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An Idiot’s Guide To The 10 Top Moments Of The Scream Series (To Date)

April 12, 2011

Well, in just over 24 hours, I’ll be sitting in a crowded theatre with a large tub of popcorn hoping not to do a Jada Pinkett-Smith in front of a cheering crowd.  Shout out to my good mate Paul for tipping me off to the midnight premiere of Scream 4 tomorrow night.  Now, a lot of you might be too young or not obsessive enough with the finer points of the horror movie genre, but the Scream 4 premiere is basically like scary movie Christmas for us film nerds. Now, it occurs to me from having talked to several friends that, for various reasons, the Scream movies are no longer the cinematic touchstone they once were.  Some people have forgotten they ever existed, some have been desensitized by all the new wave torture porn horror that’s around these days.  And some are just too gosh darned young to have ever seen them. So, just in time for Scream 4’s premiere in 26 hours time (and my gushing fantard online review inevitably being posted in 29 hours time), here is An Idiot’s Guide To The Top Ten Moments of the Scream Trilogy To Date :-

10 – TATUM EATS IT IN A GARAGE DOOR The Scream movies aren’t short on memorable set pieces, but few horrors movies can boast anything as horrific or as thrillingly inventive as Rose McGowan getting her head crush by a Garage Door Opener.  In three sweet minutes, McGowan’s Tatum hilariously sends up the whole helpless victim persona (“Oh, don’t kill me Mister Ghostface – I want to be in the sequel!”) before sadly succumbing to it (wandering off on her own, underage drinking and, let’s face it, she would have made it through that doggy door if she didn’t have such giant cans..)  And, thanks to McGowan’s bravura performance, the audience was always on her side, even when they were baying for blood.

