see Jenny laughing because she was just pulling a prank on her friend. Marnie’s pretty upset and the camera cuts over to Jenny who says someone falls for it every year. But then we hear choking sounds from Marnie’s end of the phone call. Jenny goes down to investigate and finds the phone on the floor. She thinks Marnie is just pranking back. But the phone rings again. Jenny knows Marnie doesn’t have the voice changing app on her phone so she can’t talk like Ghostface. But then it is the Ghostface voice.

Jenny is told she’s in Ghostface’s movie and Marnie’s body is thrown through the window. Jenny runs but she gets stabbed. She makes her way to the garage and tries to crawl under the door but Ghostface gets her.

And we finally, finally do come to the Scream 4 title card.

While this is not the scariest cold open by far, it’s definitely surprising. And doing the film within the film within the film into the real film was a pretty neat trick only Scream could have pulled off.

Sidney Comes Home and We Catch up with Everyone Else

Just as with all of the other Scream films, after the cold open, we catch up with Sidney Prescott. She’s back in Woodsboro to sign copies of her book. There are decorations of Ghostface all over the town but Sidney shrugs it off figuring it’s because it’s the anniversary of the original killings.

Dewey is back to working for the Woodsboro Police Department. And he’s still married to Gale. Their on again off again relationship is in the on phase at the start of this movie.

He goes to get into his patrol car when someone driving an SUV goes past at high speeds. This is Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere).

Kirby seems to be a bit of a troublemaker but she goes to pick up her friends to go to school. One of her friends is Jill (Emma Roberts), who we learn is Sidney’s cousin. Kirby is a fan of Sidney because she loves horror movies. Jill doesn’t seem to really know Sidney very well.

Jill gets a call from the Ghostface killer while they are in the car. The voice asks her, “What’s your favorite scary movie?” Jill is smart enough to put the call on speaker for her friends to hear. And we hear that one of the girls in the car already got a call like that from Marnie so they shrug it off as a prank.

Dewey has gone from Deputy to Sheriff so we get introduced to a new cop, Deputy Judy Hicks. She talks about how she wishes she was around when the original murders happened because she would be bonding with Dewey. She definitely gets a bit flirty. They then get called to go to the Riley house.

Meanwhile, Gale watches an interview with Sidney on television and then tries to make progress on her fiction writing. It doesn’t go well. Obviously, Gale, is at her best when she’s doing investigative journalism.

At Woodsboro High we see Jill and her friends get interviewed by someone live casting who asks, “What’s your favorite scary movie?” This is Robbie Mercer (Erik Knudsen). He’s there with his friend Charlie Walker (Rory Culkin). Charlie seems to have a thing for Kirby.

Inside, Jill runs into her ex-boyfriend Trevor (Nico Totorella). He seems to be concerned for Jill but she lays into him pretty hard.

Gale meets up with Sidney at her book signing. Dewey shows up and tells everyone they have to stay at the bookstore. They’ve traced a phone call from a crime back to the store. Dewey calls the number and they find find a phone in the trunk of Sidney’s rental car, along with a bunch of blood stained photos of Sidney and a Ghostface mask.

At Woodsboro High everyone starts getting messages on their phones about the death of Jenny and Marnie the night before. Reporters descend on the town and our list of suspects starts to build.

At the police station Gale and Judy have a bit of tension while Dewey is interviewing Sidney. Dewey is trying to keep a lid on what is going on but the internet has already gotten wind of it and the information is out to the world. Despite Dewey’s concern Gale is determined to get the story.

We also meet Deputy Perkins (Anthony Anderson) who mentions some high school kids also got threatening phone calls that day. Dewey figures out immediately one of the kids was Sidney’s cousin.

Kirby, Jill and Olivia Morris (Marielle Jaffe) are brought to the station where they meet Sidney and Kirby worries she’ll be the next one killed since she didn’t get a phone call. Sidney wants to get out of town (as any reasonable person would) but she’s not allowed to leave because everyone is considered a suspect. She gets police protection but we know how that’s worked out for her in the past.

Meanwhile Sidney’s book tour manager is thrilled with the murders. It’s another nod by this franchise pointing out people getting excited by and profiting off of real world violence while criticizing fictionalized violence in horror films. Gale is not a fan of this woman.

The Killer Ramps UP the Violence

At Jill’s house her mother, Kate Roberts (Mary McDonnell), Kirby, Sidney and Dewey are all together. Kate seems a bit jealous of Sidney because she gets all the attention due to her past. Jill gets startled by her ex-boyfriend in a scene reminiscent of what happened to Sidney in the first film. Trevor is obviously a prime suspect because the love interests are always a suspect. Sidney walks in on them and tells Jill she reminds her of herself. And Sidney bumps into Deputy Judy Hicks who comes off as a bit threatening when she brings up how she was in classes with Sidney in High School.

Later, in a great horror easter egg we see Kirby and Jill watching Shaun of the Dead. Olivia debates going inside but figures its safer at home. Jill calls her and does a terrible Ghostface voice to try to prank her. But then Jill’s phone rings and Kirby answers. It’s the voice of the killer.

Kirby seems to think this is Trevor, obviously because it came from his number, but she also thinks he’s just trying to do Ghostface’s voice.

So, for this scene we have Jill and Kirby in Jill’s bedroom. Kirby is on the phone with the killer, while Olivia is on the phone with Jill. It’s kind of a weird phone triangle where anyone on the line might be in danger. The killer asks Kirby how Shaun of the Dead is. Kirby wonders how he could have known that and the killer tells her he is in the closet. Kirby doesn’t believe him so the killer tells her to open the closet door. Kirby does open the closet and there is no one in there. And in a great twist the killer says he never said he was in her closet. And he jumps out of Olivia’s closet. Kirby and Jill watch in horror as Olivia is attacked. Sidney gets to the window just in time to see what is happening and runs out to get the cops but they don’t seem to be there. Sidney goes into Olivia’s house to confront the killer but it’s beyond too late for Olivia.

In Olivia’s room the phone rings and Sidney answers. It’s the killer once again. Sidney pretty much dares the guy to come after her and Ghostface says some pretty horrible stuff about what he’s going to do to her. Jill shows up and while Sidney tries to shield her from the awful scene, Ghostface comes back. He gets a good slash in on Jill’s arm and pins Sidney for a moment. Sidney manages to get the upper hand and knocks him down just around the time the cops arrive. But, of course, Ghostface is already gone.

At the scene Robbie Mercer comes to live cast to his show. He’s confronted by Gale Weathers and we find out Charlie is the cinema club president. Gale suggests a team up and Robbie and Charlie are pretty excited, although, they’d rather have Sidney show up to their cinema club instead of Gale.

At the hospital, Sidney fires her book tour manager who admits she never even read Sidney’s book. She’s the next victim. She gets the call from the killer in the parking garage.

At a press conference Rebecca’s body falls right onto a news van where both Gale and Dewey are. Gale has a lead but Dewey basically just has a list of suspects.

Cinema Club Gives us the Rules

At the cinema club, Sidney comes to talk with the students and Woodsboro High. Charlie points out the only component the killer is missing is live video feed of what he’s doing. Gale shows up as well. Charlie and Robbie say the plan for a new killer would be to film all the murders real time and upload them into cyberspace, making your art immortal.

Here we get our “new rules” of horror. This is because now all movies are just remakes according to Charlie. These stand out from the first three because there are more rules than usual and they are not given in the peppy way Randy did for the last three. Charlie lays them out for us and they are as follows.

  1. The unexpected is the new cliche.
  2. You gotta have an opening sequence that blows the doors off.
  3. The kills have to be way more extreme.
  4. Modern audiences get savvy to the rules of the originals so the reversals become the new standard.
  5. The only sure fire way to survive a modern horror movie, you pretty much have to be gay.

I have to say, I think out of all the first four Scream movies, these rules are the weakest and make the least sense.

In the first three films, when Randy tells us what the rules are, it’s always something the characters can take action on. They can be sure never to say, “I’ll be right back.” Or, the rules tell the characters who is most likely to be targeted as in the third one when Randy says, “Even main characters can die, this means you, Sid.”

How is anyone supposed to take action on the unexpected is cliche? Are we supposed to just guard ourselves against the mundane? That makes no sense considering phone calls are still pretty unexpected when a killer is on the line.

We know there was an opening sequence, and I guess, the characters here might feel like Marnie and Jenny die but for the people in Scream 4 they learned about that when everyone’s phones went off at school. It’s not exactly must see television here, more like a news alert anyone could get any day of the year.

The fourth rule is the only one where action can be taken in this film. Reversals are the new standard so we should expect the opposite of what we’re used to. At this point in the movie we haven’t seen this happen. It’s still just been Ghostface calling and attacking with a couple of neat tricks, like being in the house not guarded by the cops.

And rule five, even if potentially true, is useless for these characters. No one is going to suddenly be gay and none of the characters we’ve followed so far are established to be gay so what even is the point of this rule?

These rules are not how to survive a horror film but just kind of lay out what a horror film is these days. In other words, these guys are no Randy and you really feel a Randy sized hole in this movie.

They do give us some useful information in the scene though. They lets us know, as we already do, the killings are following the formula of a Stab movie. And those all culminate in a party. The guaranteed third act bloodbath. This time the party is the Stab-a-thon. Sidney tries to get them to call it off but they won’t.

Things Get Worse

Sidney has a nice moment with Jill where she seems to really care about her cousin. Jill seems to be concerned with all the looks and attention she’ll get because of what’s going on. Sidney advises her to focus on the people she cares about.

Jill is locked up in her room right across from where Olivia died but Kirby goes to the movie marathon. Trevor is also at the party even though it’s not really his scene. There are a bunch of people there in Ghostface masks, including Gale who sets up cameras all over the party.

Charlie and Robbie get the movie marathon started and we see Stab is directed by Robert Rodriguez in a nice nod to horror fans who love From Dusk Til Dawn.

Gale sets up her cameras and goes back to her van where she gets a call from Dewey. Gale tells him about the party and he heads over there. In Gale’s van all of her cameras go dark and she sees the Ghostface mask just before the last one turns off.

At the festival, we see the first scene of Stab which we saw in the first scene of Scream 2. Kirby sees Charlie and Robbie and Gale goes back into the party. There the whole crowd chants my favorite line from the fake Stab movies when Heather Graham, playing Casey Becker, says, “You know, I don’t even know you, and I dislike you already.”

Dewey gets to Gale’s car just in time to realize she’s inside. One of the cameras there is working again and Dewey shouts to Gale to look behind her as Ghostface attacks. This is basically a required scene in Scream films at this point. There has to be a moment where someone sees someone else about to be attacked and shouts at them to turn around. Gale Weathers is no slouch so she snaps right around and there is a tussle. No one at the party seems to notice but Dewey does get there in time to fire some rounds off at the killer. Gale has been injured but she doesn’t seem to be out for the count. She lets Dewey know webcams are being used to record. In other words, this time, Ghostface is making the movie rather than just reacting to them.

Outside of Sidney’s house we get a great scene where the rules of cop movies are talked about between Detective Hoss (Adam Brody) and Deputy Perkins. Hoss says if it’s your last day before retirement you die. If you’re a rookie and find out your wife is pregnant, you die. Or if your partner is better looking than you, you die. Perkins says he’ll take the next perimeter and that he’ll be right back. Immediately he realizes what that means. But Hoss tells him it’s a new decade with new rules and Perkins might come back to find Hoss dead with his eyes gouged out. Could go either way. Perkins decides to stay in the car and Hoss goes instead.

I love this scene because it shows us horror films are not the only ones that have rules. And Scream has already subverted a lot of these cop movie rules too. Dewey has made it through more than three films here and he is not dead. However, several cops in Scream have died in previous movies. It’s a great meta layer on top of another meta layer.

Hoss notices an open window and radios Perkins but there is no answer back. We know Sidney is in danger. Hoss goes back to check on Perkins who has his head down on the steering wheel. He was just trying to prank Hoss. But then the killer kills both Hoss and Perkins, totally subverting the expectations the film just set up. We weren’t expecting both of them to die, and definitely not together, so it really does seem like it’s a new decade with new rules.

Inside, Sidney grabs a knife when she hears a noise outside. It’s her sister Kate who then goes back out to get some grocery bags. And, of course, the phone rings. Sidney answers and hears the killer’s voice. The killer has her turn on the television to see reports of Gale’s attack. The killer then starts talking about Sidney’s family. Sidney runs to Jill’s room but she is not there.

Both Kate and Sidney are then attacked. Kate doesn’t make it. We’ve only known Kate from two scenes in this whole franchise so it’s hard to say we were attached to her. However, for Sidney. she’s family so the kill is a bit more impactful on her. Sidney runs out of the house and bumps into Deputy Hicks. Sidney takes off while Hicks is not looking.

We catch up with Dewey and Gale at the hospital where Gale tells Dewey to get the killer.

The After Party and the Killer is Revealed

Jill has gone over to Kirby’s house. The movie marathon has been cut short so Charlie, Kirby, Robbie and Jill are hanging out talking about what just happened. Charlie mentions the party was the false ending because we’re dealing with new rules. Charlie wants to finish the film festival so he goes to put in Stab 7. Charlie notices Kirby’s horror DVD collection and she’s got some top notch titles, including Suspiria and Don’t Look Now. Charlie and Kirby get a bit flirty with some horror trivia. Trevor shows up out of nowhere. He says he found the after party but Kirby says it’s an anti-party. Trevor also says he got a text from Jill inviting him there. Jill denies ever texting him. But then Jill can’t find her phone and she goes outside.

Robbie seems pretty panicked that Gale was attacked at his film festival and Trevor asks who really sent him the text from Jill’s phone. Kirby mentions Trevor’s phone is missing. Trevor says he got a new one and Kirby is understandably suspicious.

Deputy Hicks gives Dewey the bad news about the scene at Sidney’s house. It sort of seems like Sidney might be a suspect here from Dewey and Hicks’ perspective. This would make sense considering Sidney just fled a murder scene. But we all know she’s not the killer. Or at the very least, couldn’t be the only killer. Either way, Dewey heads back to Sidney’s house.

At the after party, Robbie is on his way to getting as drunk as he can and we see the scene from Stab 7 which was at the beginning of this movie play on the television. It makes for a kind of weird reality for the film but it works pretty well. Robbie goes outside and he hears Kirby continue to flirt with Charlie. Robbie decides to turn his webcam on and he stumbles around a bit. Inside, Kirby goes so far as to kiss Charlie when Trevor interrupts them. Trevor talks about how he loves the part in Stab 7 where you think everyone is safe in the house and suddenly Ghostface comes in and kills them. Charlie walks out in what seems like frustration. Kirby shouts at Trevor to get out of her house.

Outside, Robbie is stumbling around when Ghostface pops out of the house and kills him. Robbie does mention that he is gay but that doesn’t seem like enough to stop his death. While he could have been a suspect, it seems that Robbie is off the list.

Inside, Jill comes down the stairs and tells Kirby there was no text message from her phone to Trevor. Kirby asks where Trevor is because last Kirby saw, Trevor went upstairs looking for Jill. Kirby calls for Trevor, Charlie and Robbie. Jill opens the door of the house to find Sidney standing there.

Sidney grabs Jill and they all start to head out of the house when a very bloody but still alive Robbie shows up and tells them to run. Ghostface forces his way into the house. Sidney and Jill make it upstairs where Sidney tells Jill to hide under the bed. Ghostface breaks through the door. Sidney is outside now and shouts away from the house, telling Jill to keep running, in an attempt to misdirect Ghostface. Sidney gets to the roof of the house and calls Dewey and lets him know the killer is at Kirby’s house. Sidney gets away from Ghostface for a minute and bumps into Kirby who says her landline has been cut along with her router. Kirby asks where Jill is. Kirby leads Sidney to a room downstairs where they can lock themselves away.

I’m not sure how much I buy Sidney would go with Kirby considering how often there has been a partner involved in these killings but she goes anyway. Outside the window, Charlie begs Kirby to let him in. He’s covered in blood and says he just found Robbie. Sidney tells Kirby if she can’t trust him not to open the door.

Behind Charlie, Ghostface pops up and smashes Charlie’s head against the door a couple of times. We hear Charlie shouting for Kirby when we cut back to Dewey on his way to the house.

When the camera goes back to Kirby’s house, Charlie is tied to a chair, still outside. Kirby gets a call from Charlie’s phone. It’s the killer who seems to want to bargain Charlie’s life for Sidney’s. Sidney tells Kirby to stay on the phone and goes to get Jill.

Ghostface asks Kirby horror trivia questions but she says Charlie is the expert. Still, Kirby gets several answers in a row right. Then Ghostface gives a multiple choice of what movie started slasher films. Kirby chooses Psycho but the killer says it’s really Peeping Tom from 1960 because it’s the first movie to ever put the audience in the killer’s point of view. While this may technically be true, I still would say this is a gray area. Psycho can be more acclaimed to be the film that started the slasher craze for the simple reason that it was much more popular than Peeping Tom, even if that film did influence Psycho. Kirby begs the killer to give her one more question. The killer starts to ask a question and Kirby just lists off ton of horror films at rapid speed. In fact, it you want a great night of horror films, just literally go down the list of movies Kirby rattles off, they’re all good picks.

Kirby realizes she must have gotten the question right and goes outside to free Charlie. Meanwhile, Sidney can’t find Jill upstairs.

After Kirby frees Charlie he stabs Kirby in the stomach. Charlie then gets mad that Kirby had four years of classes with him but only noticed him now and he stabs her again in the same spot. She falls to the ground and Charlie goes inside.

Sidney has found a knife and hears noises downstairs. Charlie comes up from behind her with a knife and grabs her. She gets away from Charlie and heads out the door, only to be stabbed by someone in a Ghostface costume at the front of the house. This turns out to be Jill.

Out of all of the Scream killer reveals, I think this one might be the most clever. No one was expecting it to be Sidney’s own cousin. And Jill had rigged it pretty well so we were suspicious of Trevor. Charlie’s reveal was also a bit of a surprise but not outside the realm of possibility. But having the killer be one of the few people Sidney would want to protect most was a nice twist here.

And Jill reveals the plan is to upload all the footage and make it traceable to Trevor who has been tied up in the closet. Charlie pulls him out. Sidney kind of has no choice but to watch as Jill shoots Trevor. Jill and Charlie see themselves as the Sidney and Randy of the remake. Jill just seems to be a jealous brat who wants fame.

And just like in the original Charlie tells Jill to stab him, the way Stu did with Billy. And, just like Billy did, Jill goes too far and kills her partner. Sidney is appalled that Jill could do that to her friends but Jill says she doesn’t need friends, she needs fans. Jill wants to become Sidney for the fame. She stabs Sidney who collapses. Jill unties Trevor’s body and starts to make it look like he pulled her hair out. She then stabs herself in the shoulder and smashes her head against the wall. It’s pretty brutal. She ends off by back-flopping onto a glass table and lies down next to Sidney.

Dewey finally arrives to see all the carnage. Jill is taken out on a stretcher, surrounded by cameras. Dewey is with her at the hospital and Jill spins her story when she mentions she has wounds that match Gale’s. Dewey also lets Jill know Sidney might survive.

Dewey leaves and Jill gets up to finish the job on Sidney. Dewey talks to Gale and figures out Jill wouldn’t know where Gale was injured. Of course, Dewey, Gale, and Deputy Hicks go in to save Sidney in the end. But the fight between the two women is just painful to watch with them both being injured. A scuffle happens but Sidney ends up electrocuting Jill with shock pads and gives us one last rule of remakes, “Don’t f–k with the original.” And, as always, the killer comes back for one more scare but Sidney shoots her.

Outside of the hospital, Jill is getting all the fame she hoped for but she’s just too dead to enjoy it.

A few Notes on the Film

While this wasn’t exactly a remake, it’s also, kind of a remake so I guess we’d call it a reboot. And while I don’t like the rules given here, I’m fine with how they played out. That’s because the rules we get are delivered by the killer himself so this is a subversion of Scream films. For three movies we’ve gotten rules from someone who isn’t a killer so the audience can kind of assume the person saying the rules isn’t the killer. And, as the movie says, it’s a new decade with new rules so nearly anything goes.

At the same time, nothing truly unexpected happens with the returning characters. Gale, Dewey, and Sidney are all fine so there’s not a ton of impact there.

