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


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