Let’s not beat around the bush.  Cox’s Gale Weathers has rocked some of the boldest and riskiest ensembles in horror movie history in 1 & 2 (Lime Green Power Suit – anyone?).  But someone in the Scream 3 wardrobe department really had it in for the former Friend this time round.  Thanks to her lifeless, emaciated frame, Cox spent most of the movie (in which she was onscreen waaaayyy too much) wandering around like some garishly dressed skeleton, like her outfits were chosen on some hellish Colour Wheel of Fortune.  There’s literally a point where she rocks a fluorescent yellow tailored suit with a bright red top.  WITH A MATCHING BAG.  And don’t even get me started on the hair..  Thankfully, in a movie short on thrills or laughs, her hair and wardrobe provided both in spades.
The opening scene in Scream was always going to be hard to top.  But they came close with this gloriously meta opening for Scream 2 featuring Pinkett-Smith and a pre-House Omar Epps going to see the premiere of the movie based on the events of the first Scream movie.  While their riffing on everything from the idiotic plot conventions to complete lack of ethnic diversity was spot on, it was the final few minutes where Pinkett-Smith is hacked to pieces in the middle of a crowded cinema that were the most affecting and horrifying.  With an unknowing crowd cheering the killer on (they think it’s a stunt to promote the screening), Pinkett gives a heart-wrenching tour de force as she slowly bleeds to death, knowingly helpless.  Completely ingenious, the scene works because it taps into that realistic fear that all the best horror movie do – it could really happen.
Scream was always at it’s best when it used it’s format to commentate on the horror movie genre.  And what better way to do that than create a film within a film.  What started as an off-hand joke in the first movie (when they joke around about their lives being a movie, Sidney remarks “With my luck they’d cast Tori Spelling to play me”) quickly turned into a hilariously game Tori Spelling cameo in the second film (playing opposite a pre-fame Luke Wilson as Skeet Ulrich) and then went full blown in the third, which was set primarily on the set of the fictional second sequel.  The real characters spent the movie running around with the actors playing them, the killer  starts offing people in the order they die in the script and Sidney barely survives a thrilling encounter with Ghostface chasing her through the set of her old home, complete with fake walls and exterior scaffolding.
Randy Meeks made it through the first movie as the beloved geek anti-hero.  He stayed a virgin and was the best friend and unrequited love slave of Sidney Prescott.  He was also the keeper of The Rules and, often, the modern horror movie audience surrogate.  So just about no one saw it coming when, in the middle of a hilariously tense and heated phone conversation with the killer, he got pulled into a camera van in broad daylights and slashed to death.  Gale’s iconic scream upon discovering the body was an echo of our own – unlike some previous encounters (see also – the seventeen times Deputy Dewey has been stabbed and survived), when this character got dead, he stayed dead.  On the plus side, he managed to get off what may be the best line in the whole entire trilogy :-
Ghostface (on phone) – “What’s your favourite scary movie?”
Randy – “Showgirls.  Absolutely frightening.”
Scream 3 is much derided by fans of the trilogy for being lifeless and unimaginative.  Which is true when compared to the first two, but there were a few bright sparks.  None more so than Posey, who zips around the whole movie with relish and an energy that can’t help but light up every scene she’s in.  In the movies best and most ingeniously conceived role, Posey plays the vapid B-Grade actress who has been playing Gale Weathers in the movie series within a movie series.  First trading pointed barbs with Cox (“You know, in the movies, I played you as being much smarter”) but then pairing up for the latter half of the movie as part of a hilariously demented comedy double act – “The way I see it, I’ve got no house, no bodyguard, no movie, and I’m being stalked. Because someone wants to kill me? No, because someone wants to kill you. So now, starting now, I go where you go. That way, if someone wants to kill me, I’ll be with you, and since he really wants to kill you, he won’t kill me, he’ll kill you. Make sense?”  It was an inventive and lively performance that was a breath of fresh air in a series slowly going stale.  Bonus points for her AMAZING ad lib in the explosion scene when everyone gets knocked down the side of the hill.  If you listen closely, you’ll hear Posey breathlessly yelling – “Can’t. *thud* Stop. *thud* Falling. *thud* Down!”  Genius.
As was mentioned earlier, the suspense set pieces in the Scream movies work because they’re both ingenious and they play with the audiences knowledge of genre conventions.  And none works better than this tense sequence towards the end of Scream 2.  When Sidney and Halle find themselves trapped in the back of a police vehicle with an unconscious Ghostface in the drivers seats, they take all the logical steps to escape.  They try to break the windshield, the try to jimmy the door, etc.  Slowly but surely, it becomes apparent that the only way out is crawly through the front seat and over the passed out masked serial killer.  Too many horror movies wring cheap thrills out of unrealistic and contrived set ups.  By clearly delineating each obstacle as the scene progressed and showing the characters train of thought, they created one of the most breathtakingly suspenseful sequences in modern horror movie history.
Following on, horror movies have long been the guilty pleasure of teenagers who enjoy watching safe in the knowledge that they have superior knowledge and common sense.  Scream turned this on it’s head by having it’s characters self-referentially spouting the rules of the slasher genre throughout the movie, climaxing in Randy’s infamous ‘Rules’ rant :-
“Number one: you can never have sex.  BIG NO NO! BIG NO NO! Sex equals death, okay? Number two: you can never drink or do drugs.  The sin factor! It’s a sin. It’s an extension of number one. And number three: never, ever, ever under any circumstances say, “I’ll be right back.” Because you won’t be back.”
Back in 1996, when a little horror movie called Scream was unleashed on an unsuspecting public, it was headlined by movie star Drew Barrymore and the rest of the cast was populated by unknowns and small time tv actors.  So, imagine everyone’s surprise when the most prominently featured actor was slowly and brutally sliced and diced in what is now one of the most famous opening sequences of all time.  Barrymore gave a real emotional tour de force, slowly breaking down and emotionally disintergrating on screen when faced with a series of escalating prank phone calls.  Plucky, sympathetic and charming, Barrymore’s performance and the genre-busting script by Kevin Williamson ensured that, by the time we were left with Casey gutted and hanging from a tree in her front yard, everyone knew that the rules of horror movies had well and truly changed.
Over 15 years and 3 movies, the Scream series has had it’s shares of ups and downs.  One thing that has always bound it together into the realm of believability (and let’s be real – Scream 3 had fricking secret passageways and a voice replicator device for crying out loud) was Campbell’s strong and stoic performance as the beleaguered Sidney Prescott.  Never once a victim, even when all the characters around her wanted her to be, Campbell played her with both a gentle comic lightness and steely reserve that made you innately root for her, even in the more absurd moments (we’re looking at you – Ghost Mom).  Even though there’s every chance Scream 4 will be her last outing, there could never have been a Scream series without Neve.
4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 13, 2011 3:04 pm

    Love your list, i wrote a bit about the three movies at my blog( I think some of the things you said were similar to my opinion (e.g. posey parker and JadaPinkett-Smith) so when i was reading your post i was nodding my head, saying :i totally agree man. I thought number 2 should be number 1 but thinking about it you are right. Neve Campbell did carry the movie quite well( did you know that Drew Barrymore was supposed to be Sidney? Man i’m glad she changed her mind and took the minor role.)

    • April 13, 2011 5:41 pm

      Thanks mate – I had a lot of fun deciding what to put in it! I had a look at yours and I’m just glad I’m not the only one so reverential about the amazingness that was Parker Posey. It’s funny you mention #1 and #2 – I actually had them the other way around until I started writing it and I realised that, literally, the whole series hangs on Campbell’s performance. It’s so funny – casting on number one and two was so spot on, I have no idea what happened with three and how the whole entire thing (barring Posey – and Scott Foley who was very good in an underwritten role) was so poorly cast. Jenny McCarthy was actually really good, but too comedic and therefore sucked a lot of suspense out the scene. Emily Mortimer (whom I normally adore) was just AWFUL.


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