The best addition to the franchise in this movie was far and away Kirby, a horror fan horror fans can relate to. It takes more than another decade before Scream comes back to theaters so for a while this movie felt like an attempt to revive a franchise that didn’t get very far. But, considering what the story ends up being in Scream (2022) (no spoilers for that here) I’m glad there was the time gap. If they never made the fifth and sixth movies I would say Scream 4 is an add on your could see or skip. But now, it’s required viewing.

In a way this is a transition film from the original trilogy into what we see with a more modern take in the next two films.

In Conclusion

This is not my favorite Scream film but it’s one worth watching, especially if you’ve gotten this far with the series. It definitely has flaws but it brings a more current vibe to it. Neve Campbell is still a complete badass in these movies and Dewey and Gale are always entertaining to watch together. There are still tons of easter eggs for horror fans and there are genuinely surprising moments,

This film also seems to be saying, it’s not horror movies that lead to real world violence, but fans who are only interested in attention that are unhinged. The first three made more of a comparison to real world vs. fictional violence. But this one seems to be saying when anyone can have a camera, we can all be filmmakers, and there’s bound to be somebody who’s just in it for the fame, no matter who they hurt.

So, did you see this movie? Are you a Kirby fan? Or does this one feel forced? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Stab-ily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Scream 3 – Movie Review

David Arquette, Neve Campbell and Patrick Dempsey star in Scream 3

Hello horror fans and slasher stans, it’s Slick Dungeon here! I’m gearing up to go see the sixth installment of the Scream franchise soon but before I do that, I wanted to review all of the previous movies here. For these reviews I plan on going in-depth so if you have not seen the movies, I advise you not to read this review yet. Scream is a great slasher franchise but the best parts of it are surprising events and reveals so definitely have a watch first because reviewing without spoilers is never easy with these movies.

When I do review Scream VI, I will have a first reaction spoiler free review followed by a spoiler heavy review. For the rest of these, watch first or risk the fun of the movies being taken away by reading. I’m going to be talking about individual scenes, characters, and themes so it’s all fair game in these reviews. I will only spoil things from the first three movies in this review so you don’t need to have seen all the Scream films to keep yourself spoiler free, just the first three. If you want to read my review of the first Scream you can do so right here. And if you missed my review of the sequel, Scream 2, you can check it out here.

Scream 3 in Historical Context

Scream movies are kind of unique in the slasher genre because these are reflections of their time more than a lot of other films. The first Scream revived slasher films, the second was able to develop a franchise during the early age of the internet with spoilers flying around everywhere. And the third? Well, there was a lot happening.

First off, Kevin Williamson who had written the first two scripts wasn’t available for the third movie so instead writing duties fell to Ehren Kruger who had an outline from Williamson but didn’t use much of it.

Secondly, perhaps more importantly, but definitely more tragically, there was a huge increase in scrutiny over violence in the media after the awful shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. This was, at the time, the largest mass shooting at an American school in history. After this tragedy, people wanted to find out a reason why something like this could have happened. Attention was turned towards violent movies, explicit music, and video games. There’s certainly a debate to be had over how much any of this may or may not have contributed to the real world events but either way, releasing a violent slasher film in this kind of heightened scrutiny was not an easy thing to do. This may be the reason why this film plays way more into the comedic aspects of the franchise than the first two did. The filmmakers were a bit reluctant to take too many risks or show too much violence here.

After the first two films were decent sellers, this movie didn’t have as much riding on it as Scream 2 did. It could perform poorly and still make enough of a profit for the studio to be happy. It did end up making $162 million with a $40 million budget, so financially speaking, it was a success. On the critical level, this one is probably the least well loved of all the Scream films. However, this one is still worth a rewatch because in larger context this may not be quite as bad as people remember.

The film brought back old stars including Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, and Liev Schreiber. It also inserts new cast members including Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley and Lance Hennriksen. Plus there are a few notable cameos but we’ll get into some of those further on in the review.

So, let’s take a look and see what went down with Scream 3. Does it deserve the derision it gets as a terrible film, or is there something here we should reconsider?

Spoilers follow below!

The Cold Open

Up to this point, both Scream films started with the deaths of characters barely connected to Sidney Prescott in a setting we don’t see again after the start of the film. The third film throws us in a different direction from the very beginning.

We see helicopter spotlights highlighting the famous Hollywood sign and we see on the road Cotton Weary is driving and talking on the phone. (This was before doing that was illegal) He’s speaking with his agent about a movie part he wants to get. It’s also established there is a Stab (the film within the film) sequel coming. Apparently Cotton has had some success since the last movie. He’s got a talk show and has a girlfriend. We find out he has a girlfriend because while Cotton is on the phone he gets a call from a woman who starts flirting with him. Cotton flirts back until the caller’s voice switches to the one we know as the voice of the Ghostface killers from before. The voice on the phone wants to know where Sidney Prescott is.

Cotton slams on the accelerator and rushes toward his apartment, hoping to save his girlfriend Christine. If you’re a horror fan and you hear the name Christine, you’ll probably think of the Stephen King book and movie of the same name. And the fact that Cotton starts out driving just reinforces that image.

Anyway, the camera cuts to Cotton’s apartment where Christine hears some odd noises and thinks its Cotton. We hear Cotton’s voice answer her but we know it can’t be Cotton because he’s driving. Sure enough someone wearing a Ghostface mask wielding a knife pops up to try to stab Christine. Christine gets away for a moment but whoever is in the mask says in Cotton’s voice he was just playing a game.

The real Cotton comes into the apartment but at this point whoever was in the mask seems to have gone somewhere else. Christine attacks Cotton in a panic, thinking he was trying to kill her. Cotton is on the floor when he sees the Ghostface killer behind Christine. Despite trying to warn her, she dies. Cotton gets the drop on the killer for a moment by dropping an entire bookcase on him but, the killer gets up and that’s the end of Cotton Weary. We then cut to the title card of Scream 3.

This cold open is definitely not one of the scarier ones of the Scream franchise but it does raise the stakes by immediately killing off a legacy character. Cotton Weary has already survived two of these films and while he’s not in the closest inner circle of Sidney’s he’s only one degree separated here. This means the killer means business and really has it out for Sidney.

This is also one of the shortest cold opens in the Scream films and doesn’t really ratchet up the terror at all before we see the consequences. Really, the only surprising part here is who dies, not how they die. It does, however, give the movie a bit of a different feel from the first two.

Catching up with the Gang

As with all of the Scream films so far, after the cold open deaths we cut to Sidney Prescott. She’s walking her dog in an isolated place where she lives alone. She has alarms and door locks and she gets on the phone for her job as a crisis call center operator with a fake name. The previous two films have had Sidney with a boyfriend but it’s pretty clear this time she’s all alone.

Next we see Gale Weathers giving a talk to a crowded classroom of upcoming journalists. After the speech Gale is told someone from the police wants to talk to her. The audience is pretty much expecting this to be Dewey but it turns out to be Detective Mark Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey). He delivers the news about Cotton Weary. And he gives Gale a clue to who the murderer is but swears her to secrecy. It’s a picture of a young Maureen Prescott, Sidney’s mother.

Sidney finds out about Cotton on the news and is understandably upset.

We then cut to Sunrise Studios where Stab 3 is in production. The movie is in danger of being shut down because of the likely return of a deranged killer. In the studio there is a debate over whether shutting down a scary movie would have any effect on reducing the amount of “psychos” in the world. They use that word intentionally, I think, because the first two Scream films truly do depend on a bunch of tricks the movie Psycho pulled off. It’s a sort of spiritual ancestor to the Scream movies. But, it’s trying to make the same point the first two movies did. Depicting violence doesn’t necessarily cause real world violence. One of the filmmakers asks the detectives passing by if there was any reason to think the murders were linked to the movie. The detective says, “He was making a movie called Stab. He was stabbed.” This sort of throws out the argument the filmmakers of Stab were trying to make.

We then see the cast of actors who are making the movie. They are all obvious stand ins for the cast we know from the first Scream movies, including a person dressed as a deputy, one who looks an awful lot like Sidney and a character named Ricky who works at the video store. These actors all start debating who the killer could be and hypothesize it might be Sidney because no one has seen her in the public eye for quite some time. Some are more callous than others about whether or not they should be concerned for their own safety.

Gale Weathers walks into the set and she is met by Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey) who is portraying Gale Weathers in the Stab films. One of the definite bright spots of this film is the back and forth between Posey and Courtney Cox. Jennifer Jolie says to Gale, “…after two films I feel like I am in your mind.” Gales quips back, “Well that would explain my constant headaches.”

We finally catch up with Dewey who is on set as a creative consultant. Gale and Dewey have an on again off again relationship and this time they start the movie in the off stage. As Gale goes through the set it’s pretty clear no one there is happy to see her either because they see her as a rival, had bad news about them reported by her, or in the case of Dewey, broke up with her. It’s definitely not friendly territory for our intrepid journalist.

After a bit of back and forth, Gale is told she has to leave the set and on the way out she passes some famous faces.

Now is the point where we have to talk about the Jay & Silent Bob cameo. Some people absolutely hate this cameo and I can understand why. It’s not at all relevant to the story, it’s not a horror cameo or easter egg, and it’s pretty silly. But, I can also see why some people love it. In the 1990’s Jay and Silent Bob were huge icons for independent film and Kevin Smith was a highly respected director with several good films under his belt. Jay says some pretty silly stuff, thinking Gale Weathers is Connie Chung, a famous news anchor of the time. Personally, I’m in the love it camp because no one ever said Scream movies weren’t supposed to be fun. Sure it’s a bit out of place and silly, but the movie within a movie, having characters from another movie who are also real world famous talking about a journalist who is not real being compared to a real world journalist is just so random I can’t help but enjoy it.

The Dream Sequence

Back at Sidney’s home she talks with her dad about how her mom had so many secrets and none of this would have started if she didn’t have those. I’d say that’s highly debatable considering Maureen was a victim all around, other than cheating on Sidney’s father. Sidney’s dad tries to get her to come home and be with him because she only talks to people who don’t even know her real name. To me, this is a really oddly timed thing to ask. Seems like this would be the best time for Sidney to be isolated considering there is someone looking for her and willing to kill. And it just feels wrong here for Sidney to basically be victim blaming her mother. I would think Sidney would be the last person to blame anyone but the killers for killing people.

Sidney goes to sleep and in one of the most ridiculous parts of the movie she has a dream involving her mother. It’s meant to show Sidney’s trauma and all of that but it also sort of implies a supernatural connection between Sidney and Maureen Prescott. It has a pretty standard jump scare with someone as the Ghostface killer jumping through her window. Sidney then wakes up startled.

Out of all of the things in this movie I would get rid of if I could, this is right at the top of the list. It doesn’t really help the film and it takes us out of the reality we’ve been used to in Scream movies. And for that matter, considering how much has happened to all of these characters, this dream would be just as valid for Dewey or Gale to have as well. If this was meant as a sort of nod to the Nightmare on Elm Street films I can respect that but it just doesn’t really work.

The Body Count Increases

Back on the set we see Sarah Darling (Jenny McCarthy) walking around where she is startled by a fellow actor in a makeup test. It’s late and there are not a lot of people around. The actor with the makeup test and the makeup artist leave and the phone rings. Sarah speaks with Roman, the director of Stab 3. The name Roman here is no doubt inspired by Roman Polanski who directed Rosemary’s Baby. It should also be noted that Roman Polanski has a very checkered past personal life (to put it mildly) and it makes the audience think, at least briefly, maybe Scream 3 is trying to make a statement about that here.

Sarah tells Roman how unhappy she is because her character is in only two scenes and she gets killed in the second scene. She also mentions she’s 35 playing a 21 year old. Again, these are real world issues Hollywood tends to have, and horror is no exception. This is an interesting aspect of the film because it rings really true and we can feel for Sarah but we also know Sarah is about to die, just like it seems to say in the script for Stab 3.

Roman has Sarah run her lines and we start to get some of the dialogue from the original Scream but it’s cut off when Sarah starts complaining about the scene taking place in the shower. Yet another nod to Psycho. And hilariously Sarah says it’s been done before in Vertigo, misattributing one of the most famous scenes in film history to the wrong Alfred Hitchcock movie.

However, Roman then calls Sarah by her real name in the script read and tells her it’s not a new script but a new movie. Then the voice changes to the one we know as the voice of the Ghostface killer. Sarah goes to hide and ends up in a rack of Ghostface costumes. She tries to call for help but the killer pops out and she is attacked and dies.

Dewey and Gale catch up and we see why they broke up. Gale couldn’t take the slow pace of Woodsboro and Dewey couldn’t keep up with Gale’s lifestyle. Dewey also tells Gale that months ago someone broke into the Woodsboro police department trying to steal Sidney’s file which Dewey had already removed. So, while we know Dewey is here for the film, it does seem he’s trying to get to the bottom of the case.

Dewey and Gale then catch up with Jennifer Jolie who is quite frightened because she dies next in the script. It also sets up a bit of a love triangle for the three of them.

And once again, Maureen Prescott’s photo is left with the body. Detective Kincaid tells Gale and Dewey there are three different versions of the script and says, “Something about trying to keep the ending off the internet.” This gets fairly meta since that’s exactly what happened with the script of Scream 2 and it seems we are blurring the lines of fiction and reality here.

Detective Kincaid and his partner confront Roman and mention Sarah had been scheduled for a meeting with him before she died.

Sidney is at home answering crisis calls when someone with Maureen Prescott’s voice calls her and says Sidney should turn on the news. She sees the reports of the killing at the movie studio and the voice on the phone changes to the voice of the Ghostface killer.

The actors are in what should be a safe location in a large house with a security guard and Dewey is there as well. Gale drops in and tells Dewey that Roman was released because the phone call did not come from him. It was a cloned cell phone which is untraceable. She also tells Dewey that Maureen Prescott didn’t always live in Woodsboro. Two years before she met Sidney’s father she left Woodsboro but no one has any information about where she was or why. But from some photo evidence they realize Maureen was at the backlot at Sunrise Studios.

The security guard gets a call seemingly from Dewey but it’s not Dewey, it’s the killer. In his last moments he gets to the door where everyone else is and drops dead. The group runs outside but the fax machine in the house gets a fax. It prints out script pages describing what is happening, including the death of the security guard. The script says the killer will give mercy to… and then most of them run outside but the actor playing Dewey runs back to read it. And he lights a lighter to read the killer will give mercy to whoever smells the gas. Then the house just straight up explodes.

It’s kind of a weird scene in a Scream movie because it feels way more action oriented than horror based. It’s not fear inducing at all.

The group gets split up but when Dewey sees the killer in the costume, Dewey shoots him several times. Dewey saves Gale once again. Jennifer is not at all pleased Dewey went to Gale instead of her. The killer gets away and Dewey finds another photo of Maureen Prescott. This one says “I killed her.” So someone is claiming to have killed Maureen Prescott, even though it was established long ago Billy Loomis and Stu Macher were the killers.

Detective Kincaid thinks Sidney knows something and wants to talk to her but Dewey won’t give up her information. But, Sidney shows up.

Sidney Comes Back and We Get the Rules

Sidney figures if the killer can call her at home she’s not safe so she comes over to help. She asks to see the places in the pictures of her mother. Sort of randomly we meet Martha Meeks (Heather Matarazzo), Randy’s sister. She’s come to give the group a videotape Randy left for all of them.

On the tape Randy (Jamie Kennedy) tells us he made the tape in case he didn’t survive the killings at Windsor College. He says he’s there to help them so his death won’t be in vain. He first asks if this is simply another sequel, in which case, the rules from Scream 2 apply. But then he says if you find yourself dealing with a lot of unexpected backstory and a preponderance of exposition then sequel rules do not apply because you are not dealing with a sequel. Instead it’s the concluding chapter of a trilogy.

Here are the rules Randy lays out.

  1. You’ve got a killer who is going to be superhuman.
  2. Anyone, including the main character can die.
  3. The past will come back to bite you in the ass.

I really like this part of the movie because we get one last glimpse of Randy we weren’t expecting and just as was the case in the other films, we’re already following and breaking some of these rules. While we don’t know the killer is superhuman, they did take a bunch of shots from Dewey and somehow survived. We’ve seen Cotton Weary die but this is not a main character so rule two could be true but we don’t know yet. And, while we don’t know exactly how, it’s pretty clear rule three is true. Randy pointed out in the best trilogies at the end we learn something wasn’t true that we thought was. In this case, it must have something to do with Maureen, it’s just not clear what.

More Cameos

Gale and Jennifer go to the studio archives to find out anything they can about Maureen’s past. Here we get another cameo where the person in charge of the archives is Carrie Fisher. Gale and Jennifer comment how much she looks like Carrie Fisher but she says she tried out for Star Wars but didn’t get the part because the actress who slept with George Lucas did. It’s kind of a weird cameo and feels a bit out of place but I still like it because I am a huge Star Wars fan and I like it any time Carrie Fisher shows up in anything.

We do find out Maureen was acting under a stage name in horror films back in John Milton’s heyday. John Milton (Lance Henriksen) is one of the producers on Stab 3 so now he’s more of a suspect.

Things Get Worse

Sidney bumps into the actress playing herself in the restroom in a call back to the first Scream. Sidney kicks in the stall door to find Angelina Tyler (Emily Mortimer) in the stall with a Ghostface costume and what might be a phone or a voice changer. She’s thrilled to see Sidney and says she was just taking souvenirs from the set.

Then Sidney walks onto the set of Stab 3 which looks just like the houses in Woodsboro did. She sees the set of her own bedroom and starts to think about Billy when she starts hearing noises and gets attacked by the killer. She runs around escaping and shouting for Dewey until she ends up deeper in the set where it looks like the death of her mother has been recreated. Sidney even hears her mother’s voice and someone who is under a sheet stained with blood stands up and seems to speak in Maureen’s voice. Sidney jumps out of the window of the set. All I can say, is I bet Neve Campbell was pretty tired of jumping out of the same window at this point.

Detective Kincaid takes Sidney to a safe house which has never worked before. Meanwhile, Gale and Jennifer let Dewey in on the information about John Milton.

We see a scene where Roman is talking with Milton about how the film is shut down and Milton seems to think it’s no big deal but Roman is really upset. Milton says there are criminals all around Hollywood who still get work. Roman says he was questioned but he’s not a criminal. Milton just replies, “It’s good for your mystique.”

I have to pause her for just a moment to acknowledge something. The Scream franchise was distributed by Miramax at the time, meaning Harvey Weinstein was financially benefitting from these films. While Scream 3 is clearly fiction, it is about life in Hollywood as much as it is about anything else. It was an open secret Weinstein was a pretty awful person at this point so having Milton just shake off Roman’s comments does feel like this movie is trying to say something about that. It’s not clear if it was intentional but the comparison is undoubtedly there. And, while this film could have really gone there with this story line, it doesn’t quite. But, we’ll get a bit more into that later.

Gale, Dewey and Jennifer confront Milton about Maureen but he dismisses her as a bit actress who no one remembers.

The whole scene is a confrontation of Milton who seems to have had, let’s call them troubling, parties where young actresses could try to “make an impression” on men who could get them good parts. It’s a sadly disgusting but accurate summary of how a lot of Hollywood has worked in the past (and probably to some extent currently as well). Milton passes it all off because, “No charges were brought.”

At the police station Sidney kind of grills Kincaid on movie trilogies but he seems fairly creepy in the scene, putting him closer to being a suspect. As Kincaid leaves, Sidney asks him, “What’s your favorite scary movie.” It’s taken all this time to get to that line but it has to be in all the Scream movies. Kincaid just answers, “My life.” Sidney says under her breath, “Mine too.”

Dewey, Gale and Jennifer are driving and get a call from Sidney but we know it’s not Sidney because she says she isn’t at the police station. They believe it is Sidney though and head over to Milton’s house where Roman is having a birthday party. Because, you know, it’s a Scream movie so there’s always a party you would never want to be at.

At the party are the few remaining Stab actors and Roman himself. Sidney, however, is not there.

The Killer is Revealed

Roman and Jennifer pair off and go to look for an old screening room of Milton’s. The actors for Sidney and Randy wander around a different part of the house admiring the movie posters on the walls.

Gale tells Dewey to use his caller id to call whoever called him last. A phone in the house rings and they find a cell phone, a Ghostface costume, and a voice changer with all their voices. Dewey and Gale split up to warn the others.

