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The John Bensalhia Column: Scream of the crop

FEATURES - MOVIES

John takes a break from the Whoniverse, but doesn't stray far from the chills he loves...

Scream and scream again. And again. And maybe just one more time.

So here is a slight change of pace – I'll be branching out into other areas apart from Doctor Who, including film franchises, TV shows and comedies. How's about kicking off with a scary movie series then? Newbies be warned – there are so many spoilers in this article, that Doctor Who's River Song would explode with smug rage.

By the middle of the 1990s, the horror film had seemingly died for good. Just like Dracula slowly rotting away to a skeleton, the horror genre had slowly ebbed away for the past decade or so. Hammer Horror classics from the 1960s and 1970s had given way to popular horror franchises in the 1980s such as Friday The 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street, but even by the mid-1990s, these had seemingly vanished into the ether. However, acclaimed director Wes Craven along with Kevin Williamson were to breathe new life into the rotting genre. The end result rejuvenated the former success of horror films with a brand new franchise.

Scream took all the usual elements of traditional horror films – psychopathic killers, high body counts and copious amounts of blood and guts – but mixed these clichés with a self-aware, ironic and very witty take on the genre. The Scream films acknowledge the usual trappings of the horror genre – whether it's film geek Randy pointing out the many rules of horror films, sequels and trilogies or the wink to the audience with the Stab film parodies. One of the most appealing things about the Scream franchise is its humour – tons of sly, self-deprecating wit and also amusing characters such as the aforementioned Randy and the hapless Dewey Riley, a deputy only marginally more effective than Deputy Dawg.

That's not to say it's just one long Mickey-take – there are enough shocks and scares throughout all four films to keep the squeamish clutching breathlessly at cushions. Furthermore, it's a refreshing change to have horror films with plots. Instead of a random series of killings and carnage candy, the Scream films all follow the whodunnit plot pattern, and it's left to the audience to deduce who's behind the Ghostface mask. In addition, the film series garnered enough interest to secure some high profile names from both film and TV.

So here then is a cut out and keep guide to what this much-loved horror franchise is all about. Just don't use a long, bloody knife to do the cutting, huh?

What's It All About?

Basically, the four Scream films revolve around poor Sidney Prescott, who is constantly harassed by local nut-jobs out for her blood. Whether she's in high school, college, living life as a semi-recluse or promoting her new book, someone's out to get her while doing so in that creepy skull mask (based on Munch's Scream painting) and long black cape. She's aided by many friends in her hunt for the killer, such as ruthlessly ambitious reporter Gale Weathers or inept cop Dewey Riley.

The films take on the traditional Christie approach of a Whodunnit. Any of the guest characters could be the killers – the normal pattern is that there's two of the blighters (Although see Scream 3 as the exception to the rule). The killers' motives either tie in with Sidney's mother, a desire for Sid's fame or just sheer madness.

The later Scream films also parody their own franchise by including fictional Stab films, which are based on the characters and situations. For example, in Scream 2, we have Tori Spelling starring as Sidney (there's even a neat clip halfway through which copies the awkward argument between Sidney and her boyfriend Billy pretty much word for word) in a big screen adaptation that's followed up by several fictional instalments.

The Regulars

Sidney Prescott (Played by Neve Campbell, Appears in Scream 1-4)

Sidney Prescott (Played by Neve Campbell, Appears in Scream 1-4)

The Scream Queen for the 1990s, poor old Sidney just wants a quiet life. The problem is, this shy teenager's promiscuous mother went after one Hank Loomis. This broke up the Loomis family, with the mother abandoning her son, Billy. This set off a chain of events from the murder of her mother through to the Woodsboro killings.

From that point on, Sidney is terrorised by a gaggle of loonies, who dress up in the Ghostface mask while using a voice-synthesised gadget to taunt her.

Maybe on the surface, she's a victim – her first boyfriend turns out to be a psychopath, while she has severely bad trust issues with her second fella. She's placed in several near-death experiences. Her family members turn out to as equally crazy as Billy. But despite this, Sidney isn't afraid to stand up for herself, confronting the killers head on (and even taking the bullet in Scream 3 or the knife in Scream 4). She uses her traumatic experiences to try and help others, whether it's as a crisis counsellor or through a self-help book.

