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


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