Dewey finds Tyson (the actor playing fake Randy) and Gale finds Roman’s body in a prop coffin and she and Jennifer run out of the basement. The next to die is Angelina who is trying to escape the house.

Dewey, Gale and Jennifer all meet up and when Jennifer asks if they will be safer together, the killer pops out and punches Dewey out and everyone scatters. There’s a tussle and Dewey and Tyson get stabbed. Tyson tries to get away but doesn’t make it. Jennifer heads down some stairs but is then attacked herself. She ends up behind a mirror where Gale and Dewey are standing. Dewey shoots but it’s too late for Jennifer. Dewey goes to check on Tyson and Gale is attacked.

Dewey then gets a call from Gale saying she is trapped. Dewey hesitates but opens the door to the stairs. He tries to shoot the killer but is out of bullets. The killer then throws a knife at Dewey’s head but it hits with the butt end and Dewey just falls down the stairs.

Sidney, still at the station, finds her mother’s file. She gets a call on her cell phone and its her own voice talking to her. The killer says he has both Gale and Dewey and says he won’t kill them if she shows up. And he can tell her who killed her mother. Sidney, of course, goes, but not before arming herself with a gun she finds in Kincaid’s desk.

At Milton’s house Sidney finds Tyson’s body and a metal detector. She is told to scan her body which she does. In a nice touch from the last movie, Sidney is still wearing Derek’s Greek letters and that makes the detector go off but she makes a big show of not scanning one leg. She is told to scan the other leg and she pulls a gun out of her sock.

Sidney goes inside to find Dewey taped to a chair. The killer attacks her but Sidney pulls out a second gun and blasts the killer full of lead. She starts to free her friends when the killer gets up and walks away. Detective Kincaid shows up with a gun. He tells Sidney to put the gun down and the killer attacks him.

Sidney baits the killer to follow her and she ends up in an old secret passage. Sidney then hears the voice of her mother once again. And she sees the same sheet from the crime scene stage of her mother with the Ghostface killer under it.

Ghostface reveals body armor which is how he survived the bullets. And he reveals himself to be Maureen’s son. So this is Sidney’s half-brother. And it’s Roman, the director. He apparently showed Billy the footage of Maureen with Billy’s mother, kicking everything here into motion.

And, as is standard in these movies, the killer is revealed. Roman has framed it so Milton is the bad guy. He then pulls out Milton and kills him. The plan, apparently is to have Sidney snap but Roman will be the hero. It’s pretty tired and Sidney is over it. As always, Neve Campbell holds her own against this guy even when she takes some pretty hard knocks. Kincaid makes into the room Sidney is in long enough to distract the killer. Then Kincaid is attacked and Sidney picks up the killer’s knife. But Roman gets Kincaid’s gun and shoots Sidney in the gut with it. He shoots her a second time but Gale and Dewey try to make their way into the room.

Suddenly Sidney pops up and stabs Roman. She reveals she’s wearing body armor too. And Sidney stabs Roman. Gale and Dewey make it in and Dewey keeps shooting Roman in the chest until Sidney shouts at him to shoot in the head. And that’s the end of Roman.

We close out the movie with Gale and Dewey at Sidney’s place.

They seem to back in the on phase of their relationship, with a proposal from Dewey for marriage. Even Dewey knows it will probably never work but she agrees anyway. So we end on a happy note with Gale, Dewey, Sidney and Kincaid going to watch a movie.

In Conclusion

Courtney Cox has said the scariest thing about this movie was her bangs she had in it. And I have to say, I agree with her. However, that’s not to say this isn’t a fun watch. Basically it is still enjoyable but it could have been better.

There is just too much victim shaming of Maureen here. The violence is toned down and the comedy is played up so it doesn’t feel so much like a horror film but kind of an oddball comedy or action film with a little bit of horror involved. And the twist of the killer being Sidney’s half brother comes off as fairly lazy writing. Finally, there is some territory here where the film gets frustratingly close to exploring and just kind of ignores. Watching this in the age of the #metoo movement it views differently than when it first came out because we sort of know who the film is trying to call out. But it doesn’t delve deep enough into that to make a real statement. And because the violence is toned down here, it just doesn’t have the same impact the first two films do.

Still, this does end off the trilogy pretty well and leaves us with hope for the characters to lead fairly normal lives in the future. I’d say if you are a Scream fan, you have to watch this one but it’s not the most vital and most of it is fairly skippable. The surprises are mediocre but they are there. You may still be entertained by it just don’t expect it to be as ground breaking as either of the predecessors.

Stab-ily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Scream 2 – Movie Review

Returning characters and new faces look on in suspicion in Scream 2

Hello horror fans and slasher stans, it’s Slick Dungeon here! I’m gearing up to go see the sixth installment of the Scream franchise soon but before I do that, I wanted to review all of the previous movies here. For these reviews I plan on going in-depth so if you have not seen the movies, I advise you not to read this review yet. Scream is a great slasher franchise but the best parts of it are surprising events and reveals so definitely have a watch first because reviewing without spoilers is never easy with these movies.

When I do review Scream VI, I will have a first reaction spoiler free review followed by a spoiler heavy review. For the rest of these, watch first or risk the fun of the movies being taken away by reading. I’m going to be talking about individual scenes, characters, and themes so it’s all fair game in these reviews. I will only spoil things from the first and second movies in this review so you don’t need to have seen all the Scream films to keep yourself spoiler free, just the first two. If you want to read my review of the first Scream you can do so right here.

Scream 2 in Historical Context

The original Scream film did what horror fans thought to be impossible. It breathed new life into the slasher sub-genre. It also made a fair amount of money doing it. The sequel potential was inevitable. Any good slasher film needs a sequel. And, while Scream can easily be said to be a fun, creative, and original take on slasher films, coming up with a sequel that may outdo or at least be as good as the original is no easy task.

After the first film there was plenty of buzz about a sequel and it made a lot of sense to have one. This was also an era where the internet was just starting to really come into its own. People could go online and look for and discuss their favorite fandom any time they wished to. This means leaks of film scripts were guaranteed to happen at some point. There had been the occasional leak of a film script but it usually didn’t do anything to change the production of a film. Scream 2 is a unique case in which leaks may have helped the film to become better because of an internet leak. People got ahold of the script, it leaked, people hated the ending of the leaked script and the final product of the movie does not have the ending which was leaked. Kevin Williamson who wrote the script says the leaked version was simply a “dummy ending.” Whether or not that is true, I can’t say but during production new pages were written up to and including on the day of shooting a scene. Obviously, the filmmakers did not want the ending spoiled for the audience.

I think it’s incredibly interesting that while the first film in the series was influenced by other films of the genre, the second film may have been influenced by real world leaks. This film needed to accomplish a ton of things. First, it had to continue a story where the killers from the first film were dead. Most slasher films simply resurrect the original killer in some way but this film goes in a different direction. Second, the movie had to tell a story at least as good as the first. Third, it had to perform well enough at the box office to keep people coming back for more. Finally, it had to deliver surprises to an audience which had already seen a good portion of the story through internet leaks. None of these are easy tasks and to pull any of them off would be a success. I don’t know if it managed to pull off everything it was trying to do but the film made a healthy $172 million at the box office, barely under what the first one made. Not bad by horror sequel standards at all.

If this second film had flopped at the box office, this would have been the end of the franchise and likely the end of slasher horror once again. In a lot of ways it was a risky move to even consider a sequel here. Unlike the days we are in now where anything can have a sequel and audiences will go to it, there had been films which fizzled out because of a terrible follow up from a great first film.

Having a significant amount of the original cast return certainly helped. David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, Jamie Kennedy, and Liev Schreiber all reprise their roles from the original film. In addition, a cast of either current or soon to be breakout stars joined on as new cast members, including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Laurie Metcalf, Timothy Olyphant and Jada Pinkett.

So, did Scream 2 do the impossible and live up to or exceed expectations with an all star cast and clever story? Let’s break it down and find out.

Spoilers follow below!

The Cold Open

The opening scene from Scream was so surprising, the pressure to do something just as good was enormous. If this opening could not surprise the audience, the movie would already be dead in the water. It would have been reasonable to expect us to see Sidney Prescott on the phone in the first moments of the film. Or even just a continuation of the final shot from the first movie.

Instead, this opening makes the movie meta aware on the highest level by starting at a movie theater where the lobby is decorated with Ghostface killer masks everywhere. The film is signaling to us it understands horror fans by reproducing an environment all of us are familiar with. It’s a crowded space with lots of people, plenty of lights, not isolated in any way. It’s the opposite of the way Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) was going to watch a scary movie in the first film. It’s the pop-culture group environment where we can all take in a scary movie and still be frightened but be just a little more brave as we see the person next to us jump at the killer popping up too.

And, depending on where you saw it, the theater you were in might have looked a lot like what was being shown on screen. There were definitely Ghostface masks and lobby decorations at the very least.

The first line of the film said by Maureen Evans (Jada Pinkett) is, “I hate scary movies.” Again, it’s in stark contrast to Casey Becker who says she likes them. Maureen’s boyfriend is there because the tickets were free and he wants to watch the movie because in his words, “It’s good to be scared. It’s primal.” A sentiment many horror fans can relate to. And most of us horror fans have had the experience of trying to bring along a significant other who is much less interested in the film than we are. Maureen goes on to insult the movie which we learn is called, “Stab.” This is a fictionalized version of what happened in Woodsboro to Sidney Prescott and her circle of friends and family.

Maureen also drops a bit of truth on the audience by saying, “…the horror genre is historical for excluding the African-American element.” It’s interesting because this is a completely valid criticism of horror even now but especially at the time and it’s said by one of the few characters wholeheartedly not interested in horror. Maureen in a short, quick quip, provides us with the outsider’s perspective of horror and she nails it perfectly. This just proves the Scream franchise is extremely capable of encompassing and critiquing horror all at the same time, even when it commits the exact tropes it criticizes.

As they walk into the film, the couple are given Ghostface costumes as Stab souvenirs by the studio. While I can say I have seen some movie giveaways in my time, I’ve never seen a studio give away full on costumes to a full theater. But, it works for the story so we’ll suspend disbelief just enough to think this could happen.

The theater is full of people amped up and excited to watch the movie, some already in Ghostface outfits as the word Stab comes on the screen. Maureen is clearly not happy to be there with this raucous crowd. We also find out the film is based on a book by Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox). In the fictional universe of Scream, Gale Weathers’ book is a retelling of the actual events that happened to Sidney Prescott.

One thing I’d like to point out here is that while I’m a big fan of horror films, I’ve never seen an instance where a true life event leads to a franchise like Stab where the audience is seemingly rabid to watch the bloody mayhem that presumably happened to real people. Nowadays I think we would consider this more of a true crime thriller. But, the filmmakers are once again implying people are just as excited to see real world violence depicted on the screen as they are to watch fictionalized horror.

As a thought exercise, this would be like a crowd of horror fans going to see Dahmer in theaters and being super pumped about it. I have a pretty strong stomach when it comes to horror but the idea of watching something where actual traumatic events truly drive the story makes me a bit sick to my stomach. Still, with the explosion of true crime documentaries and fictionalized remakes, Scream 2 may have a valid point. People do tend to watch this stuff and presumably enjoy it.

Anyway, the movie within the movie shows on the screen and we see a blonde woman who looks a lot like Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) on the screen. This is supposed to be Casey Becker but this time she’s played by Heather Graham. Heather Graham was a pretty big star in her own right by this point.

She turns on the shower, just like in Psycho in a call back not only to that film, but also to the first Scream. Instantly we know that while this fictionalized version of the things that happened to Sidney is on the screen, we also know, the movie is getting some things wrong. Casey wasn’t going to take a shower, she was going to watch a movie. Maureen in reaction comments on the woman on screen not needing to be naked for the plot of the movie. Another solid critique, especially of the slasher genre.

The phone call comes to on screen Casey. We get pretty close to the right dialogue from the first movie as Maureen yells at the screen for Casey to *69 the number that just called her. Maureen grows increasingly annoyed with the movie and goes to get some popcorn. (Pro movie going tip, buy the popcorn before you sit down if you want to watch the whole movie)

On the screen we get one of my favorite lines from this film because we can presume this is a line Gale wrote while imagining what happened to the “real” Casey and it’s just so cheesy. Casey says, “You know, I don’t even know you, and I dislike you already.”

When Maureen hits the lobby she’s startled a couple of times and someone in the line comments on how it’s not just a movie because all these kids got killed a couple years ago in California. Meanwhile others in the crowd are still running around and joking with each other. Then Maureen’s boyfriend comes out in the Ghostface mask and startles her. (Another pro tip if you are at a horror movie with someone who doesn’t like horror, don’t scare them. It’s just mean.) Maureen’s boyfriend offers to take them to see a Sandra Bullock movie instead but Maureen reluctantly agrees to stay.

Maureen’s boyfriend hits the bathroom (Pro tip number three, do that before a movie starts) and Maureen goes inside. The scene on screen gets fairly brutal as we cut back to the restroom. Maureen’s boyfriend is surrounded by people in Ghostface costumes. He hears someone whispering something about their “mommy” in the stall next to him and puts his ear to the wall. Seconds later a knife is jabbed into his ear and we get the first victim of this film.

Whoever this was leaves the restroom and sits down next to Maureen as she continues to tell the Casey Becker on screen what to do. Maureen assumes the person is her boyfriend, going so far as to put her head on their shoulder in fear. On screen we see Casey get stabbed in pretty much the same way the “real” Casey was in the last film. As this happens, Maureen pulls away from the person next to her only to find blood on her hands. She screams in real terror, not from the film but from actual danger. Right in the middle of the theater, she’s stabbed by the Ghostface killer. The audience is too pumped up by what is on screen to even notice. This is up to and including when she’s stabbed again right in the aisle. Everyone is watching the screen. Maureen goes up to the front, bleeding in front of everyone and lets out a scream as people slowly begin to realize this is not an act and we see the title credit for Scream 2.

There were so many ways this opening could have gone wrong but this scene proves to be just as downright jarring as the scene from the first movie. It does start to set up the expectation we shouldn’t expect characters in the early minutes of Scream films to live long, no matter what their star power is.

It’s mostly clever because it simply flips everything on its head by changing locations to one where you would not expect a killer to be lurking and it does so well. While I don’t think this is the best opening or most terrifying opening of a Scream film, it’s certainly original enough to give us a shock and be entertaining all at once.

Catching up with Sidney and the Gang

Just like the first film, after the opening scene, we cut to Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell). A phone is ringing and Sidney answers. The voice which we heard in the first film says, “What’s your favorite scary movie?” for a second it looks like she’ll be scared. But Sidney has a caller-id device and tells the caller what his name is and his phone number and that prank calls are a criminal offense.

I love this as the starting point for Sidney in this movie. She’s not a scared high school girl. This is a young woman who has been through trauma and survived and has taken steps to make herself safe. She’s tough and smart and we’re already on her side.

Much more disturbing to Sidney is when her roommate turns on the television and Cotton Weary who was falsely imprisoned based on Sidney’s testimony is being interviewed. He’s someone who could hold a grudge against Sidney, and Sidney knows she has some blame in the situation. Things only get worse as news shows information on the death of the students at the movie theater. Sidney knows immediately she needs to speak to Randy. As she walks across campus she’s accosted by reporters.

We then shift to Randy, in the middle of a film theory class. This scene is where we get a lot of the meta information of the film. We also meet Cici Cooper (Sarah Michelle Gellar) who says, “You can’t blame real world violence on entertainment.” And we see Mickey Altieri (Timothy Olyphant) debate the point with her. Randy (Jamie Kennedy) is of the opinion that life is life and it doesn’t imitate anything. These are all issues and perspectives taken on horror as a whole and on Scream films in particular.

The teacher basically asks if someone is trying to make a Stab sequel. Randy wonders why anyone would want to and then talks about how bad sequels are. People in the class start throwing out sequels which are hotly debated as potentially being better than the first, including Aliens and Terminator 2 but everyone does agree The Godfather II is superior to the original.

I’d say this is the kind of debate any film fan has had at some point in their lives and it again allows the audience to see this film takes film seriously.

Sidney shows up in class and Randy just wants to deny the reality of what is happening. We find out Sidney has a boyfriend and everyone has been living a fairly happy life.

We catch up with Gale Weathers who is straight off her success as an author and is back to cover the new murders. She’s also greeted by another journalist named Debbie Salt (Laurie Metcalf) who kind of aggressively introduces herself.

A press conference ensues and Sidney is invited to a sorority party. Dewey (David Arquette) shows up and Sidney’s boyfriend Derek (Jerry O’Connell) seems to get a bit jealous. Dewey is visibly still recovering from his injuries and walks with a bit of a limp. He reminds Sidney the killer is probably someone or someones she knows.

Gale tries to stage a confrontation between Sidney and Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) on camera and it does not go well. Sidney smacks the heck out of Gale and Cotton gets pretty upset Sidney was not told ahead of time.

Gale and Dewey reunite but it seems like their on again off again relationship is in the off stage. Dewey is pretty upset at how he was portrayed in her book.

With this little reunion set up, we have our principle players in place and a solid list of suspects.

The Stakes Are Raised

Sidney goes off to a sorority party not unlike the party she attended at Stu’s house in the first movie. Meanwhile, Cici is at home alone in her sorority and gets the dreaded phone call from the as yet unknown killer. It gets real when the caller knows her name, echoing the first film. Cici does some smart things and nearly evades the situation. In another nod to horror buffs, as Cici flips the channels on the television she lands on Nosferatu. Especially good since the actress we are watching here is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s a perfect easter egg.

Cici is killed in a brutal fashion and this film proves, like the first film, while it can have fun and comedic moments, the violence is not a joke. The sorority gets wind of something happening and goes to see what is going on. Already on the scene is Debbie Salt talking to the police. It seems she’s able to scoop even Gale Weathers herself.

While Cici is only loosely connected to Sidney, the circle is closing and it’s clear the killing has only just begun.

Sidney is about to leave with her boyfriend when the phone rings. It’s the killer and this time there’s no doubt about it, this is not a prank call. Sidney is attacked and Derek goes in to protect her. Derek disappears down the hall as Dewey shows up. The killer gets away but Derek has his arm cut to shreds. He lives though. Considering Sidney’s past with Billy Loomis, she starts to suspect Derek could be in on this.

Sidney, her roommate Hallie (Elise Neil) and Mickey Altieri all have to go to the police station and give reports. Derek seems to be the prime suspect for the moment even though he didn’t seem to directly attack Sidney.

At the police station the police put up the victim names. Maureen Evans, Phil Stephens (Omar Epps), and CiCi Cooper. Gale asks if Cici is the girl’s real name and she’s told it’s actually Casey. Like Casey Becker. Maureen was Sidney’s mother’s name, Casey Becker’s boyfriend was named Stephen, and Cici is actually Casey. These victims are dying in the same order as the victims in the first film based on their names. Essentially, it seems like a copycat situation.

In fact, it’s such a copycat situation that just like in the first film. Sidney’s boyfriend is the prime suspect and narrowly escaped an attack from the presumed killer. It puts Derek in the position of being highly suspected since this is what Billy Loomis staged.

Sidney tells Derek he should stay away from her. It’s a little unclear if Sidney is suspicious of him or just protecting him but both would be valid feelings for her.

Gale tries to team up with Dewey once again to stop the killer.

Accusations start to fly amongst the group of college friends with Randy and Dewey being thrown up as possibilities.

The group are mostly together eating in the cafeteria when Derek decides to recreate a scene from Top Gun where Tom Cruise sings on top of a table to the woman he loves. It proves the filmmakers are fans not just of horror movies but all kinds of movies. However, in the context of a copycat serial killer on the loose, it does seem a bit creepy to do something that publicly in front of everyone. But it’s also just dorky enough to seem kind of sweet. Derek then gives his fraternity greek letters to Sidney for good luck to protect her. Apparently in the fraternity you aren’t supposed to do this but it’s also tradition to do it. At any rate, it gets the audience enough on Derek’s side to at least hope he’s not another Billy Loomis.