Dwight “Dewey” Riley (Played by David Arquette, Appears in Scream 1-4)

Dwight “Dewey” Riley (Played by David Arquette, Appears in Scream 1-4)

Originally conceived as a traditional, beefy deputy type, David Arquette brought a new dimension by turning him into a more vulnerable character. Dewey is something of a figure of fun throughout the first film. Gale's incredulous that he has managed to become a deputy at a young age, while his feisty sister Tatum isn't afraid to show him up in front of his work colleagues. He's even bemoaning the way his dimwitted persona which is mercilessly sent up in Gale Weathers' book (“Deputy Dewey oozed with inexperience”).

Despite this oozing, Dewey is still something of a hero in his own unassuming way. He gets his girl, marrying Gale. He ultimately becomes the new Sheriff of Woodsboro. And he's positively imitating Kenny from South Park and Rory from Doctor Who with more near-misses than Wile E Coyote. In the first film, he's stabbed in the back, and in the second film, suffers an equally vicious (if not more so) attack. Clearly this man has more superhuman powers than he's given credit for.

Gale Weathers (Played by Courteney Cox, Appears in Scream 1-4 )

Gale Weathers (Played by Courteney Cox, Appears in Scream 1-4 )

The Anti-Monica, Gale may not be there for you at first. She's too busy pursuing her media career, ruthlessly trampling over pretty much anyone in her gaudy stiletto shoes. She writes a sensationalist book about the murder of Sidney's mother. She arranges a 'surprise' interview between Sidney and the wrongly accused Cotton Weary in Scream 2. She gives her sidekicks Kenny and Joel a hard time.

But beneath this steely exterior, Gale is still willing to muck in and help solve the mysteries, sometimes at the risk of her own life – for once in Scream 4, she's the one in the ambulance rather than Dewey. She also falls in love with Dewey, and has married him by the latest instalment.

Randy Meeks (Played by Jamie Kennedy, Appears in Scream 1-3)

Randy Meeks (Played by Jamie Kennedy, Appears in Scream 1-3)

One of the most popular Scream characters, Randy Meeks is the geeky film authority. Put it this way, if you were stumped by a movie question on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Randy's your first choice of lifeline – although he'd probably take more than just one minute to explain the answer and its rules in fiendish detail.

He is in lurve with Sidney, but it's a case of unrequited love. Never mind, he can still impress the chicks with his knowledge of the movie rules, whether it's horror clichés, sequels or trilogies. Maybe Karen Colcheck fell for this patter, since he reveals this dalliance from beyond the grave – although ironically, it proved to be his downfall, since according to the man himself, sex equals death. And sure enough in Scream 2, Randy sealed his fate by slagging off Billy Loomis to his “knife-happy” mother.

Cotton Weary (Played by Liev Schreiber, Appears in Scream 1-3)

Cotton Weary (Played by Liev Schreiber, Appears in Scream 1-3)

Initially, you think he won't play a major part in the Scream story. He's falsely accused of murdering Maureen after he was found to be having an affair with her. Cotton and his Cotton, sorry Curtain Cut, are bundled in a police car – but by the second film, he's got rid of the curtains after his exoneration. He's now making a small mint from his experience, appearing on chat shows (he's constantly on at Sidney to go on the Diane Sawyer show) and in interviews to put forward his side of the story.

By the third film, he's even landed his own talk show, but with such success, death's inevitably waiting in the wings. The latest Ghostface is demanding to know the whereabouts of Sidney, and in the process, Cotton and his new girl Christine are stabbed to death.

Neil Prescott (Played by Lawrence Hecht, Appears in Scream 1 and 3)

Father of Sidney – thought to be the killer in the first Scream film after conveniently going away on business (he's actually kidnapped by Billy and Stu). Later pops up in the third film to voice concerns over Sid's isolation. Passes away between the events of Scream 3 and Scream 4.

Maureen Prescott (Played by Lynn Mcree, Appears in Scream 1 and 3)

Wayward mum of Sidney and part-time wife of Neil, given that it's revealed that she's been having affairs on the quiet with the likes of Cotton and Hank Loomis. Also gave birth to a son in the early 1970s, after she was gang-raped at one of John Milton's seedy parties in Hollywood (where she had briefly eked out a career as an actress under the stage name of Rina Reynolds).

Her son Roman persuaded Hank's son Billy and his friend Stu to kill Maureen after showing him filmed footage of Maureen's affair with Hank.

The Films

Scream (1996)

Scream (1996)

Plot

Someone is terrorising the inhabitants of sleepy town Woodsboro, and in particular, high school student Sidney Prescott...

Notable characters

Billy Loomis (Played by Skeet Ulrich)

Creepy boyfriend of Sidney. Instantly marked out as a prime candidate for the perpetrator of the Woodsboro murders, given that his mobile phone conveniently drops out of his pocket in the wake of a Ghostface visit to Sidney (And also because he tends to hang around looking all surly and intense all the time). He's let off the hook, but if only the police had stuck to his guns, given that he's one of the killers – his motive is that Sidney's mum had an affair with his dad, causing his mum to up sticks and abandon him.

Stu Macher (Played by Matthew Lillard)

Dorky friend of Billy and boyfriend of Tatum. Up for a good time, and organises an impromptu party at his house in the wake of the school closing. Despite his goofy clowning around, he's revealed to be Billy's co-conspirator, although he claims that his motive is “Peer pressure”. Bit of a mummy's boy – he even wails that his mum and dad will be mad at him when they discover what he's done. His mum will never be able to get those bloodstains out of his moth-eaten jumper.

Tatum Riley (Played by Rose McGowan)

Best friend of Sidney and a faithful protector to boot. She's impressed by Sidney's bar room brawl with Gale, but less impressed with her brother Dewey's authority as the deputy in town, even heckling him in front of his colleagues.

Feisty to the last, although a trip to get some beer and a garage door do not bode well for her. Remember, too much beer is bad for you, kids.

Casey Becker (Played by Kevin Patrick Walls)

Second on-screen victim of the Woodsboro killing spree. Likes her scary films, and has enough knowledge to answer a series of grilling questions set by Ghostface. Too bad that the crafty git tricks her with a Friday The 13th poser, leading to the death of her boyfriend and herself.

Steven Orth (Played by Kevin Patrick Walls)

First on-screen victim of the Woodsboro killing spree.

Kenny (Played By W. Earl Brown)

Long-suffering cameraman of Gale's – constantly has to put up with Gale's putdowns (“My name isn't Jesus”). Takes refuge in a tasty snack or two.

Principal Himbry (Played by Henry Winkler – uncredited)

Heeeeeyyy!! How cool would it be to have The Fonz as the big cheese of a school? He's fair-minded but authoritative when required – he gives some clowning students short shrift after they run around in Ghostface costumes around the school. The janitor doesn't seem to like him much though.

Sheriff Burke (Played by Joseph Whipp)

Leader of the police investigation. Takes no prisoners, if you'll pardon the expression.

Body Count

Steven and Casey are the first victims of Ghostface, gutted – and in Casey's case, hung from a tree. They are followed by Principal Himbry, who's violently stabbed in his school office. Tatum is killed after trying to escape through a panel in a garage door, but Ghostface activates the door, which then breaks her neck as it lifts up. Kenny's throat is slashed, but Ghostface's remaining attempts at murder don't quite come off as Dewey, Gale and Randy survive attacks.

The two killers are naturally bumped off. Stu has a TV pushed onto his head by Sidney, while Billy is shot many times, after a pointy umbrella fails to do the job.

John's Verdict

A mightily impressive first stab at creating a humorous but scary horror film. The first sequence in which Drew Barrymore's character sets the stall right away. It's compelling, witty, unsettling and also unpredictable in equal measures. A high-profile name such as Barrymore should play a character who lasts until the end of the film, yes? Well, Scream already proves that things are not set in stone, and the memorable opening sequence serves as a chilling prelude.

The rest of the film ain't too shabby either, with lashings of witty lines and sequences (Randy's rules and his outburst in the video rental store) offsetting the eerie tension that permeates Woodsboro like a black cloud. The direction from director supreme Wes Craven only adds to the drama with plenty of tense sequences. Too many to mention, but there's the well-executed prologue, the reflection in the dying Himbry's eye of Ghostface, Tatum's struggle against her killer, and the uncompromising showdown between Sidney and her tormentors.

It also helps that the characterisation's strong, and furthermore it's propelled by some outstanding performances. Neve Campbell is an instant hit as Sidney, likeable but with a vulnerable core. Courteney Cox proves that she can do so much more than play neurotic chefs, with her fine performance of ambitious Gale. Originally, the plan was to make Dewey a stereotypical jock-style deputy, but be honest, it wouldn't have been anywhere near as effective as the end result that we got, and that's down to David Arquette's highly engaging take on the character. And Jamie Kennedy's already proving to be a fan favourite with his scene-stealing turn as the geeky Randy.

The two baddies are also superbly played. If Skeet Ulrich's Billy is a creepy, unsettling presence, then Matthew Lillard's Stu is relishing his bad guy status, and Lillard's clearly having a ball playing this demented crazy.