The Film within the Film goes Meta and Randy Gives the Rules

Honestly, there are so many layers to Scream films it’s kind of mind boggling. A great easter egg in the sequel is a throw away line from the first movie. In the first Scream Sidney laments that if there was a movie made about her, it would star Tori Spelling as Sidney. Sure enough, in the Stab movie we find out Sidney is played by Tori Spelling. And not only that, when Tori Spelling is being interviewed on the news as Tori Spelling, she talks about how she plays Sidney Prescott and literally gives away the entire plot of the first Scream. Then they play a clip of the Stab movie where Luke Wilson is playing opposite Tori Spelling as Billy Loomis. It’s hilarious how much these two actors do not look at all like teenagers and it’s so often true, not just in horror, the people playing teens tend to be much older than actual teenagers. Randy watches this clip and just says he’ll wait for it to be on video.

Randy then tells Dewey that someone is out to make a sequel. Which, of course they are, because this is the Scream sequel. He gives Dewey the rules which are as follows.

  1. The body count is always bigger
  2. Death scenes are always much more elaborate. More blood. More gore. Carnage candy, your core audience just expects it.
  3. If you want your sequel to become a franchise never ever assume the killer is dead.

That last rule he doesn’t actually finish saying in this scene because Dewey cuts him off trying to narrow down suspects but that is the rule. While the audience at this point is not sure about the first rule, considering the movie is not over, the second rule has already been followed. We saw a much more elaborate set and bloodier killings in the opening scene alone.

Randy goes through the list of suspects one by one, never really ruling anyone out. And, he admits that both he and Dewey could still be suspects. Randy also thinks it’s probably not Derek because having the boyfriend be the killer wouldn’t be breaking any new ground. Even Gale Weathers is not thrown out because she has motive for the killings to continue by wanting to write another hit book.

The Killer closes in

We see Sidney in her drama class, reluctant to keep her part with everything going on. Her teacher is a bit intense but convinces her to stay. Sidney acts in a scene where a bunch of her fellow actors are in masks and she sees the Ghostface mask on one of them as she’s going through the scene. It’s not perfectly clear if she just imagined this or not but it seems like someone is trying to get into her head at the very least. Backstage she meets Derek who isn’t supposed to be there at the time. Derek tells her Mickey had to edit so he came to escort her instead. Sidney kind of breaks up with Derek who takes it well enough but then leaves Sidney.

Out in the courtyard of the college, Gale, Dewey, Randy and Joel (Duane Martin), Gale’s cameraman, are all sitting around talking. It’s broad daylight, plenty of people around, and with an increased police presence due to what’s been going on. Randy is sure the killer is trying to finish what was started. Joel takes off as soon as they start talking about how Gale’s last cameraman died. Him leaving does a couple things in the scene. First, it establishes him as a possible suspect or possible victim. Second. it shows that if Joel is not the killer, he has the right mindset to get the heck out of the situation before he gets killed.

Then, Randy gets a call and it’s the killer. Gale, Dewey, and Randy all run around campus snatching cell phones out of people’s hands trying to find the killer. Randy keeps the killer on the line and taunts whoever it is by saying Billy and Stu were much more original, in yet another dig at sequels. Randy ends up at the news van and in a heartbreaking loss he’s killed by someone hiding there. Even as he is being stabbed, a group of people walk by, never even noticing what is happening. The movie is again showing us safe places where you wouldn’t expect people to die are not at all safe.

Meanwhile, Sidney is in the library when she gets a message on her screen from the killer. The cops guarding her look for whoever did it while Sidney ends up in a confrontation with Cotton Weary. Cotton basically wants Sidney to agree to an interview where they can both get paid a significant amount of money. Sidney tells him no but Cotton gets pretty agitated about it. The cops protecting Sidney arrest Cotton but the police have to let him go because there was no evidence against him for homicide. We know this does not necessarily mean he’s innocent considering Billy Loomis fooled the police in the last movie.

Gale does warn Cotton not to do anything stupid and then Gale is confronted by Debbie Salt once again. Gale has some pretty harsh words for Debbie. And Joel quits on Gale. However, on the bright side for Gale, Dewey seems to connect with her once again. And Gale and Dewey get the idea to look at the footage that Joel shot at the crime scenes.

More Die and the Killer is Revealed

Dewey and Gale find a place in the school they can watch the video. As the footage rolls they get to where they start to kiss and in one of the creepiest scenes of the movie, footage of them from behind starts to play. It’s reminiscent of when we saw the killer come up behind Randy in the first film. They catch on pretty quick to the fact the killer is in the building.

There’s a pretty intense chase scene where Dewey and Gale try to evade the killer. At one point Dewey is stabbed right in front of Gale where she has no hope of helping him. It’s kind of heartbreaking for a slasher film to be honest. Gale is obviously not out of danger here and she continues to run and/or hide from the killer.

For her part, Sidney is supposed to go off to somewhere safe with the cops protecting her. Derek says goodbye to her but Hallie goes with her. Seconds after they leave, Derek is grabbed by some frat boys, although it looks like the killer may have been in the background as well. Apparently, the frat boys grabbing Derek is the consequence of him giving up his Greek letters. He’s tied to a set piece in the theater and people haze him by throwing beer at him and stuff.

On the way to the safe place, the car Sidney is in is attacked by the killer and the two cops both die. Sidney and Hallie end up pinned in the back seat and basically have to crawl over an unconscious killer to get away. They do that in one of the most intense scenes in the whole movie and get away free, But, Hallie wants to leave immediately while Sidney feels like she has to know who the killer is. She goes back to pull off the mask but by the time she gets there the killer is gone. Before Sidney gets back to where Hallie is standing, Hallie is stabbed by the killer.

We then cut back to Gale who finds a bloody Cotton Weary who tries to explain he found Dewey and tried to help him. Gale runs outside screaming and bumps into Debbie Salt. Gale tells Debbie the killer is Cotton Weary.

Sidney runs into the theater at the school looking for her drama teacher, or I suppose anyone, to help her. Derek, tied up is dropped from the rafters and Sidney takes the duct tape off of him. The Ghostface killer shows up and takes off the mask to reveal Mickey Altieri, the crazed film student who Randy dismissed because if Mickey was a suspect, Randy would be. Mickey basically says Derek is his partner and Sidney hesitates just enough for Mickey to shoot Derek. Out of all the deaths around Sidney, this one had to hurt because it’s at least sort of her fault for not trusting him. But considering her past, how could she trust anyone?

Mickey basically says he wants to get caught and would blame the movies for his motivation. He thinks the real star power is in the trial these days rather than the movies. He goes so far as to speculate the Christian Coalition would pay for his bills. He then goes on to talk about Billy Loomis and Sidney just lets him talk for a bit. And then, in one of the most badass final girl lines every, Sidney says, “Yeah. well you’re forgetting one thing about Billy Loomis. I f–ing killed him.” And in a bit of poetic justice she smacks Mickey with Derek’s Greek letters and almost gets away.

But, suddenly Derek’s body gets pulled up into the rafters and we reveal who the partner in this movie was. At first, Gale walks out but behind her is Debbie Salt who Sidney immediately recognizes as Billy Loomis’ mother. Although, Sidney does say this is after a bit of weight loss and some plastic surgery. Mrs. Loomis then kills Mickey. She just wants revenge for the fact that Sidney killed Billy. She tries to set it up so that it looks like Sidney killed Mickey and was killed in a shootout.

Sidney is able to throw Mrs. Loomis off with a hey look behind you move and starts dropping parts of the theater set on her with the control panels. Mrs. Loomis is pinned under a bunch of stones and seems like she is down for the count. But she, of course, pops up again and nearly kills Sidney. Cotton Weary shows up with a gun in his hand. While Billy’s mom has Sidney at knife point, Cotton has her at gunpoint. Sidney agrees to do an interview with Cotton and he shoots Mrs. Loomis in the neck. Sidney makes Cotton give her the gun.

Gale, who had been shot somewhere in all of this makes it out alive. When Mickey pops up for one last scare, Gale and Sidney, who both have guns at this point do not hesitate to fill him full of lead. And Sidney, for good measure, puts a bullet in Mrs. Loomis’ head.

At the end, Joel comes back to join Gale, Dewey must have really been helped by Cotton because he makes it to the ambulance, and Sidney hands the spotlight over to Cotton by saying he’s the hero. Cotton ends it off by saying, “I’ll tell you one thing. It would make hell of a movie.”

The Lasting Impact of Scream 2

No one is ever going to say this film is more iconic than the first one. But, while the first film saved the slasher sub-genre, Scream 2 was careful enough not to destroy it. If this film had been poorly written and badly acted, there would have been no return of slasher films probably for at least another decade. If Scream was the CPR slashers needed to survive, Scream 2 was the slow IV drip to keep them hydrated. While I don’t think we can say Scream 2 is as impactful as the first, if you are a slasher fan, you have to be grateful for its existence.

A few Notes on the Film

While this is probably not the strongest of the Scream films, it’s not a bad entry, or even a bad follow up. It’s fairly easy to guess one of the killers here. Debbie Salt was just simply at too many crime scenes too quickly after the murders to not be the killer. But it’s harder to guess it was Mickey. And, the fact that one of the most interesting things about this movie is trying to figure out who the killer is, sets up Scream films as being great whodunnits on top of good slasher films.

I do think Laurie Metcalf overacts a bit in this film and that’s another reason Debbie Salt is easy to peg as the killer. She’s definitely able to be more subtle in other roles but here she just goes a bit overboard. It’s not enough to make the movie bad or anything but it could have been scaled down a bit.

Neve Campbell definitely solidifies her reputation as a great final girl in this movie and Gale and Dewey are both really likable here.

All in all this is a film that was good enough but maybe not great. I don’t think it surpasses the sequel and it is kind of annoying how the movie criticizes horror for not showing the black experience and then sidelines all of the black characters in the film. In some ways, this would have been a much more interesting film if it was about Maureen Evans and Phil Stevens. It could have become sort of an anthology franchise but that’s not the way the filmmakers went with it.

Still, this film again makes interesting commentary on whether we can blame the media (especially horror) for people doing bad things in reality. And it again compares and contrasts the frenzied fanbase of horror fans with those who criticize those films but still watch nightly news which arguably can have more blood showing and depict real events.

In Conclusion

While this is far from the best entry in the Scream franchise, it’s still a solid entry. It makes some mistakes (even ones committed by the first film) but it’s hard not to enjoy it. It still brings in a sense of fun and self awareness hard to find in any other franchise. Scream 2 was by no means a necessary entry in the horror genre but it did a good job rounding out some of the leading cast, surprising the audience just enough, and setting up the possibility of more Scream films. With each entry, Sidney Prescott, Gale Weathers and Dewey all get to be better and more enjoyable characters with larger backstories. And, with the death of Randy, it does feel like the main cast are not necessarily safe in any upcoming sequels. I wouldn’t put this film on anyone’s required horror viewing list but if you are a fan of slashers and a fan of Scream at all, you’ll find at least something to enjoy.

So, did you ever watch this one? If so, do you think it lived up to the original or is it, as Randy says, “By definition alone, sequels are inferior films!” Let me know what you think in the comments.

Stab-ily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Scream (1996) – Movie Review

The Ghost face killer wields a knife in the original Scream

Hello horror fans and slasher stans, it’s Slick Dungeon here! I’m gearing up to go see the sixth installment of the Scream franchise soon but before I do that, I wanted to review all of the previous movies here. For these reviews I plan on going in-depth so if you have not seen the movie, I advise you not to read this review yet. Scream is a great slasher franchise but the best parts of it are surprising events and reveals so definitely have a watch first because reviewing without spoilers is never easy with these movies.

When I do review Scream VI, I will have a first reaction spoiler free review followed by a spoiler heavy review. For the rest of these, watch first or risk the fun of the movies being taken away by reading. I’m going to be talking about individual scenes, characters, and themes so it’s all fair game in these reviews. I will only spoil things from the first movie in this review so you don’t need to have seen all the Scream films to keep yourself spoiler free, just the first one.

Scream in Historical Context

In order to understand Scream, it’s important to put it into historical film context. In the 1980’s and 1990’s there had been a glut of horror films. Friday the 13th had already put nine films in the can, A Nightmare on Elm Street was up to seven films, and both franchises were waiting for the crossover of the two killers. Halloween was up to its sixth film and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre had three films out as well. And these are just slasher films. Probably the most innovative horror film in the decade before Scream came out was Silence of the Lambs and an argument can be made that film is more of a psychological thriller than out and out horror. And all of this doesn’t even take into account the huge number of other knock off and imitation films, some with merit, but mostly derivative and boring. This is all to say, the slasher film was about as dead as can be imagined in 1995. No one wanted to see one because no one thought they could be surprised by them anymore. But, like a good slasher film, this type of horror had one last gasp before it was gone for good. Enter one of the masters of horror, Wes Kraven, who was matched up with an aspiring screenwriter named Kevin Williamson.

Scream came out on December 20th of 1996. It was the kind of film where there wasn’t much buzz around it, other than who directed it and was starring in it. While horror fans certainly knew Wes Craven, and Drew Barrymore has enough star power to draw anyone to theaters, most of the rest of the cast were less well known. All of the main cast had been in other films but they were not necessarily the icons of the 90’s they would go on to be. The film stars David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, Mathew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, and, of course, Drew Barrymore.

The film had enough going for it that there would be some fans in the seats no matter what. What it really had going for it was a smart story making a statement about horror, and slasher films in specific, with completely unexpected twists guaranteed to get word of mouth going.

The first weekend box office only earned the film $6 million but the next weekend it started to outperform expectations and ended up making over $100 million total. By any horror film standards, that’s a huge success.

So, why did Scream do so well? What’s the big deal with this movie? Let’s dig into it by breaking it down.

Spoilers Follow below!

The beginning of the twist in horror

One of the original “slasher” films was a little film made by Alfred Hitchcock called Psycho. I’m about to drop a spoiler for that movie here so if you haven’t seen that one, go watch it! (You really should have seen it by now anyway). Psycho had a neat little trick where we follow Janet Leigh around for about a quarter of the movie. She was a major film star at the time and she was why people came to see the film. But, in a shock to audiences, she is killed in the famous shower scene at around the 20 minute mark. It changes the tone of the film entirely, not just because the main character we had been following died, but also because the major star in the film was suddenly gone from the story. It then becomes the Norman Bates show.

If Wes Craven films know anything, they know film history. Kevin Williamson took notes from Psycho. This attention to what worked in slasher films of old paid off immensely.

Scream starts with the sound of a scream and the ringing of a phone. It sets the tone for a horror slasher film with perfection. We know something horrible is coming and whatever it is, will come from one end of that phone call. There are enough urban legends, and scary stories involving phone calls, we know this can’t be good.

The first conversation is with Casey Becker (Barrymore) answering the phone and having the kind of conversation we all used to have before the days of cell phones. Seems like an honest mistake, no hard feelings, wrong number. Casey hangs up. The phone rings again. The audience is already getting uncomfortable by this point. Casey picks up again and again politely but a bit more annoyed, hangs up. She goes to make popcorn and yet again the phone rings. The caller gets a bit more creepy but Casey keeps talking to him, telling him she’s about to watch a scary movie. This is where we get the famous line, “Do you like scary movies?” Seems like an innocent enough question, except we’re watching a scary movie where someone is bringing up scary movies so we know it’s not at all innocent.

This phone call is where we start getting some references to a whole bunch of slasher films, including Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Scream is self aware about horror films and as a horror fan, you’re probably already hooked. The phone call seems like it might get a bit flirtatious until the caller asks who he is looking at.

At this point Casey is on her guard. And as an audience, we all know, with certainty, they would not kill Drew Barrymore in the first few minutes. She must be the final girl because she is all over the marketing campaign and is a major Hollywood star. Casey goes into panic mode but keeps answering the phone because there isn’t much else she can do. The caller asks to play a game and things get serious.

Casey, already off kilter hangs the phone up a few times, but then the doorbell rings. She says, “Who’s there?” and the phone rings again. The caller tells her saying, “Who’s there?” is a death wish if you know the rules of scary movies. So, for the audience we get some rules established right away and we know breaking them is bad. This will be huge in not just this film but all of the Scream films to come.

In a desperate move, Casey tells the caller her boyfriend will be there soon. But, the caller gets the upper hand by asking Casey if her boyfriend’s name is Steve. This caller obviously knows way too much about Casey and it’s safe to say we, as the audience, are completely unnerved. When Casey is told to turn on her porch lights and we see her boyfriend already taped to a chair we know things are getting serious.

The caller offers to play a game with Casey. Movie trivia. If she can get the answers right, her boyfriend lives, if not he dies. We know we’re dealing with a twisted person here. Casey gets a questions right. One any horror fan and even most movie fans know. But then she’s thrown off by not remembering a twist in the first Friday the 13th film. Scream is signaling here that twists are important and should be paid attention to.

Casey watches in horror as her boyfriend is killed right in front of her. The violence is bloody and disturbing. The killer stays on the phone but he makes it into Casey’s house. From here the scene is your typical killer vs. prey situation but we’re still expecting Drew Barrymore to survive on star power alone.

She puts up a good fight and knocks the killer around a bit but ultimately she dies. The violent imagery doesn’t hold back and to make it even more terrifying, Casey’s parents come home but she’s unable to scream for help. It’s too late for her and for Steve. Casey’s mom even picks up the phone and has to hear her daughter’s dying breath.

The scene is brutal and horrifying and surprising and ends with Casey’s mother screaming, as any mother would.

This scene is the first reason why audiences latched onto this film. If Drew Barrymore can be killed in the first 12 minutes of the movie, all bets are off. That’s true, even if there are rules to follow. The movie itself already broke a cardinal rule, don’t kill your money making star until the end.

It’s still one of the most terrifying scenes in all of slasher horror and easily memorable for any horror fan.

One of the ironies of this scene is that Drew Barrymore was actually originally cast to play Sidney Prescott but she really wanted to play Casey Becker. The filmmakers realized what a good move it was and while Neve Campbell is certainly a star in her own right, Drew Barrymore was way more famous at the time.

The switch worked in everyone’s favor, including delighting the audience by surprising us.

The star is dead, what now?

If you kill off your major blockbuster star in the first twelve minutes, you not only need a good reason to do it, you have to have somewhere for the story to go. Otherwise no one would keep watching. We move to Sidney Prescott’s (Neve Campbell) bedroom where her boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) startles her by climbing through her window. There’s a moment where Sidney’s father checks on her and Billy has to hide. Pretty typical teen romance stuff. But we do find out Sidney’s dad will be out of town for the weekend.

Next, Billy starts talking about The Exorcist, giving the audience yet another horror reference. He is basically saying he wants their relationship to get more intimate than Sidney has so far been comfortable with. Sharp eared listeners will also hear the song Don’t Fear the Reaper playing in the background. It’s a clever clue because it could be interpreted either as a young couple in love who want to be together forever in eternity or mean the grim reaper is coming for one or both of these characters. Either way, the song implies death is coming for someone and perhaps one of these characters will be causing that death.

This establishes our next main character, signaling to us that at the very least we should care about Sidney and Billy in this film. It’s a small but significant scene trying to establish who we should be able to trust.

Enter the Suspects

We next meet a group of high school students and reporters. Woodsboro High is abuzz with reports of Casey’s murder. We see the principle of the high school and meet a few of Sidney’s friends. Randy (Jamie Kennedy), Tatum (Rose McGowan) and Stuart Macher (Mathew Lillard) all hang out at lunch and talk about the gruesome details. Stu and Randy particularly make fun of the situation. It also comes up that Stu used to date Casey Becker. None of the group, other than Sidney and to some extent Tatum seem overly upset a girl in their school died. We get the impression Casey was someone they knew but didn’t know that well, otherwise there would have been more of a reaction. There are definite clues as to who the killer is in this scene but you have to be really sharp eyed to figure it out.

We also see Sidney get interviewed in the principle’s office with Deputy Dewey and it is established they are old friends.

This sets us on the road to the mystery of who could be the killer. There were hints in several of the scenes we see but on a first viewing the mystery is particularly hard to guess.

We come away with a group of kids, a reporter, a principle, and a deputy who all could potentially be the killer. Also, a lot of slasher movies do have just a random person who is killing strangers so the possibility for that as the reveal is still open at this point in the movie.

When the violence is depicted on the screen, it’s taken quite seriously and it’s uncomfortable to watch. But as soon as we are away from the violence, most of the characters seem fine making a joke out of the situation. It’s all like a movie to them.

One other bit of information we start to gather here, if you’re paying attention is something bad happened recently in this town, and it somehow involves Sidney, or at least, someone she knows.