Often regarded as the finest of the franchise, Scream definitely sets the benchmark for all future offerings, and does so in considerable style.

Scream 2 (1997)

Scream 2 (1997)

PLOT

Sidney is not safe at Windsor College, where Ghostface is back to make sure that the publicity machine for the Stab film is at maximum...

Notable Characters

Derek Feldman (Played by Jerry O'Connell)

Faithful boyfriend of Sidney – was planning to be a doctor, but could have made the grade as a singer, given that he serenades a doubting Sid in the campus cafeteria with a rendition of cheesy 1970s classic, I Think I Love You. A closet Partridge Family fan? Blimey, that should mark him out as a baddie, for sure.

A member of the tiresome university fraternity, Derek makes the frat faux pas of giving his letters to Sidney (for which he's then captured and chained to a wonky stage prop while being force fed booze by a sizeable group of dimwit jocks).

Is he, isn't he the killer? Well, as it turns out he's not, although Sid's doubts result in his death. Having said that, in the original draft of the script, he was one of the killers.

Hallie McDaniel (Played by Elise Neal)

Sidney's new best friend, although this never really works out well. Hallie is working on a psychology course, and even uses her cod-psychology on trying to promote the wretched sorority gang on Sidney. Likes a bit of Aerosmith, which is inherently cooler than Cassidy's gang. She elects to travel with Sidney when she's whisked away to a secret location, although inevitably, the car's hijacked by Ghostafce.

Was also one of the original killers in the draft script of Scream 2, having been recruited by Mrs Loomis along with Derek, whom she'd met online. Much more of a movie geek in the original script, to the point where she had some sort of creepy blog on Sid.

Mickey Altieri (Played by Timothy Olyphant)

Freaky friend of Derek's and film student. Knows a geeky amount of film knowledge and trivia, almost rivalling his in-class sparring partner, Randy.

It's this slavish dependency on the movies that proves to be his backup for his criminal actions. As one of the new Ghostface killers, he claims that he'll blame his actions on the movies, and get some sort of twisted fame in the process. Sidney rightly susses out that in fact, he's just a psycho. Met his backer, Mrs Loomis on the internet, who agreed to pay his tuition fees and offer a little guidance on being a complete looney tunes. Big clue that he's the killer in that he takes his handy camcorder everywhere he goes (Mickey's and Deb's footage click into action while Dewey and Gale are making whoopee) – if this was remade in 2012, he'd be the sort who goes around everywhere with a piddly mobile phone and camera to record drunken lager louts running riot.

Originally, Mickey was a victim, taking on more of Derek's role (he was originally the faithful boyfriend of Hallie and would suffer the same frat fate as Derek).

Debbie Salt aka Mrs Loomis (Played by Laurie Metcalf)

At first, this unassuming reporter looks as if she wouldn't hurt a fly. She's on the receiving end of a string of withering putdowns from Gale, even after she's proclaimed herself to be a fan.

But as soon as Randy mentions Mrs Vorhees from Friday The 13th, suddenly it all clicks into place. Sure enough, after a weight loss programme (Coming soon – The Debbie Salt Kills The Pounds Weight Loss Programme) and a little surgery, Billy's mum has come back to claim her revenge, not quite a '90s motive as Mickey's but a dangerous one nonetheless. Disposes of her partner Mickey pretty swiftly, in order to pin the whole killing spree on the student – and given that Debbie Salt doesn't exist, she nearly gets away with it, if it wasn't for Cotton's constant nagging about the Diane Sawyer Show.

Cici Cooper (Played by Sarah Michelle Gellar)

Caustic film student and designated driver for drunken students who have attended the sorority shindig. Real first name is Casey. Has a drunken lout of a boyfriend called Ted, but he's not around to save Cici from the clutches of Ghostface.

Phil Stevens (Played by Omar Epps)

First victim of the Scream 2 murders after taking his girlfriend Maureen to a screening of the Stab movie. Not too keen on Sandra Bullock films – Miss Congeniality only marginally less painful than taking a blade through the lughole.

Maureen Evans (Played by Jada Pinkett-Smith)

The other victim of Ghostface at the local flicks. Doesn't want to be there, but actually starts getting into the film after she's sponged off Phil for some money to buy popcorn and drinks. Cheap date, much? Unfortunately, Ghostface puts paid to this new-found conversion to the Stab series, as he makes her the leading lady of tonight's show in the worst way imaginable.