The past gets dredged up and the stakes are raised

After school, Sidney goes home and makes arrangements to stay the weekend with Tatum, figuring she’d be safer with someone else since her father is away. She flips on the television and we see Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) bring up the rape and murder of Sidney’s mother.

It seems like a quick detail but it’s clearly an event that haunts Sidney to this day and explains a lot about how she behaves toward her boyfriend Billy. We won’t learn until later Maureen Prescott was actually the first victim of the ghost face killer. It’s the kind of detail a movie fan might easily miss when playing trivia with a deranged killer on the phone.

The second phone call goes to Sidney. Right away the voice on the other line calls her by name. Since we’ve already seen this play out once, it seems like there is a good chance Sidney will be victim two and may not survive. Remember. all bets were off by this point already.

Sidney thinks its a joke Randy is pulling on her and Sidney sort of points out how dumb people in horror movies can be. She’s attacked but she puts up a good fight and survives. Billy comes into Sidney’s room through the window and drops a phone. This is back before everyone had a cell phone so it was definitely suspicious.

We also find out Tatum is Dewey’s sister. Billy is taken away for questioning while Gale tries to get more of the story.

The horror continues

After a bit of a scene with Billy locked up in jail and a confrontation with Gale Weathers, Sidney does end up at Tatum’s house where she gets another phone call. It’s the killer once again. This is supposed to make the audience assume there is no way Billy could be the killer since he’s locked up without his phone at this point. But if not Billy, then who could it be?

We gain a bit more vital information the next morning when the news shows a report about Sidney’s mother. A man named Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) is awaiting execution for the rape and killing of Maureen Prescott.

Billy is also released as his phone records are cleared.

One interesting thing about this movie is how they portray the media coverage of the violence. Sure, horror movies are violent and bloody, but the reporters surrounding this story seem to be drooling for gory details of all the real life horror that happens. I think the movie is trying to draw the distinction that while horror films can often be blamed for violent acts, the widespread news coverage of horrible acts in reality could just as easily get the blame but tends to be ignored. After all, there is plenty of money to be made in Hollywood depicting fictional violence, but there is also a lot of money to be made reporting on actual violence.

We get some scenes in the school and outside of it where we pick up new potential murderers. This includes the principal who is extremely harsh to a couple of teenagers who were playing a prank. Gale Weathers is another potential suspect who certainly seems to be interested in the story but is just extreme enough to make the audience wonder if she is causing the story in the first place. Also, Gale is convinced Cotton Weary was falsely accused by Sidney. It seems Sidney herself even has some doubts at this point over whether or not she was right.

Sidney is attacked again in the restroom at school but she again escapes. The threat to kids in the school is so serious the school is closed and everyone is sent home. While this should be a solemn reminder to be careful, the teenagers in the movie treat it as I think most teens would, an unexpected holiday from school. Stu even decides to throw a party. He says it will be a small gathering and it sort of makes sense because you definitely feel safer in a group.

In the empty school, the principle is attacked and killed, eliminating a potential suspect. The scene has a great easter egg for horror fans. The principle goes out in the hall, cursing under his breath and the janitor who is wearing a brown hat and an old red and green striped sweatshirt pops up. The principle says, “Not you Fred.” It’s an obvious reference to A Nightmare on Elm Street. This again proves the film is completely self aware about horror.

At the video store, Randy gets more established as the expert on horror films. He references deep cut horror films and he has a freak out over Billy being there. Randy even admits in a horror film he’d be a prime suspect. But he’s convinced Billy is the killer and Sidney’s father who has been missing for the last couple of days, is the red herring of the situation.

The party gets started and the rules are solidified

As night draws closer, Dewey is convinced it really could be Sidney’s father who has done all the killings. The motive seems to be the anniversary of his wife’s death but the police need a little more evidence and to find him before they can confirm him as the killer.

Sidney and Tatum go to Stuart’s house for the party and Gale bumps into Dewey. There’s a definite attraction between the two of them.

The next victim is Tatum who goes down to the basement to get more beer. Her death is utterly brutal. She gets a couple hard knocks in but the way she dies, stuck in a garage door, is absolutely unforgettable.

With Tatum gone, there’s one less suspect. Billy shows up to the party and Sidney goes off alone with him. Meanwhile, Gale is able to get a camera feed into the party and watches it from her van.

Up in the room where Sidney and Billy are, Sidney tries to apologize for being distant with Billy and he immediately makes a film reference to try to understand the situation. This time it’s Silence of the Lambs. Sidney says it’s not a movie but Billy disagrees. More than any other character in this film, Billy seems unable to distinguish reality from film. He also isn’t as empathetic as one would expect when Sidney brings up the death of her mother. Billy instead compares it to when his mom left his dad. Any kind and caring person would understand there is a huge difference between someone leaving and them being murdered.

In the main room of the party, Randy finally lays down the rules of horror films as they watch Halloween. These are as follows:

  1. You can never have sex.
  2. You can never drink or do drugs.
  3. Never, ever, ever under any circumstances say, “I’ll be right back.”

Everyone laughs at this but these are all common tropes in horror films. Not all of them are actually true if you did a statistical analysis on horror films but these are things most horror movie fans assume are true in horror films. Stuart makes a big show of saying he’ll be right back and Randy retorts by saying, “I’ll see you in the kitchen with a knife.” It’s great foreshadowing. And it makes us suspect both Randy and Stu of being the murderer.

Outside we hear Gale also say, “I’ll be right back,” to her camera man. And upstairs we know Sidney is awfully close to breaking rule number one.

Randy gets a call telling him the principle was found dead and most of the party leaves to go see the body. These people leave in a bit of morbid glee where they do seem to be celebrating real world violence. Most people in reality would want to stay far away from a sight like that if they had the choice. It’s hard to sympathize with these people who go to see even more violence but those that do leave are the ones guaranteed to survive the night. I’m not sure there was intentional subtext here from the filmmakers but it feels like there might have been. Is it more callous to stay in and watch horror movies or to go out and see someone who has been brutally killed? Scream sides with the horror fans but also acknowledges the violence in such flms.

The Final Act arrives

After this group leaves, our suspect list narrows rapidly. First, Dewey stumbles onto Sidney’s father’s car. He could still be the killer at this point. Next, Sidney realizes Billy could have used his one phone call to call her from prison. But, he’s seemingly exonerated as he’s attacked by someone in a ghost face costume. Sidney gets away only to be traumatized by seeing Tatum stuck in the garage door.

Inside, Randy is yelling at Jamie Lee Curtis to turn around as the killer is about to strike in the movie, just as ghost face comes up behind Randy. And while this happens, Sidney ends up in Gale’s news van where the cameraman is telling Randy to turn around. And we as the audience are also yelling for Randy to turn around. It’s brilliant in its simplicity and just ratchets up the terror to an intense degree. The cameraman goes out to alert Randy and is instantly killed. The cameraman was never really much of a suspect but in case there was any doubt, it’s now gone. Sidney proves to be a true survivor by getting away once again.

Dewey realizes things are not going well by this point and rushes into the house. He investigates screaming only to find the movie playing on television. Gale finds blood all over the news van and tries to high tail it out of there but crashes the van. Sidney rushes back to the house to find Dewey who opens the door and falls over with a knife stuck in his back. It wasn’t the deputy.

Sidney gets into Dewey’s car and calls for help but is yet again attacked. She grabs a gun and races back to the house. Randy and Stuart both show up, each one claiming the other is the killer. She plays the smart card and locks them both out. Billy then falls down the steps, hurt but alive. He tells Sidney to give him the gun which she does. Billy lets Randy in.

At this point in the movie it’s really hard for the audience to tell who to trust. The only person we know can’t be the killer (out of the ones still living) is Sidney. She’s obviously not attacking herself so it has to be someone in the house.

It’s down to the end where we see if Scream can truly surprise horror fans. If the film blew the ending or made it unbelievable, all the good will up to this point would evaporate and horror fans would eviscerate this film with bad reviews.

the final twist of the Knife

As soon as Randy is inside he says Stuart has gone mad. Billy looks up and says, “We all go a little mad sometimes.” It’s a perfect call back to Psycho and Norman Bates as the deranged killer no one suspects. The audience now knows with certainty, Billy Loomis is the killer. And we’re reminded again of Psycho which was signaled at the beginning of the film with Casey Becker’s death. We’re ready for the final showdown and all of us are rooting for Sidney, Stu and Randy to survive Billy. Randy gets shot and Billy admits the blood on him is just corn syrup. Sidney turns and runs right into Stuart. For a fraction of a second the audience feels some hope. But Stuart is holding the voice changer the killer used on the phone.

This is where Scream goes from good to great. There were two killers the whole time. You might have guessed one but you had to be paying a hell of a lot of attention to guess there were two. And not only that, these guys framed Cotton Weary. Billy says he didn’t have a motive to kill Maureen but then he admits Maureen was why his mother left him. Billy is blaming reality for his problems and calling that out for why he’s a psychotic killer.

Stuart can’t seem to help but brag and he pulls out Sidney’s father taped to a chair. Just like Steve was in the beginning. Stu and Billy plan to make it look like they were the heroes who stop Sidney’s father after this killing spree. To make it look real, Billy and Stu take turns stabbing one another. While they are doing this Sidney says they have seen one too many movies.

Billy’s reply sums up the whole attitude of the film when he says, “Don’t you blame the movies! Movies don’t create psychos, movies make psychos more creative.” Billy keeps stabbing Stu and then tells him to grab the gun. It’s missing because Gale grabbed it and she’s pointing it at them.

There’s a struggle and Gale gets knocked out but there is enough time for Sidney to get away and untie her father.

Then, in a sweet twist, the phone rings. This time it’s Billy and Stu’s turn to be frightened. Stuart starts to really bleed out and on the phone Sidney asks what his motive is. He just says peer pressure and then worries about how mad his mom and dad are going to be. Stu was clearly more of a follower here.

In a bit of serious irony Billy gets attacked by Sidney because he was watching the horror movie playing in the living room. This is actually a call back to Halloween when Michael Myers is distracted by watching a movie playing on television.

Stuart has one last burst of energy in him but he goes down when Sidney drops the television on him. There are a few more last gasps from Billy and Stuart but in the end, Randy, Gale, Dewey, Sidney and her father, all live through.

It’s an action packed and bloody ending all taking place in a fairly confined space. Most good slashers have a lot of these elements and Scream is no exception. One difference is the movie feels more real because of how self referential the film is. The so called “meta” layer of it actually adds to the fear because you could imagine someone getting the wrong idea from watching a movie just like Scream.

The lasting impact of Scream

So, a film with great twists, meta references, a fair amount of blood and gore and a surprising box office take must have had some impact on the horror genre. In fact, it did. This movie can be credited with literally saving slasher films from being completely forgotten. It spawned several sequels but it also elevated horror to a new level. Now, to be a good horror film, the story had to make sense, have decent action, good jokes and decent performances from the cast and it had to surprise audiences.

Scream was not only a good horror film, it made other horror films try harder. Without Scream we wouldn’t get something like Midsommer because no one would think that kind of a film could work. If you watch horror films now, you’ll often find them ripping off Scream in one way or another. Most often these rip offs do the easiest thing which is become self referential. This was a new thing in horror when Scream came out but now doing that could be a trope in and of itself.

A few notes on the film

You might think from reading this review I think Scream is the best slasher of them all. I don’t. I still love Halloween and Friday the 13th the most but I cannot deny Scream is one of the smartest slasher films ever made and the whole franchise is great at what it does. But there are some problems with Scream and I just want to discuss those a bit.

First, the amount of damage some of the surviving characters take in the action scenes seems cartoonish and unbelievable. While a lot of slashers give this treatment to the villain, this one seems to give that quality to the heroes. There are scenes where one definitely must suspend disbelief to buy that the character can keep fighting.

Second, while the violence itself is treated as real and difficult to watch, the portrayal of how callous people are as they see friends, classmates and relatives die feels less than real. I’m not expecting this to become a melodrama where everyone is mourning the whole time but I wouldn’t expect an entire house of teenagers to cheer at the death of their principle, especially not after several of the students have been attacked and/or killed. The primary emotion on hearing that news would be fear by any rational mind.

Finally, Scream attempts to make the commentary that watching fictional violence shouldn’t be blamed for people becoming violent. It’s fine if they want to make that statement but doing it in the medium of fictional violence seems like less than the ideal forum in which to do that. I obviously agree watching horror films doesn’t automatically turn people towards violence but it feels a bit heavy handed here and seems like something more to be debated in politics rather than on film. I’m not taking anything away from the film making this statement, I’m just saying there are other places where this argument might be more effective.

Neve Campbell is a legend

While Scream plays into and plays around with a lot of horror tropes, one it keeps without really commenting on is the “final girl” trope. For those who don’t know what that is, it basically means the last survivor of the film. Usually it’s a woman but there are films where the final girl is actually a guy. For the most part, Jamie Lee Curtis can be thought of as the final girl in the horror films she appears in. But Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott gives Jamie Lee a run for her money.

Sidney is a tough survivor who is kind an caring and one of the most relatable characters in all of the Scream films. She might just be the best final girl in history. She makes smart moves, she thinks fast, she defends herself and she helps others in trouble. She is, of course, traumatized by all the death around her but she is such a badass you can’t help but respect her. Neve plays the character perfectly, never for a moment making the audience doubt her authenticity and I can’t say enough about how fun she is to watch in this series.

In Conclusion

Scream is not a perfect film. It’s not a perfect horror film. But it did so much right, it’s hard to blame it for anything it gets wrong. It holds a unique place in film history for being one of the few films you can directly point to that saved a whole sub-genre of film. Without this film we definitely wouldn’t have had the end of the Halloween franchise (no matter if you loved that or hated it) and we wouldn’t have seen a renewed interest in horror with a smarter viewing audience. If you are a horror fan you have to watch this film. There’s no getting around how important it is. And if you’re like me, you’ll have a good time doing it too.

Do you remember the first time you watched Scream? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you when I review Scream II next time!

Stab-ily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Empire: Capital – Book Review

Empire: Capital by Tim Goff

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Rating: 3 out of 5.


After decades of bitter warfare, the Solarian Empire finally scored a pyric victory over demon ruled Traag. Now, Solaria is a tottering wreck of a nation, one step from the brink of collapse. Worse, the demons are still out there.

Tia traveled to the imperial capital to testify at the trial of a traitor tied to eldritch abominations. She stayed to court the rowdy knightly heroes roaming the palace halls. It seems normal – yet she is plagued by strange dreams and the court intrigues are taking a deadly turn.

Rebecca, Tia’s maid and personal minstrel, is ‘playing the palace’ – but there is something wrong with her music.

Sir Peter Cortez, Tia’s protector, parties with his fellow knights while navigating intrigues.

Kyle, Tia’s carriage driver and a petty magician, confronts his past and contemplates his future.

Opportunity and peril await them all.


After the events of Empire: Country the sequel follows the adventures of an ensemble cast of characters. Tia is still trying to find a suitable match for matrimony. Rebecca has musical talent and should be having the performance of her lifetime but there is something wrong with the music. Sir Peter Cortez is filling out his days in debauchery and unpleasant family matters. And Kyle is trying to figure out what a man with his talents can do and how he can further his fortunes. Meanwhile there is an evil presence growing in the capital which could destroy them all.

This second volume starts out with a prologue that definitely expands the world of Empire but seems as if it may be resolved further on in the series. There are more revelations from the past for most of the characters, and they all, in one way or another, are struggling to confront the reality of how to live their lives in the future. This all means quite a bit of political maneuvering as people try to position themselves to best survive whatever may be coming next. In the background of all this there is a bit of mystery and corruption that a few of the characters are able to perceive for one reason or another.

There are some passages which are a bit confusing for the reader but may become more clear as the story goes on. There are also some spelling and grammar issues in the book but the story is strong enough to keep the reader engaged for the most part.

It’s clear that Tim Goff is attempting to tell an ambitious story with a lot of moving parts. This second volume expands on that and has plenty of intrigue and action along the way. The idea of setting most of the main events after a major war has ended gives the story just enough edge to make it unique in fantasy books. This second volume touches quite a lot on themes of finding direction in one’s life and career, especially after the world has undergone a significant change. These themes certainly resonate to the audience today.

If you enjoy fantasy books with elements of cosmic horror you’ll enjoy the Empire series.

Slick Dungeon’s Quick and Dirty Guide to the Oscars

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. The Oscars are about to start soon and I have watched each and every best picture nominee. I’m going to give you my take on them all and tell you what I think will win best picture and what should win best picture. Definitely don’t make any bets based on my picks because I am notoriously bad at guessing what the heck the Oscars will actually do.

Don’t believe me? Here’s what I said about CODA last year which turned out to be the winner, “It’s not going to win, not because it’s a bad movie at all, there is simply just too much star power behind the other films on the list. I highly recommend watching this but no way this gets chosen for Best Picture.” So if you’re making your Oscar pool bets, don’t rely on me.

Also, I am only going to touch on the best picture nominees here and not go into best actor etc. because I have not watched every performance nominated so I would just be guessing in the dark on some of it.

Ready? Here we go.

All Quiet on the Western Front

This is a gripping film with a lot to say about war and the horrors found in it. It’s especially bloody and the performances are fantastic. While this would be deserving of best picture I don’t think it will win because it is also nominated for best international picture and I think it’s a lock for that award. Read my full review here.


Inches away from greatness this was a good biopic with a fantastic performance from Austin Butler but was really hampered by the nearly cartoonish performance of Tom Hanks. I wanted this to be better and I did enjoy it but it’s not the best film of the year. Read my full review here.

Top Gun: Maverick

This movie was a blast to watch, super entertaining and nostalgic. The plot was pretty thin but it gave a good excuse for lots of cool stunts. It’s not the best picture of 2022 but it was one of the more entertaining ones. Read my full review here.

The Fablemans

This was far and away my favorite movie of the Oscar nominees this year. It’s basically a fictionalized version of Steven Spielberg’s youth. While that’s a bit self indulgent, Spielberg is probably the one director capable of getting away with it. I’d be surprised if this one won but I hope it does. Read my full review here.

Avatar: The Way of Water

This film looks absolutely fantastic. It’s a visual spectacle not to be missed. And… that’s about it. It looks amazing but the story is meh at best. Still worth watching because it’s gorgeous but not the best movie of 2022. Read my full review here.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

This is a beautiful and touching film with some incredible performances and it’s really entertaining as well. While my favorite of the year was The Fablemans, if this one wins best picture, I couldn’t argue with that. If you haven’t seen it, make sure to watch it. Read my full review here.

The Banshees of Inisherin

This is a bit of a slow pace but still engaging and a movie that sticks with you well after viewing. It can be interpreted in a few ways but no matter what, you’ll remember this film. I don’t think it was the best film of 2022 but it was certainly one of the best. Read my full review here.

Triangle of Sadness

There’s always one movie on the best picture list that I simply cannot stand and don’t understand why it’s on the list. Last year it was Licorice Pizza and this year it’s Triangle of Sadness. Out of all the movies I watched, this is the one I wish I could get my time back for. I don’t recommend it. Read my full review here.

Women Talking

A very intense film about some dark and difficult subject matter. It’s well worth the watch but it gets pretty dark. It’s a good film but I don’t think it shines quite enough to be best picture. I do think it’s worth viewing though. Read my full review here.


An incredible performance by Cate Blanchett but overly long and a bit slow. The movie wasn’t the best of the year but Blanchett’s performance may well have been. Read my full review here.

In Conclusion

My bet is that Everything Everywhere All at Once runs away with the show but Cate Blanchett wins best actress and Brendan Fraser gets best actor. For directing, I think it will go to Steven Spielberg.

Anyway, we’ll see what happens tonight. What are your picks? Do you know of any movies you wish were nominated but were forgotten? Let me know in the comments!

Predictably yours,

Slick Dungeon

Tár – Movie Review

Cate Blanchett stars in Tár

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hello movie lovers! It’s Oscar day and I’ve managed to watch all the best picture nominees before the ceremony this evening. The last one on my list was Tár starring Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár. There will be spoilers in this review so if that is not music to your ears, watch the movie first and then come back here to read the review.

Lydia Tár is an award winning composer with a brilliant gift for conducting and finding new talent. She’s also a teacher at Juilliard and is working on the final touches of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic. Needless to say, she’s an extremely talented person.

Lydia is not without her faults, however. She shows favors to young women in her symphony much to the chagrin of her wife. Lydia has clearly carried out affairs with her assistant and some other women in the past. This all comes to a head when one of Lydia’s former Accordion fellows kills herself. Lydia does her best to cover up the affair with the help of her assistant Francesca. But then Lydia overlooks her assistant for a promotion and next thing she knows, Lydia is involved in lawsuits and accusations.

It’s clear even in the midst of all this, Lydia would not change her behavior as she flirts with a new and upcoming musician. No matter what she’s dedicated to her music and still has brilliant insights but she’s just maybe not the best person.

The film has a lot to say about power, who holds it, how they hang onto it, and what happens when those in power are held to account for their actions.

The reason to watch this movie can be summarized in one name here, Cate Blanchett. She gives an incredible and gripping performance as Lydia.

However, the movie is overly long, and while obviously the focus here needs to be on music, there were times it felt like the audience was being subjected to an entire course on music theory rather than observing a story. While this is meant to look like a true story, it is not. Lydia Tár was not a real person but there are obvious comparisons with people who have made incredible art but then done things in their lives where our respect for their talent may be lessened. There is a ton of technical jargon here and if you’re not someone who listens to classical music or really understands what goes into making it (guilty myself of this) then it can be a bit of drag.

The film really comes into its own towards the end as consequences start happening for Lydia. I will add that I was personally confused by the very end of the film but it’s just because I have never played the video game Monster Hunter and apparently it helps to know that game.

While I don’t think this was the best picture of 2022, I do think Cate Blanchett may have had the best performance. I think it will be a close call between her and Michelle Yeoh who would be equally as deserving.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Women Talking – Movie Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hello film fans and welcome to Oscar day! We’re hours away from the big awards show and I only have a couple more best picture nominations to review. This time I am talking about the intense film Women Talking. There will be spoilers below so if that bothers you please watch the film first and then read the review. But before you watch the film at all, let me give you a little content warning. This film deals with the heavy matters of the worst kind of sexual violence against women and children so be warned before you go into it. While the film never shows anything extremely graphic, the subject matter is touched upon heavily and the few images that do show something are unforgettable. If that sort of subject matter gets to you in any way, stay far away from this film because you will be uncomfortable watching it.

Women Talking is about a small Mennonite colony where there have been instances of assault against women and children. The men who committed these acts have been caught and sent to prison, at least temporarily. While most of the men are away in town dealing with court and bail proceedings, it’s up to the women to decide what to do. They give themselves three choices. Do nothing. Stay and fight. Or leave.

The movie goes through the discussion, sometimes flashing back to instances of violence, while the women who all have differing points of view. try to decide what is best for them, and what is best in the eyes of God. For a film which is mostly a long conversation, this is riveting. The acting here is outstanding and the ensemble cast put in a great effort.

The story is based on a novel of the same name which was itself inspired by true life events. I can’t speak to how much of it is accurate to what actually happened but this dramatized performance is more than memorable. The film will sit with you long after viewing.

And while the themes are very intense and serious, you do come away from the viewing with a bit of hope that things will get better for the women in the end.

If you love good dramas and you can take rather intense subject matter, this is a must watch. If it wins best picture it would be deserving although I think it will be a bit of an upset if it does. Still, whether it wins or not this is definitely one of the best films from 2022 and well worth viewing.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Triangle of Sadness – Movie Review

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Hello film fans, it’s Slick Dungeon here! I’m back to review the next Oscar contender for this year, a film about the super rich and a yacht cruise gone wrong called Triangle of Sadness. There will be spoilers in this review so if that makes you seasick, watch the movie first and come on back here to read the review.

Triangle of Sadness is supposed to be a satirical take down of the upper class wealthy. It starts off with us meeting a couple named Carl and Yaya. Carl is a male model and Yaya is a model and influencer. The two are not at all likable. They prove to be somewhat more likable once they end up on a free yacht cruise where we meet a bunch of even wealthier people who are completely unaware of how anything works. This is up to and including one of the guests demanding the crew clean the sails on a motorized yacht which doesn’t have any sails.

The movie also has some absolutely disgusting gross out humor as people get seasick while eating fine dining in the middle of the cruise. If you watch this, eat your popcorn early because it gets very gross.

The last third of the movie is about a group of the wealthy passengers and a few of the crew getting stranded on an island where the tables are turned as one of the cleaning crew is the only one who has skills to survive on the island.

There are a couple of funny moments in the film and it’s well acted. But, out of all the Oscar contenders for this year, this one is the most skippable.

Maybe I am just not sophisticated enough to get the humor here but I found the film to be boring, overly long, pretentious and pointless. If they started the movie at the point of the shipwreck I might have found more value in it but the slog to get through to that point is not worth the rest of the film.

For all of the rest of the movies on the best picture list I can say I was at least entertained but this one I really struggled with. Even though some of the other films are slow paced, like Banshees of Inisherin, I was at least interested in what was happening. For this film, I couldn’t wait for it to be over and for me to be able to be done with the characters here.

Even the cleaning woman who turns the tables for a while ends up to be just as unlikable as everyone else and I just wanted it to end. I did give this two stars just because it does a fine job with the acting and there was one moment I really enjoyed where a wealthy couple who got rich off of selling grenades is blown up by one of their own grenades. Everything else here does not work for me at all. It’s not my kind of movie. I feel like they just missed the mark here. It was never cutting edge enough to really delve into dark humor and it wasn’t funny enough to be a true comedy. It’s about vapid people being vapid to each other. We get enough of that in the real world.

You may disagree with me and love this movie. It certainly earned a bunch of awards already. But, I don’t think I will be on the same page with you if you’re in that camp.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Banshees of Inisherin

Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson star in The Banshees of Inisherin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hello film fanatics and movie lovers, it’s Slick Dungeon! I’m back to review yet another Oscar nominated film before the big show tomorrow. This time I watched The Banshees of Inisherin. There will be spoilers in this review so if that’s the sort of thing that makes you want to cut off a finger, watch the movie first and come on back to read the review.

The Banshees of Inisherin is a character study drama centering on the lives of Colm Doherty and Pádraic Súilleabháin. The two of them live quiet lives on a small island of the coast of Ireland. It’s a tiny community where few people leave and even fewer people return. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows your business at all times and nothing much changes.

Things do change for Pádraic, however, when he goes to knock on Colm’s door and invite him to the local pub which they do every day. Colm ignores Pádraic completely and just sits in his house. The next day a confused Pádraic asks Colm why he wouldn’t go to the pub and Colm says it’s because Pádraic is boring. This sets off a low level feud between the friends. Pádraic for his part does everything he can to get Colm to be his friend again but Colm does everything he can to avoid Pádraic.

This all takes place with the backdrop of the end of the Irish Civil War. While it’s not touched on too directly both Colm and Pádraic make comments on it and we hear sounds and rumors of fighting far off in the distance. Things become increasingly charged between Colm and Pádraic when Colm threatens to cut off one of his own fingers with a pair of sheep sheers if Pádraic keeps talking to him.

Things escalate from there between the two until the end of the film when both friends have good reason to be quite upset with one another.

The pacing of the film is very slow. It’s got great performances from both Colin Farrel and Brendand Gleeson but I think Farrell shines just a little more here playing a nice guy who has been wronged for no apparent reason. The story winds itself slowly to a pretty interesting finish with Pádraic and Colm having a bit of a strange resolution to their feud. It’s unclear if things will get better for the two in the end or if they’ll be life long enemies who are stuck on a tiny island.

Out of all the Oscar nominees I have seen so far this one seems to rattle around in my brain the most trying to figure out just what the meaning of it was. I’m not sure if that is a compliment or a criticism here but it’s a memorable film for sure.

If you like quiet character drama or slow paced black comedies this movie is for you.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Everything Everywhere All at Once – Movie Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hello film fans! Welcome to Oscar weekend! It’s Slick Dungeon here and I’m back to review another Oscar best picture nominee. This one stars Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Hey Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis. I am, of course, talking about Everything Everywhere All at Once. There will be some spoilers in this review so if that bothers you, do something odd, think of an alternate universe where you have seen the film, and come on back to read the review.

While there are a number of worthy contenders for best picture this year, Everything Everywhere All at Once got the most nominations of any film. It’s also widely considered to be a frontrunner for best picture. The movie centers around Evelyn Quan Wang, a mother who runs a laundromat with her husband Waymond. The couple have a daughter named Joy and Evelyn also takes care of her father Gong Gong. Evelyn’s world is swirling with activity from the needs of her clients to her husband and daughter and to top it all off she is being audited by the IRS.

On what would be an otherwise normal day, Waymond suddenly switches personalities and tells Evelyn she has to help him save every universe in existence from someone named Jobu Tupaki. To do that she has to go into a bit of a trance state and think of a universe where she made a slightly different decision somewhere along the way which leads to her having a new skill. So, for example if she wants to fight, she has to think of a universe where she learned martial arts and she instantly knows it. It’s sort of a comedic version of The Matrix but with a middle-aged Chinese American immigrant as the star instead of Keanu Reeves.

The plot is a bit hard to completely follow but there are tons of moments of comedy and introspection here. There’s everything from a universe where Evelyn is an internationally recognized singer to one where humans evolved with hot dogs for fingers. And there is a ton of action in this movie. This has incredible fight scenes, including the best use of a fanny pack in a movie ever.

Michelle Yeoh and Ke Hey Quan shine as the parents of Joy (Stephanie Hsu). Hsu herself puts in a solid performance as at turns a hero and villain in the film.

For what would be considered a sci-fi comedy action thriller this movie touches on a lot of subjects. It speaks about meaning in the world, about what it is to be kind, about how we relate to one another, and about the generational divide.

It’s not a perfect movie but it gets close. It’s bucket loads of fun and surprisingly emotional.

If you’re a fan of fun sci-fi comedies or if you are a Michelle Yeoh fan, you can’t ask for a better movie than this one. I don’t know if it will win the best picture but if it does it would be deserving of the title.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Avatar: The Way of Water – Movie Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hello movie lovers, it’s me, Slick Dungeon! I’m back to review yet another Oscar contender for 2022, the biggest, most expensive, and bluest film of last year, Avatar: The Way of Water. There will be some spoilers below so if you have not seen the movie, clone yourself, upload your consciousness to a body who has seen the film, and come on back here to read the review.

Avatar: The Way of Water continues the story of Jake Sully from the first film. Jake is living his life with the Navi, now a respected leader, with a loving family. Things won’t stay peaceful, however, as Earth is dying and humans have decided they need to colonize Pandora in order to survive. This puts Jake and his family in danger and at odds with an entire planet of people who have better weapons and technology than the Navi. Jake will have to reprise his role as a leader of military might and join up with a new clan and learn their ways in order to turn back the invaders.

The film looks absolutely fantastic. The visuals are stunning beyond belief. This film should win every technical award under the sun. It’s a spectacle for the eye to see that should be enjoyed in 3D on the largest screen you can find. It’s well worth the experience.

The acting is decent. There are moments where you may find yourself tearing up a little and despite everyone walking around as big blue aliens, emotions do come through well.

However, the story is nothing we haven’t seen before. It doesn’t have anything here you couldn’t predict from watching the first film or even just the preview of this film. While the film gets every point for innovative visuals, it gets none for original story. There are moments where you will forget what the story is even about because your eyes are just wandering around the screen. I’m not saying it’s not worth watching. It’s totally worth watching, just don’t expect anything but your eyes to be surprised. Your heart and mind won’t be.

This is a mediocre story living inside an incredible looking film. It’s good, it’s fun, it’s a theatrical experience you cannot forget. It’s just not that great of a story. It’s unfortunate because if this told a story that was maybe thirty percent more original this could have been one of the best films ever made. Instead it’s the best looking film ever made.

There are times when the cast seems too large and it can be hard to keep track of who is who and what exactly is happening. Also, the big bad guy here is just a sort of recycled big bad guy from the last movie which felt really uninspired. That’s not to take away the achievement of this film. It’s an incredible visual feat that only James Cameron could have pulled off. It just deserved a better story.

If you love sci-fi action and big visual effects with tons of spectacle, this movie will be right up your alley. If you need a great story to go along with all of that you’ll be a little disappointed but you should watch it anyway because it really does look incredible.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Fabelmans – Movie Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Hello movie fans, it’s Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review another Oscar nominated film. This time I watched The Fabelmans, a semi-autobiographical coming of age film by the one and only Steven Spielberg. There will be some spoilers in this review so if that sort of thing bothers you, grab yourself some popcorn, go watch the movie and come on back to read the review.

The story of The Fabelmans centers around a young Jewish boy named Sammy (Gabriel LaBelle) and his love of film. The movie starts off with a very young Sammy being taken to see his first movie. He’s a bit scared to go but his father patiently explains the technical aspects of film while his mother talks about how magical the experience will be. In the theater, Sammy watches The Greatest Show on Earth. Sammy is instantly enthralled and becomes obsessed with trying to recreate one of the scenes from the film.

It’s clear from early on that Sammy has a genuine gift for filmmaking. He’s encouraged by his mother and his father appreciates what Sammy does. Sammy’s father, however, does think it’s just a phase before Sammy moves onto doing something practical like engineering.

We see Sammy grow up into a teenager and it seems the one constant for him is film. His family has a shift in dynamic as it becomes clear his mother and father are not happily married at this point. Film seems to be a bit of a mixed blessing for Sammy for a while. The Fabelmans move to California and things get even more difficult as Sammy is one of the few Jewish kids at his high school. He finds a bit of romance and he continues making movies.

The film deals with a lot of personal struggle and turmoil. It also explores topics of art and creativity and trying to find some meaning in the world as you grow up. More than any other film I’ve watched so far for the Oscar nominees, this one understands film. Steven Spielberg knows that film is not just about spectacle. It’s about capturing small moments of personal stories to tell us a larger story. Sure, special effects are nice to have, but that’s not the only thing required to tell a good story.

Watching The Fabelmans gives any cinephile the same feeling we had the first time we walked into a theater. It’s downright magical. The difference is that most of us just continue to watch movies while Sammy realizes he needs to make movies. And while this is a fictionalized version, it’s obvious a lot of Steven Spielberg comes through in this character.

So far, out of all the movies I’ve seen for the Oscars this year, this one seems the most deserving to me. It’s able to transport the audience in a way other films haven’t. I will admit I am a little bit biased here as I am a sucker for movies about movies but I think anyone watching this will not be able to deny how skilled a storyteller Spielberg is.

If you love coming of age movies, movies about movies, or films that tell a personal story about art and creativity, this one is a must watch.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Top Gun: Maverick – Movie Review

Miles Teller stars as Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw in Top Gun: Maverick

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hello moviegoers and film fanatics! Slick Dungeon here and I’m back to review another Oscar nominated film from 2022. This time we’ll be barrel rolling into the high flying sequel to Top Gun, Top Gun: Maverick. Do be warned there will be some spoilers in the review so if that sort of thing makes you want to eject from the aircraft, go watch the movie, come one back here, take off your aviator glasses, and read the review.

Tom Cruise is back in a big way in Top Gun: Maverick. This film continues the story from the original film with a Maverick who is much older, much wiser, and still a Captain. He’s stuck in the position because he tends to be a bit reckless and he feels like being a pilot is who he is.

The film starts off with Maverick testing an aircraft, trying to get it to hit mach 10. He’s doing this against orders but if he hits the mark, he saves the jobs of several people working with him. At least for now. Expecting to be disciplined. Maverick is instead called back to the “Top Gun” flight school where the original movie took place. There’s a nearly impossible mission (see what I did there?) and Maverick is needed to teach a young group of pilots not only how to complete the mission but how to survive it. Maverick also only gets this job because Iceman (Val Kilmer) from the first movie is now an Admiral and knows Maverick can handle the job.

Maverick is given the parameters of the mission and instantly sees all the challenges associated with it. It’s a big task full of the need for lots of cool looking flying stunts to get the job done.

In the group of top notch pilots is Rooster (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s now deceased wingman Goose. Rooster is none too pleased to be instructed by Maverick because Maverick delayed Rooster’s entrance into the Naval Academy.

The movie has a ton of action, lots of incredible looking flight stunts, a decent enough story and about as much Tom Cruise as any sane person can handle.

As far as a movie going experience, this was definitely an enjoyable film. A lot of it did feel like a rehash of the original story but there’s enough new here to keep it interesting. Was this one of the better movies released in 2022? Absolutely. Is this worthy of the best picture of 2022? I don’t think so.

I’m not knocking the movie. I really did enjoy it. There were some issues with it. The near impossibility of the need for this mission with these aircraft made it almost not believable but I can put that aside enough to have fun here. Also, the fact that drones are taking over much of manned flight is only barely touched on here and I think there could have been a bit more exploration of that topic. Jennifer Connelly has a decent role as Penny, Maverick’s love interest. But the audience is mostly here for the high flying stunts (or low flying in some cases).

It seemed to me there was a moment in the film where they could have put a nice end to the whole franchise but it would have involved Tom Cruise’s character dying and I think he has just a bit too much ego to let that happen. But again, this is a movie for fun more than anything, not necessarily something that should leave you in tears.

It’s a good movie but it’s not a great movie. I’d definitely argue the original is better and, well, more original, but there is absolutely no denying this film has incredible and exciting action. I don’t regret putting my money down for it but I’m not sure it truly earned its place on the Oscar nominee list.

If you love the first Top Gun film this is required viewing. If you like fast action films, this is a great watch. If you’re looking for a deep plot with lots of surprises, you’re in the wrong place. But if you want a good time, this movie will definitely give you that.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Elvis – Movie Review

Austin Butler stars as Elvis

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hello film fanatics! Slick Dungeon here and I’m back to review the next of the Oscar contenders for this year. This film is about a musician you may have hear of named Elvis. There will be spoilers in this review so if that sort of thing steps on your blue suede shoes, go watch the movie, come on back and read the review. This one is available on HBO Max and Hulu at the moment.

In the past few years there have been a ton of musician biopics which show a brilliant and struggling artist get a big break through, fall into excess, and either be redeemed or end up dead at a young age. These biopics range from fairly accurate to almost complete fiction. And the formula at this point is kind of old. So, it’s easy to forget Elvis Presley really was one of the first mega famous rock musicians of all time and his influence on music simply cannot be overstated. A decent biopic for him has been overdue for decades. And this one, Elvis, almost hits the mark but just doesn’t quite get there.

Let’s start with the good here. Austin Butler plays a perfect Elvis. I never for one moment didn’t buy him as Elvis. This is an immense acting feat considering just how much Elvis already existed in the world. His face is internationally famous and has been for so long, it would have been easy to phone in a less believable portrayal here.

The subject matter of the life of Elvis is mostly portrayed correctly here although it never feels quite as outlandish and big as the real Elvis did. It also never feels as grounded as the early Elvis did when he was bringing music to teens and allowing them to cut loose for the first time.

Almost all of the performances here are top notch and this has an amazing soundtrack. I’m not just talking about the Elvis songs either. The blues, country, and early rock that influenced Elvis (and that he sometimes outright stole) is prominently portrayed here. There are a couple of jarring moments I don’t think worked where they throw hip hop songs into the middle of 1959 but it could still be argued Elvis had an influence on that music as well.

Here’s the bad. And it pains me to say this but, it’s Tom Hanks. It is certainly true Elvis had a manager who took financial advantage of him and kept him locked into unfulfilling contracts. This was Colonel Tom Parker, most often just referred to as the Colonel. He had a huge influence on promoting Elvis and helped to bring Presley to stardom in the first place. But Hanks’ portrayal of this person misses the mark. The makeup used on Hanks kind of works but not enough to keep it from being distracting. More problematic is the way Hanks portrays Parker. I think if Hanks could have dialed it back from completely unaware cartoon villain by about 50 percent, this performance might have worked. I don’t know who should have played Parker but I do know this performance was just not right given how well the rest of the film works.

The other bad part of the film still has to do with the character of the Colonel but this is not Hanks’ fault. Baz Luhrmann for unknown reasons decided to frame the entire movie not from the point of view of Elvis but from the point of view of the Colonel. It’s like Luhrmann was afraid to actually get close enough to Elvis to give us the whole story. While it does give some interesting context, it’s not the story we want to see. Especially not when Austin Butler is giving such an outstanding performance.