Joel (Played by Duane Martin)

Angsty cameraman, who really should have gone to his latest gig with a bit more knowledge. Joel only takes the time to read up on what happened in Woodsboro, and his already uneasy worries are heightened when he discovers that Kenny bought it in grisly fashion. Temporarily drops out, but returns once the crisis is over.

Likes Saved By The Bell.

Officers Andrews and Richards (Played by Philip Pavel and Chris Doyle)

Perma-frowning bodyguards of Sid. Not much known about these two grunts, except that Andrews is a Gemini and possibly gay, while Richards is Capricorn and married.

Sorority sisters Lois and Murphy (Played by Rebecca Gayheart and Portia De Rossi)

Irritating airheads who are seemingly in charge of the campus sorority group. They are part of the Greek chorus of Gus' play, and other than that, seem to spend their time making crushingly inane conversation and holding boozy parties for bimbos and himbos.

Chief Louis Hartley (Played by Lewis Arquette)

No-nonsense chief of the investigation.

Gus (Played by David Warner)

Sid's drama teacher – urges her not to give up the fight and to use all that repressed emotion for her performance as Cassandra. Looks suspiciously like that dude from The Omen.

Body Count

Larger and more bloody than ever before (and in keeping with Randy's rules about horror sequels). Phil is stabbed through the ear while listening to creepy babbling from an adjacent toilet cubicle. Ghostface then dons Phil's jacket and proceeds to stab Maureen seven times in front of a baying crowd of goons who actually think that it's a publicity stunt.

Cici's up next – shoved through a glass window, stabbed and thrown off a roof. The killers then break the pattern after Randy proceeds to criticise Billy (he's stabbed several times, leaving a bloody mess). Officers Andrews and Richards are killed after Ghostface hijacks the getaway car. Andrews' throat is slashed, while Richards is impaled through the eye with a large pipe after a frenzied car crash. Ouch.

Mickey proves that he's not going to win Friend Of The Year Award after stabbing Hallie and shooting Derek. He's then shot by Mrs Loomis and finally killed by gunshots from Gale, Cotton and Sid. Mrs Loomis is shot twice, just to be on the safe side after not quite being crushed by polystyrene rocks.

And hey, Gale and Dewey survive again – in Dewey's case, this is a miracle, given how bad his attack is.

John's Verdict

Sequels suck? Well, in this case, Randy's wrong. Scream 2 is just as good and in some ways better than the original. It's maybe a little bit slicker, with the lush green grounds and halls of Windsor College making for more attractive surroundings than the small town of Woodsboro. The deaths are more elaborate and in some cases, more gruesome than the first – Phil's death is a particularly grisly example (which was already cut from three stabs to just one) and the eerie voice in the cubicle is just as chilling. In addition, there's Cici's fatal fall and the unsettling sight of a writhing Officer Richards, after being impaled on a pipe.

There's lots of other very well-staged set-pieces, including the grandiose rehearsal for Gus' play (the flash lighting works very well here, adding to the disorientation experienced by Sid), the tense chase of Gale in the media suite and the equally gripping hunt for the killer in the broad light of day at the college.

This time around, it's more of an intriguing mystery as to who the killers are. While it was fairly certain that Billy was involved in the original, here, the pitch is wide open. It's a neat twist that Derek is bigged up to be the killer, but then this is thrown off beam after he declares that he would never hurt her. The two killers are just as well portrayed here – Timothy Olyphant is pitch perfect as the unhinged Mickey, although it's Laurie Metcalf who steals the acting honours as Mrs Loomis, a wide-eyed, seething cauldron of rage and hate, whose determination to revenge herself on Sid is terrifyingly mad. The reveal of Mrs Loomis is a neat twist, and as Mickey himself bellows, it's a case of “Didn't see that coming!”

Scream 2 is a class act all the way, with strong performances from both the regulars and the guests. Also a quick mention for Marco Beltrami's haunting incidental music, which perfectly complements the action rather than overpowering it. About the only grumble is the pointless sorority rubbish, which just intrudes on the story, but apart from this minor niggle, there's nothing to fault here at all.

Scream 3 (2000)

Scream 3 (2000)

Plot

Ghostface moves to sunny Hollywood, where the third Stab film is being shot – but why is he leaving pictures of Maureen Prescott with his victims?

Notable Characters

Roman Bridger (Played by Scott Foley)

Director of Stab 3, and, as it happens, half-brother of Sidney. Tried to get in contact with Maureen, but she turned him down. This prompted him to throw a hissy fit, and so got in contact with Billy to show him a little footage of what his father got up to in his spare time. You know the rest.