To me this film is frustrating because it gets close to reaching greatness, only to hamper itself from getting there. The moments where the film shines the most are when Elvis is away from the Colonel and is interacting with those whose music inspired him. There are great scenes between Elvis and B.B. King and others in the blues scene of the time. That’s the film I really wanted to see but instead we see scenes of Tom Hanks not believably lying to everyone around him. And then in the next moment everyone around Hanks believes the guy.

Normally I like a good Tom Hanks performance but this one just doesn’t work.

If you love musical biopics there are definitely worse ones out there. If you are an Elvis fan you’ll probably enjoy this. Also, if you want to see an excellent and believable portrayal of Elvis, this works. But outside of that, I can’t recommend this for everyone. It’s a bit of a mess in parts and utterly brilliant in others and it just doesn’t quite match the grandeur the King of Rock ‘n Roll deserves.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

All Quiet on the Western Front (2022) – Movie Review

All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hey movie fans, Slick Dungeon here! It’s Oscar week so I’m going to give my best shot at reviewing all of the best picture Oscar nominees this week. I’m not sure if I will get through all of the movies before Oscar time but I will review all of them. The first one on the list happened to be the 2022 version of All Quiet on the Western Front. Do be warned there will be some mild spoilers in this review so if that sort of thing bothers you, watch the movie first and come back to read the review. This one is available on Netflix at the moment.

All Quiet on the Western Front is a German film adaptation of the novel of the same name from 1929. It follows a group of young men thrown into the horrors of war near the end of World War I. The book, and the film, make strong statements about the futility of war, the carnage it inflicts, and shows how decisions outside of the control of anyone on the ground impacted vast numbers of those who fought.

While this is certainly an ensemble film, we mostly see the story through the eyes of Paul Bäumer. He signs up to fight on the side of the Germans before he’s actually of age to go to war. He and several of his friends are young, idealistic, and inspired by the leaders of their country. But as soon as the group make it out to the front lines it becomes clear none of them were ready for the harsh realities of war.

The film is gory, even for a war film. The movie portrays death in nearly all of the possible forms it could have taken on the front lines, from bullets to mortar shells to death by gas and anything in between, it’s shown here. For most of the movie we get small snippets of each character’s life. Some we learn a little bit about only to see them die seconds later. Others make it further along in the war but as this is war, no one is safe from harm.

We do see a bit of a relationship develop between Paul and a man named Kat who is a bit more experienced in the world than most of the other soldiers around him. This is the strongest attachment Paul forms but even this relationship feels tenuous as both men know either one of them could be gone in an instant. Throughout the movie it seems focusing for even a moment on the future can be fatal. All involved must survive this moment to get to the next and nothing more.

There is also an interesting contrast when we see some of the diplomats and generals who are not on the front lines, making decisions from their safe sanctuaries, knowing men are dying and not caring.

And while the movie is about German soldiers, who are considered the aggressors in the war, it’s absolutely clear, this war was horrible for everyone who fought in it. The viewer feels no less empathy for Paul and his companions than if they fought for the French. And since the film was made by German filmmakers, it has a realistic quality to it which might not come through from any other creators.

This film is utterly brutal and heartbreaking at every turn. I remember reading the novel in High School but it doesn’t sink in the same way as actors portraying these scenes on film can. The book, in my opinion, has a lot of dead space without much happening. There is still some of that in the film, but those moments of stillness and quiet, are jarringly interrupted when action takes over.

This film won’t be for everyone. If you don’t have a fairly strong stomach when it comes to bloody depictions, most definitely sit this one out. If you can’t stand war films, again this is not for you. But, as the book does, this movie really sinks home not only how brutal humans can be to one another but also how meaningless it can all seem.

I don’t know if this is the most Oscar worthy film on the list but it’s one I can easily recommend you should watch. There is some slow pacing which can get annoying but there is enough here to keep one interested and there are some genuinely shocking moments worth sticking around for.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review – Journey Into Mystery #92

Journey Into Mystery Issue 92 Writers: Stan Lee, Robert Bernstein, Artist: Joe Sinnott, Cover Art: Jack Kirby, Photo Credit: Marvel

Journey Into Mystery continues to be a showcase for Thor and the other Norse gods who appear in Marvel 616. In this issue we get to see a deeper look at Asgard and the rivalry between Thor and Loki continues. But we have to take the good with the strange here because in the same issue, Thor has to take down several lowlife street thugs after his alter-ego Dr. Donald Blake has operated on one of them. It’s an odd mix of foes who are absolutely no match for Thor and one who can hold his own.

The story starts with a splash page, as most 616 comics do. Loki is scheming how to free himself from his bonds while at the same time weakening Thor. We next get a good look at the Bifrost bridge and see Heimdall guarding it. He doesn’t allow Neri, hand-maiden of Fricka, to cross the bridge until he’s made certain Loki is still chained in place.

Loki overhears the whole thing and he’s still hopping mad about being stuck here, chained to a rock with chains made of Uru metal. This is the same substance Thor’s hammer Mjolnir is made out of.

As Loki goes on swearing his vengeance on Thor, we switch back to Earth in the offices of Dr. Donald Blake. Jane goes out to run a blood sample to a lab. Outside, three common thugs wait. One of them has been shot and they plan to force Dr. Blake to operate, without filing a police report, whether he wants to or not. The crooks pulled off a jewel heist and Blake knows they are on the run. Being a good doctor, of course he operates. He also mentions Thor is helping the police. The thugs don’t believe him until Blake distracts them with the classic look over there technique and changes into Thor. Weirdly, he decides to tape the gangsters onto an operating table, tie his hammer onto the table, and basically chuck his hammer towards the police station. The cops figure out what happened rather quickly and the hammer returns to Thor who changes back into Dr. Blake.

A week goes by and Thor is summoned to… a film set. Yep, you read that right, he’s making a movie. His proceeds, “will go to various charities,” so he’s still doing heroic work. He starts filming a scene or two and Loki sees what he is doing. Thor’s final scene involves him throwing his hammer to cause an avalanche, which he does. The hammer doesn’t stop flying and we find out this is because… well because Loki has used his sorcery to… make the metal in his chains magnetic and attract the hammer to them. So, I guess Loki is kind of like Magneto for a minute here? It doesn’t make a lot of sense but it does break Loki free.

To press his advantage, Loki lures Thor to Asgard. Loki figures Thor knows Earth pretty well but Loki might gain advantage in his home. I suppose Loki has forgotten Thor is no stranger to Asgard but we’ll go with it. Thor asks Odin to transport him to Asgard, which he does. Conveniently, time stops on Earth when Odin is around and in Asgard Thor can’t lose his powers even without his hammer. So, we don’t have to follow the established rule that Thor can’t be away from his hammer for more than 60 seconds.

Loki also convinces the council of gods to say they’re too busy to help Thor find his hammer. Loki sends some killer trees after Thor but Thor makes a hammer out of wood and defeats them. Thor figures Loki must be up to something and goes to check on him. Loki turns some clouds into dragons to attack Thor. This time Thor makes a hammer out of stone. That hammer also flies to where Loki had been chained. There he finds Mjolnir. The gods Odin, Heimdall, and Fricka show up and take Loki prisoner again.

Thor heads on back to Earth and we get a silly scene where Dr. Blake is testing someone’s reflexes with a rubber mallet. Jane Foster reassures the patient that, “Dr. Blake is very experienced in using a mallet!!” to which Blake thinks, “Jane, honey… you don’t know the half of it!”

While this story is a bit of an odd mix, it does drive the larger story forward just a bit. We get more of Asgard and more of Loki and this is vital to the upcoming creation of the Avengers. In time, a lot of the sillier stuff, including Thor fighting common street thugs will fade away but it’s still going to be a while before we get there.

Next up on the reading list, we’ll be checking in on Reed and company in The Fantastic Four #14!

Luther: The Fallen Sun – Movie Review

Idris Elba and Andy Serkis star in the latest installment of the Luther series, Luther: The Fallen Sun

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hey movie fans, it’s Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review another movie, although this one has a pretty limited release and it’s more of an episode of television. If you’ve seen the Luther series starring Idris Elba, currently airing on Netflix, you know what this series is about. If not, you may want to skip this review because there will be spoilers and they may cover more than just the movie but also the series. You’ve been warned.

I’m reviewing this here because I want to post about every movie I see in theaters this year. I’ve watched the other episodes of Luther but never caught them in a theater so you won’t see the review for those episodes here (at least not yet). None of those episodes, as far as I know, were ever released as movies like this one was.

The Luther series is a gripping psychological thriller series starring Idris Elba as detective John Luther. This is a man who has a special talent for catching bad guys doing unspeakably bad things. But Luther has gone too far in some instances to see justice done. Luther: Fallen Sun continues this story.

The movie starts out mysteriously with a young man receiving a phone call in the middle of the night to show up at a random location in the middle of a road. When he gets there he finds a car has crashed and a body on the side of the road. The young man calls the police and moments later is attacked by the person who was lying in the street.

We cut to Luther who is investigating a case. A desperate mother asks for Luther to promise to find her missing son for her. Luther promises but he’s clearly got other priorities at the time. A few months later some of the things Luther has done in the past which cross the line of the law come to light and he ends up in prison. But there is a serial killer on the loose and Luther wants to end the case he never finished.

Obviously this presents problems. He can’t do much if he’s in jail and he is not a detective anymore so he’s pretty limited. However, he’s still got more insight than most people in the police force and Luther has a plan. He’s able to get out of jail and go after the man who is causing such havoc.

It plays out like most Luther episodes otherwise, where Luther is a step behind a killer but he’s determined. There are tons of disturbing and uncomfortable scenes in this movie but if you have watched Luther before, it’s nothing new.

Andy Serkis puts in a great performance here as usual and Idris Elba is fantastic as always. The story is gripping and believable, although there are parts which seem a bit far fetched. The end also feels like it will be the beginning of something bigger so I don’t think this will be even close to the end of Luther.

If you like psychological thrillers like Silence of the Lambs, or Wallender, you’ll enjoy Luther: The Fallen Sun. While I did see this in a theater, I don’t think that’s necessarily the best way to watch this. It’s a highly bingeable show and this is another solid entry in the series.

Thrillingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Flash Fiction Friday – The Librarian

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Happy Friday internet! I was thinking about an unruly mob when I wrote this story. Hope you enjoy it!

The Librarian by Adam Wright

When the young man came in to check out a series of medical volumes I thought little of it. He had a tenacity beyond any I had seen before. Most days he came in at the sound of the church bell ringing in the noon hour. He stayed until the bells rang once more at midnight. The days he did not arrive must have been spent at his lectures or in study with his compatriots. I never saw him without a book in his hands. 

Late at night when all the lamps were low I would see him at the tables. Books were strewn about and he would scribble furiously upon his pads, the ink pots running low, broken quills at the floor. I often walked to him quietly and tapped upon his shoulders. Every time he would start out of his seat as if he had been waiting for some unseen horror to come at him. It was only I, the humble librarian, come to send him on to wherever he could sleep. Presumably at his dormitories near the school. Later, I heard there was some site far off from the village he frequented. I never knew if this was true or not.

I saw him with a young woman on several occasions. Some said it was his sister, others his bride to be. It did not matter to me, I only loaned him the use of my tables and the books upon my shelves. His matters were not my matters. Still, when I saw them walking together in the street he looked happier than when he was at his books. The woman positively gleamed radiance in those days whenever she was spotted with him. 

As time went by the young man became more frantic. Dark circles appeared under his eyes and he seemed to enter in a mad passion. He was searching for something but unable to grasp it. I spent hours with him walking through shelves finding volumes of knowledge for him to consume. 

His requests became more esoteric. He demanded volumes I did not own and had not considered obtaining. He was a likable fellow and so driven with knowledge I found myself purchasing from dealers in antiquities and even occasionally those known to be associated with the criminal elements in the village to procure some volume or other. Most frequently they dealt with human anatomy and the study of the deceased. 

The only other subject he found interesting had to do with weather. He was maddeningly curious about lightning and how it might be harnessed. I told him it may be a better idea to leave God’s will and the force of nature alone. He mocked me for a fool but I did not take it personally. Good men are still good men even when they disagree. 

These long days of study were interrupted by months of absence. I found myself wondering where my young friend had gone off to. I wished him well but kept about my business.  

When there were rumors of children gone missing or possibly taken from the village the worry for my young friend grew in my mind. I was not concerned with any violence being done to him. For all his academic rigor he seemed a hale and hearty fellow who could fend off attack if necessary. That sweet woman he was associated with, however, she was an altogether different story. She was slight enough a strong wind might have blown her away. If thugs or bandits were craven enough to abscond with children who knew what lows these miscreants might get up to when confronted with a beautiful young woman?

I was quite relieved when days later he came in once again. He had a much more focused list of books he was interested in. Had I known he would tear pages out I never would have let him peruse these copies but he did this in secret when I was not looking. I don’t know what he expected to find there nor why he would keep the pages for himself when he could simply copy down a passage if he wished.

Once I discovered his actions I confronted the fellow. I told him in no uncertain terms if he was to damage the property of the library he would not be welcomed back. This set his anger to boil and we nearly came to blows. In fact, he pushed past me, grabbed a book I had recently procured for him and he ran out of the building shouting to me that it was the last piece of the puzzle. What this puzzle was I had no knowledge of.

I considered following him but did not think recovering one volume, no matter how rare, was worth leaving all the books in the library unattended. 

It was not long after when tragedy struck the village. There were wild rumors of a hulking creature with the strength of ten men roaming around the countryside. I never believed the wilder rumors but were there a man, perhaps a deranged one, in the countryside, it would explain the disappearance of the village children. 

The events on the night of the fire are somewhat difficult to ascertain in their entirety. It seems the townsfolk were driven to anger over the loss of their children and the terror spreading from these rumors of a creature. They began to assemble in ones and twos and eventually became a large group.

I was walking home after hours when I saw it. They say it was a creature but I can tell you it was not. It was a man. A large one, hideously scarred, and uglier than any visage I had seen before. He was running past me toward the old mill. For a moment I thought about stopping this man but in the moment I saw his face, I felt pity in my heart. There was something everlastingly tragic in him. Perhaps things may have been different had I stopped this man. Perhaps there would have been less death amongst those I knew and cared for as patrons of my little library. There is no way to know for certain.

Soon the townsfolk became a mob. They carried their farming implements and held torches aloft to light their way. It was this group that passed me next. They asked where “the creature” had gone. Rather than try to reason with an unruly mob roused to anger I simply pointed. I hoped the man was not harmed but had he been the one tormenting the village I suppose his end would have been justified.

By night’s end much of the village had been burnt. Many people died. I saw the flames at the mill and decided the best course of action was to return to the library to defend it from any threatening inferno. Luckily for me, my little building remained safe through the night.

Tragically, I learned later, the beautiful young woman who so often accompanied my friend died that same evening. It was unclear if she were a victim of the fire, the man on the loose, or perhaps came to some other end. In my mind I keep seeing the anger and madness in my friend’s eyes as he told me my book was the last piece of his puzzle. This, to me, was more frightening than this “creature.”

The woman remains dead and my friend has not been seen for some time. There are rumors he took to sailing in an attempt to reach the North Pole. Ridiculous rumors are rampant in small towns and villages such as mine but this one seems more far fetched than any I have heard. 

There have been months before when he has been absent and I still hope to see him again. If anything I think his grief may overwhelm him. It was clear he was everything to her. I was able to tell she was everything to him but I’m not certain he knew the same.

We’ve nearly returned to normal at the library and in the village. The reconstruction of the mill continues and I heard there was some extensive damage to one of our largest estates but the structure itself remains standing. Strangely, there were several graves disturbed from the cemetery but I believe this was simply school children attempting some ill conceived prank.

I think soon I shall see my friend once more. I hope he will be less frantic this time and perhaps take some time to see life around him rather than so obsessively pursuing his studies. Until that time, I have set several of his favorite volumes aside as no one else has been remotely interested in them. I’m sure they will get use someday, however, for, as they say, knowledge is power.

Enjoy my Flash Fiction Fridays? Consider supporting independent authors by purchasing one of these collections for only $4.99 Flahbang! Volume 1, Flashbang! Volume II, Flashbang Volume III.

The Underground by Ty Pape- Book Review

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)


In a not-so-distant future apocalyptic world, everything known has been thrown into a whirlwind of despair. Life as Josh Kimbo knows it is lived in a deep underground bunker built by the government nearly a century prior. Ten years of living in a secure bunker have driven Josh and those around him to their brink. Josh is forced to decide whether to escape from an authoritarian leader’s firm grip or risk breathing the “toxic” air above ground. Josh not only faces the people whose purpose is to put him down but his biggest enemy continues to be himself. Throughout his journey, Josh not only battles outside forces, he battles against his own inner demons to discover who he is. Love, fear, pain, comfort, action, and tragedy drive Josh’s story past anything that he thought was possible for himself. Physically and mentally.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


Josh Kimbo leads a simple life in the Underground. Ten years ago, there was a great disaster and since that time Josh and his brother have lived in a relatively safe space underground, protected from the radiation above and doing what they can to live a meager existence. Josh tends the garden in the underground, helping to grow the food to feed the people living there. It’s an important job that helps him to feel fulfilled but he still has the sense that there is more to life. The community is strictly regulated by the Governor of the Underground. Any infraction against the rules leads to punishment up tp and including execution. While this system seems to work well enough, there are signs the community is questioning what the future will hold. When Josh’s friend Reek is taken away by the Governor, it’s inevitable Josh will be taken next. Josh’s brother has a bold plan to get them out of the Underground. But, even if Josh makes it out, he doesn’t know what kind of harsh conditions he’ll have to face and if he will be able to survive. Will he give in to his fear or will he survive to help those he knows and loves?

The Underground is at times reminiscent of The City of Ember in setting but does tell a unique story. There are some intriguing action scenes and the reader gets to know Josh quite well as a character. While the author does a decent job of putting the story together, there are times where there is more telling than showing. There is also a bit too much head hopping in some scenes for my taste but overall this doesn’t detract too much from the story. The book truly picks up in the last third of the story and has a few surprises by the end.

If you like post-apocalyptic books like The Hunger GamesThe City of Ember, or Divergent, you will likely find this worth reading.

Flash Fiction Friday – Space Walk

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Happy Friday everyone! Here’s a little story I wrote, hope you enjoy!

Space Walk by Adam Wright

Transmission begins

Empty. Vast. Infinite. It’s everything I have ever imagined it would be. The universe expands beyond the line of my sight and off into the black eternity of forever. The quiet here is perfection. The only sound is my breathing, in and out. The exhalations of my lungs, automatic and repetitive, keep going. There is nothing else. Not all the bright stars I can see, not all the planets who have died out eons ago but are still shining to my eyes. The only thing that matters now is the breath of my lungs. 

I see the space ship floating away from me. Rather, I float away from it but I can’t tell the difference. The hose of my tether is leaking oxygen as it hangs off the side of the ship, flopping like a sprinkler gone mad. I hope Molly remembers me. I’ll never know.

Communications are lost, visual is sketchy at best. I dreamed of being up here since I was six years old, wanting to understand how I am part of this vast universe and what an insignificant creature like me could possibly hope to do with that knowledge. I’m ultimately about to become a part of what we all will be someday, so much cosmic dust and debris. I don’t mind. It’s enough for me to know I was here and I saw it. I only wish I could document it. This recording may reach someone someday. I have no way of knowing if they will be able to understand it or if they will have any idea of who I was. I suppose it doesn’t matter.

I may go peacefully, the last of my oxygen cutting out and with a bit of mercy, I will become unconscious before the end. The other possibility is I will be ripped apart violently by something floating out here with me. A cosmic missile, that might crack my face shield or tear open my suit, or if I am unlucky, gouge right through me. I hope the end comes quickly and there is enough blood loss for me to pass out before I feel the impact. Or perhaps the vacuum of space will do its violence to me and choke me to death in mere seconds.

Molly never wanted me to leave. How could I tell her what it means to be out here? How could I say to her that as much as she means to me, I still have to see this, to experience this? One person can’t compete with the vastness of the cosmos. I’m living proof of that right now. Well, living for the moment at any rate.

There are unexplainable sights, there are stars beyond the beauty of humanity out here. There is a vast and deep universe. It’s secrets will never be completely unlocked. I don’t mind. I get to be a part of it now. To all those who ever knew me or loved me, goodbye. Molly, I hope you hear this but even if you don’t, I was thinking of you at the end. Go out and explore. 

Transmission ends.

Enjoy my Flash Fiction Fridays? Consider supporting independent authors by purchasing one of these collections for only $4.99 Flahbang! Volume 1, Flashbang! Volume II, Flashbang Volume III.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hello internet people and insects, it’s Slick Dungeon here, and I’m back to review another movie. This time I watched the weird world of the quantum realm in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. If reading film spoilers makes you feel like you have ants in your pants, go watch the movie and come back here to read the review because there will be spoilers ahead. Just a side note I don’t usually review Marvel films on this blog but this year I am trying to do a review of everything I see in theaters and since I saw this in theaters, I wanted to review it here.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the third film in the Ant-Man franchise, the first film of the fifth phase of the MCU, and I don’t know, like the millionth film in the MCU. Spoilers follow so, once again, you have been warned. This film starts with a flashback to when Janet Van Dyne (Michell Pfeiffer) was trapped in the quantum realm. This is a universe that exists below the surface of our own, on a sub-atomic scale. I would wonder how people can breathe there but let’s just ignore that for now. In the quantum realm, Janet meets a stranger named Kang (Jonathan Majors). If you’ve seen Loki on Disney+ you know exactly who this is, and that he is dangerous.

The movie then shifts to present day and injects a good dose of comedy with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) going through his day, being recognized as Spider-Man, posing for selfies with dogs, and doing book signings of his book. We get the idea Scott realizes things get weird in his life and he’s sort of okay with that fact. He saved the world, and he’s back with his daughter. Things are going well, but… he gets a call that his daughter is in jail for shrinking a cop car during a political protest. Scott meets up with Cassie (Kathryn Newton), Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). It turns out Cassie has been working on a project which can send signals into the quantum realm and broadcast them back. Janet tries to shut the whole thing down as soon as she learns about it but the whole little family of ant/insect heroes ends up getting sucked into the quantum realm.

In the quantum realm things get weird pretty fast. There are bizarre creatures, sentient buildings, human looking people who are not human, and… Bill Murray. There’s also the introduction of one of the weirdest characters in Marvel comics history to the MCU, that of M.O.D.O.K. Just in case anyone hasn’t seen the movie I don’t want to give the reveal of who this is and how they became the ultimate killing machine but it’s probably weirder than you would have guessed and it’s not the best interpretation of the character from the comics but it works well enough.

The movie goes on with Scott trying to get everyone home and Janet trying to prevent Kang from threatening Earth. It’s standard superhero action with a bizarre background of characters more at home in Guardians of the Galaxy than in any previous Ant-Man movie. You won’t find the film stretching its muscles too far or doing anything truly innovative but there are some stand out reasons to watch the movie.

First of all, it is a little refreshing to break out of the last phase of movies with the set up of a major villain who can be seen in multiple Marvel projects. Second, it’s got a good amount of fun action to it, and the weirdness of the movie makes it feel more fun than it might have otherwise. Finally, every second Jonathan Majors appears on screen is compelling. His talents shine here and while it might seem silly to have him in an Ant-Man movie, it really works in the quantum realm. It’s not the best MCU movie by any stretch of the imagination but what it did do was get me excited for what might come next, and it has been a while since a Marvel movie has done that.

If you’re a die hard MCU lover, of course you will enjoy this. If you’re a casual fan who has seen most of the movies you’ll probably like it well enough. If you haven’t watched a good chunk of the MCU, this will seem like an insane mess of a movie. If the latter is you, go back to the early movies and let the crazy stuff build up over time.

Microscopically yours,

Slick Dungeon

A Man Called Otto – Movie Review

Tom Hanks in A Man Called Otto.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hello internet. it’s Slick Dungeon here, back to review another movie. This time I watched Tom Hanks perform as a grumpy old man in the film A Man Called Otto. If having movie spoilers makes you want to yell at people for cutting through your driveway or shout at the young folks to get off your lawn, go watch the movie and come back here because there will be spoilers ahead.

A Man Called Otto stars Tom Hanks as the man in question and is adapted from the book A Man Called Ove. It’s billed as a comedy drama but the emphasis here is on drama over comedy. The story follows Otto, a widower, who (spoilers start here) is tired of life without his beloved wife and is ready to take his own life. He has a daily routine of making sure no one drives across the private street he lives on, shoveling his snow covered driveway, sorting through recycling bins and generally grouching at people. At the moment Otto first tries to end things, he’s interrupted by annoying neighbors who don’t seem to know how to park a trailer. Otto helps out and does it for them. This pattern keeps repeating in a number of ways as Otto, reluctantly, ends up helping others and getting closer to people. One incident even leads Otto to be thought of as a bit of a local hero. As this is happening, we get flashbacks of Otto’s life as a younger man. Truman Hanks takes on the younger role and does a fine job selling the part.

At the start of the film, it’s easy for the viewer to guess where it is going. The movie makes no attempt to mislead you, knowing we’ll all get more and more attached to Otto, who despite being a bit of a crank, is not judgmental towards others, has a kind heart, and has the core impulse to help others, even when less convenient for himself. By the end, it’s inevitable the whole audience will end up crying buckets of tears.

As usual, the acting from Tom Hanks is top notch and he’s compelling to watch, although with the distinct feeling we’ve seen something like this film before. While I would not give this film points for originality, I would say it is well constructed, and entertaining. There are a few lighthearted laughs but it is through and through a tearjerker drama.

I don’t see this being voted one of the best films for 2023 but I could see it garnering some awards for Tom Hanks, Truman Hanks, and Mariana Trevino who plays one of Otto’s neighbors, Marisol. In fact, I would say the best performance here, with subtle grace and dignity through the film is Trevino’s and I hope she gets some accolades from the industry for making what could have been a one note character, engaging, emotional and complex.

If you love dramas, if you love Tom Hanks performances, and if you don’t mind crying in an ugly way while watching a movie, this is a good one to go out and see. It’s not perfect but there is a lot to like here.

Grumpily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review – The Amazing Spider-Man #2

The Amazing Spider-Man Issue #2 Photo Credit: Marvel, Written by Stan Lee, Art by Steve Ditko

The second issue of The Amazing Spider-Man introduces a major recurring villain who is still in use in Spider-Man stories today and it has a second, completely forgettable story as its second feature. While both are included in Marvel 616, it’s clear The Vulture is the standout enemy.

The first page of the first story shows Vulture in aerial combat with Spider-Man, signaling a lot of the kinetic and fast pace action to come in many issues of Spider-Man. This is, of course, just a splash page to get the audience excited about reading.

The story starts with a figure wearing vulture wings coming out of nowhere and snatching a briefcase from a pedestrian. This was a briefcase full of a fortune in bonds and Vulture gets away easily. The crowd reacts in shock and excitement, and marvels at how silent the attack was.

We next get a glimpse of J. Jonah Jameson inside the building where Now magazine is published. While we will most associate J.J.J. with The Daily Bugle, he does publish this magazine and it pops up here and there in the comics. The publisher is in desperate need of photos of this Vulture character and is willing to pay top dollar to get them. He also continues his crusade against the menace known as Spider-Man.

We change scenes to a high school where Peter Parker is working at a lab experiment. His classmates mention how valuable pictures of the villain would be while looking at an issue of Now and Peter realizes he can probably make some money as a photographer if he can get a good shot. Peter gets a bit picked on for being a science nerd but he quips right back. He next goes home and Aunt May gives him a mini-camera perfect for what he wants to do.

Again shifting scenes, we check in with Vulture who has a plan to steal a million dollars worth of diamonds about to be moved across town. For some reason, Vulture decides to leave notes with the authorities tipping them off to the fact he’s trying to rob them. It’s not the plan I would go with but then again I am not a master criminal.

As Vulture is flying around, Spider-Man is setting up his camera. He senses The Vulture but doesn’t hear him flying silently through the air. The police get ready for the attack, with special attention paid to the skies. On his way to the crime, Vulture sees Spidey and knocks him out. Vulture dumps Peter in a water tower. It takes him a minute to figure it out but Spider-Man uses his strength to push off the bottom of the water tower so he can leap out of an open hatch. I doubt the physics would work like this here but it’s a comic so we’ll just go with it.

This is one of the first times Spider-Man runs out of web fluid when he needs it, since that would have helped him to get out. He realizes before he escapes, he needs to make some adjustments to the web shooters. He heads home and makes what is basically a utility belt he can hide under his costume with extra web fluid and a spot for his camera. He also rigs something up he says will stop The Vulture next time they meet.

The next day Peter goes to sell pictures he did get of Vulture to J.J.J. The publisher tells Parker he’ll pay even more for Spider-Man photos.

The day after, Peter goes to school and all his friends want to go watch the diamonds get moved. Peter knows he’ll need to slip away and be the hero. While the police were ready for an aerial attack, Vulture strikes from below, popping out of a manhole. He snags the diamonds and flies through the underground sewer system to escape. Peter catches up with him as Spider-Man. There’s a bit of a fight but Peter gets the upper hand when he uses a web to stick to Vulture and then uses his gadget to stop the Vulture from being able to fly. Vulture crashes to the ground and is captured by the police. Turns out Peter’s gadget was an “Anti-Magnetic inverter.” The Vulture powered his flight using magnetics so this device disrupted that. Again, the science is way off here but it’s a comic so we’ll have to let it slide. Peter cashes in on his photos and brings the money back to Aunt May. In the last panel of the story, Vulture swears revenge on Spider-Man.

The next story is about a group of aliens who try to take over the world by inserting special tubes in radio equipment. The main villain is called the Tinkerer and there’s a group of aliens, a rubber mask, and Spider-Man saving the day. It’s a remarkably forgettable story and it’s yet another entry in the superhero saves the world from aliens tales we keep seeing in 616 up to this point. We do get a little diagram of Peter’s web shooters in the story though. Other than that, there is just not much to mention here.

What I find interesting about this issue is this is the beginning of a really colorful rogues gallery in Spider-Man comics. Vulture may not be the smartest or best villain in the world but he’s unforgettable. In the months and years to come Spider-Man comics end up with villains that are consistently good, probably only rivaled by those found in the pages of Batman. We also get the first hints of the ongoing and somewhat complicated nature of Peter’s relationship with J. Jonah Jameson. Peter sort of has a triple problem going where he needs money, but he thinks it’s funny to get it from the guy who hates Spider-Man while hiding the fact he is Spider-Man. It works on a lot of levels and comes into play in more stories than can be counted. It’s easy to see, even in only the second issue of The Amazing Spider-Man why he has such appeal and goes on to be one of the most popular comics characters of all time.

Next up on the reading list we catch up with the first family of superheroes in the pages of The Fantastic Four #13!

The Project Black Flag Playtest is Here!

Art and logo by Kobold Press

Hello fellow tabletop role play gamers! It’s Slick Dungeon here and I wanted to talk about the new play test material Kobold Press has put out for its upcoming fantasy role playing game.

What is Project Black Flag?

Project Black Flag is the super cool name Kobold Press is using for a new 5th edition compatible tabletop game they are working on. This project was in the works well before the whole OGL debacle with Wizards of the Coast but this project got a lot more attention during that time. It’s still early days but this new game has the potential to take TTRPG’s in new and interesting directions. While Kobold has consistently been posting information, including some artwork, and blog posts on Fridays, and telling us the play test material would release in February, they threw us a curveball by releasing their first packet on Monday the 13th of February. The packet is a quick read at only 12 pages and while there is a lot of good information in it, this packet doesn’t quite give us enough to build a full character. However, it does give us some key insights into what to expect. Read on to find out what it is about and how you can get your hands on a copy.

What’s in the Packet?

The packet is a set of rules Kobold would like TTRPG enthusiasts to play test, and then give feedback on. In the packet we get some basic information about what a TTRPG is, what a fantasy role playing game is, what materials you need and who does what at the table. If you’ve ever played a TTRPG, especially Dungeons & Dragons, you’ll have no trouble understanding this section of the packet.

They do give us a few things to let us know what kind of game we have to look forward to. It’s going to be a fantasy world full of heroes going through unique locations fighting against villains and organizations that oppose them. In other words, it’s a fantasy game for heroes. Some people might think this is unoriginal but it does happen to be the kind of game a lot of folks love playing most so I can’t really complain.

Next they give a step by step guide on character creation. If you’re familiar with 5th edition, a lot of this is going to look extremely familiar. You’re guided through coming up with a character concept, choosing a class, proficiencies, levels, hit points, and the standard array of ability scores. The packet does mention that creating a character using their method makes these characters a bit stronger than a 5th edition character but it’s not so out of range you can’t use them in your 5e games. They also go over a few different ways of getting your character stats including rolling for stats, point buy, and standard array. This is where some of the rules start to differ from 5e and start to build a potentially stronger character.

They then go on to introduce Lineages and Heritages. Lineage essentially replaces what was originally termed as Race in 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. This is a pretty minimal packet for the moment so we only get Humans, Elves, and Dwarves. Heritages are more about the environment where your character grew up or what groups they associate with. Personally, I think this is great because it allows for a lot of customization so you could have an Elf character who grew up with Dwarves or vice versa and any number of combinations. While you could go with the usual fantasy tropes for each Lineage, you don’t have to.

You also choose a background for your character and the packet gives a couple options to choose from including Scholar and Soldier. This is basically a way to help shape the backstory of your character and gives you some increased abilities and what Kobold terms Talents. Talents seem to be similar to Feats in 5e. I love using Feats so I like that Talents are available right off at 1st level for this system.

I’m not going to go over all the specifics of what is listed in the packet because I haven’t used these in a game yet. I’d like to see a little more of what makes a character so I can build something that works for me at this point but it’s worth reading through the packet and if you can build a character with this, go for it. I feel like there is a good amount of stuff for magic characters here but a bit less for martial classes so far.

While I do see a lot of similarities here with D&D, we haven’t seen much of the overall project yet so there is still room for a lot to be different. I love that it’s easy to pick up if you are familiar with 5th edition because that’s going to make starting the game much easier for a ton of folks.

How Can I get in on the Playtest?

If you want the playtest packet you can get it right from Kobold Press here. You may have to sign up to do it but it won’t cost you anything. Once you have the packet, give it a read, make a character and play a game and then fill out their survey.

If you have the packet, what do you think of it? Have you used any of these rules yet and if so how did it go? Let me know in the comments.

Testingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Picnic at Hanging Rock – Movie Review

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Happy Valentine’s Day internet people! Slick Dungeon here, back to review another movie for you. It’s Valentine’s day but that doesn’t mean you have to watch some sappy romantic movie to have a good time. I’ve got an oddly creepy film for you this time. I watched Picnic at Hanging Rock which is about a group of girls who go missing on St. Valentine’s Day in 1900. There will be mild spoilers ahead so if that sort of thing breaks your heart, watch the movie and come on back here to read the review.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is an Australian film from 1975. It’s a period piece adapting a novel of the same name as the film. At the time it came out it was a commercial and critical success and brought some attention to the film scene in Australia at the time.

As far as the plot goes, it’s not complex. There is a private girls’ school called Appleyard College. Each year the school allows the girls to go on a picnic to a local mountain named Hanging Rock with some interesting geological features. One girl, named Sara has to stay behind at the school with the headmistress. Everyone else leaves to have a good time. In the carriage ride over, the girls are told the mountain is around a million years old, and there are deadly snakes and ants they need to watch out for.

Once on the mountain the picnic starts and eventually a group of four girls decide to go exploring on their own. This group of girls goes up the mountain but only one comes back. And when she comes back she’s screaming and unaware of what exactly happened.

The rest of the movie is spent figuring out just what happened. A teacher who went to find this girls is also missing and there are some observers who might well be suspected of wrongdoing.

That’s most of the plot in a nutshell but there is an incredibly menacing tone throughout. It almost feels as if Hanging Rock is alive and seemed to be waiting for these girls. It’s also a very, very, slow burn. The pacing is decidedly slow, even for a movie made in 1975. This does add to some of the menace but it makes it a little hard to get through. There is something hypnotic about the movie though and there are some unsettling scenes. There’s no major gore or anything like that to speak of. Jump scares are not at play here either. It just makes you feel overall uncomfortable watching.

It’s an interesting little film and if you need something to watch related to Valentine’s day but you don’t want to watch a cheesy romance, this might be a good pick for you.

Picnicingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review – Strange Tales #108 (D Story)

Strange Tales Issue 108 D Story, Art by Steve Ditko, Script by Stan Lee

Strange Tales is an anthology book so sometimes there are multiple stories in a single issue which relate to the 616 universe. The D story in issue 108 is a bit of an oddball because while it doesn’t entirely relate to a lot of what is going on in 616, it does introduce some characters who will come up in the long run. Also, it’s one of the few comics so far in the 616 universe not available on Marvel Unlimited. If you want to read the issue you may have to do a bit of Google sleuthing to find it. Merlin the Magician, famous from the Arthurian legends shows up here and this will not be the last time we see him. We do also see a character called The Black Knight but this is not the modern character, nor is it the character who showed up in the Golden Age of comics. We also run into King Arthur himself, as well as our villain Sir Mogard. The Black Knight is nothing more than a construct and is the twist of the story but the rest of the characters mentioned do all come back into 616 at various times.

The story here is quite short, running only four pages long. It’s titled The Iron Warrior and relates a short incident in the life of Merlin the Magician. Basically, Sir Mogard thinks Merlin is not so powerful as he seems. Sir Mogard accuses Merlin of being a fake and throws down his gauntlet. Merlin is instructed to choose a champion and meet Mogard in battle. Merlin accepts.

Merlin shows up the next morning with his champion, a knight in black armor. There is a joust and a melee with swords. The Black Knight bests Sir Mogard who has to surrender. Mogard then says Merlin had nothing to do with the battle, therefore Merlin is not so powerful. The twist here is that Merlin was controlling the knight, nothing but an empty set of armor, the whole time with his magic. It also says Mogard is struck dumb from the wonder he beheld. We’ll see if that is true the next time he shows up.

And that is the whole story. A short one, but it has a few implications for 616. It reestablishes magic as a real theme and gives us a couple of characters who will become important later. Also, it was kind of nice to have a little bit of fantasy thrown into the superhero mix just to have something a little different to read. I don’t think the intention with this story was to set up anything long term and likely could have been a throw away story. Still, in the long run Stan Lee will make use of it and he does come back to Arthurian legend a few times.

Next up on the reading list we’ll be checking in on the wall crawler himself in The Amazing Spider-Man #2!

Empire Country – Book Review

Empire: Country by Tim Goff

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

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The decades long war against demon ruled Traag left the Solarian Empire a decimated wreck. Rebuilding the nation is a nightmare. Worse, the demons are still out there.

Tia traveled to Cosslet Barony in search of a nobleman willing to marry a wealthy commoner. She finds feuding aristocrats and an impoverished populace terrorized by a monster out of legend. Then matters get really bad…

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Lady Tia Samos of Equitant is a well connected merchant looking to find new enterprises and a suitable match for matrimony. She has gone around the Solarian Empire in an attempt to do both. While she has found some potential matches, none have worked out thus far. She travels with her companions Peter and Kyle who both saw action in the war. Peter is a knight and fighter and Kyle has some magical abilities, although he lets drink get to his head a bit too often. Tia and her party head to Cosslet Castle to see if a match with the minor noble and Peter’s half brother Ian both in business and marriage might be worthwhile.

While the war has ended, the Empire is still feeling some ill effects from it and everyone from peasants to nobles are trying to recover. To make matters worse, the demons who waged the war in the first place are not entirely gone. Tia an Ian make a discovery of some unknown resources that may help Cosslet Castle come back to full financial health. Unfortunately, there have been sightings of strange creatures and deaths of peasants and livestock plaguing the surrounding area. Tia will have to survive not only using her wits and friends but also avoiding the life threatening demons.

Empire: Country makes a good start for a fantasy series, taking a few key elements rarely seen in fantasy. We get to see the aftermath of war, rather than the throes of it, and Tia in particular, takes a major role in events. The book does have a large cast of characters and while it mostly manages the balance well, there are some spots where the shift in perspective seems not entirely necessary. At times this leads to some confusion on the part of the reader but most of those instances are minor.

The action that ensues is quite enjoyable and the last third of the book is surprising and inventive. The story here makes for a good start on what could be an excellent series.

If you like epic fantasy books with elements of cosmic horror and some truly nail biting moments, Empire: Country is a great choice to read next.