Has a few handy updated gizmos at his disposal this time around – a voice changer that can mimic any person he wants when threatening to kill them on the phone. Not to mention a handy bullet-proof vest, which comes in handy at the end.

Is insanely jealous of Sid and her fame – although surely making a quick buck as the director of a popular horror flick isn't too shabby?

Jennifer Jolie (Played by Parker Posey)

Has landed the role of Gale Weathers in the latest Stab movie – is literally taking her homework a bit too far by dating the guy that Gale used to go out with.

A neurotic, stuck-up diva, Jennifer nevertheless agrees to help find the killer (if only because she thinks that she's the next victim).

Real name is Judy Jurgenstern.

John Milton (Played by Lance Henriksen)

Blink 'n' miss him producer of the Stab films. Maybe gets about three short scenes throughout the entire movie. We do learn however, that he used to like holding seedy parties back in the 1970s, and at one of these parties, poor Maureen was gang-raped. As a result, Roman blames Milton for events, offering his interpretation of the “final cut”.

Angelina Tyler (Played by Emily Mortimer)

Simpering, nervy actress who apparently won the role of Sidney in a talent show, although it turns out that she used more direct means with Milton to nab the part.

Was originally the co-killer in the first draft of the script – her real name was Angie Crick, a former schoolmate of Sid's who wanted Sid's glory and new-found status. Suffered the same fate as Stu in the script, although inexplicably, a falling TV on the bonce couldn't quite kill her. Maybe her head's made out of steel or something.

Sarah Darling (Played by Jenny Mccarthy)

Klutzy actress and early victim of Roman Ghostface. Should never be let near awards cabinets.

Tom Prinze (Played by Matt Keeslar)

Arrogant chump playing the role of Dewey Riley (since when did Dewey have a 1990s mullet?). Brassed off at Gale for her writing a report about his lax driving. Dumb enough to use a cigarette lighter as a torch when gas is leaking into the building.

Tyson Fox (Played by Deon Richmond)

Cheery actor playing the equivalent of Randy, Ricky.

Steven Stone (Played by Patrick Warburton)

Taciturn bodyguard to Jennifer. Not too impressed with Dewey, although he keeps inexplicably calling him Dewdrop, which sounds more of a “Whisper sweet nothings in his ear” nickname than an insult.

Detective Mark Kincaid (Played by Patrick Dempsey)

Curly headed detective placed in charge of the investigation. A bit wet behind the ears, although he does get his girl in the form of Sid at the end.

Joshua Wallis (Played by Josh Pais)

Irritating second banana to Kincaid. Angry little rat-faced bloke who serves no purpose but to repeat what Kincaid said but in a slightly more sarky tone of voice.

Christine (Played by Kelly Rutherford)

Cotton's girlfriend and a mean singer to boot. A possible stint on American Idol is literally cut short. Doesn't like Cotton's Stab games, whatever that means. The mind positively boggles.

Martha Meeks (Played by Heather Matrazzo)

Randy's sister, who comes bearing a video message from everyone's favourite late movie geek.

Bianca Burnette (Played by Carrie Fisher)

A former actress, now holed up in a dingy archive den. Not in any way Carrie Fisher – she just looks like the Star Wars actress, you see.

Body Count

Still high, but notably less bloody than before. Cotton and Christine are Roman's first victims, before the director moves to his own film. Sarah is stabbed, then Stone, although Tom blows himself to kingdom come after gas is released into the building.

The killings proceed at pace at Roman's birthday party. It's not a happy event for Angelina, Tyson and Jennifer, who are all killed in rapid succession. Milton is captured and killed by Roman, before the evil director is shot in the head by none other than Dewey. There's one point where it looks as if Sid has croaked it too, but her bullet proof vest allows her to live another day.

John's Verdict

Scream 3 moves on up to Hollywood, but sadly, slightly down in quality. It's not a bad film by any means – it's well written, well worked out, well acted, you name it, it's well done. The problems are that two of the most notorious Scream elements are missing – the fear factor and the strong characterisation.

The fear factor, in a way you can forgive, given that there had been a media backlash against film violence of late (in reaction to certain terrible real life events). But if you were gripped by the grisly terror of the first two Scream films, then you may be disappointed, given that the deaths in Scream 3 are filmed in such a blink 'n' miss it manner. The deaths of Angelina, Tyson and Jennifer are sloppily filmed, and over and done with in what seems seconds. But, like I mentioned, there was more pressure on film makers not to cross the line, so the lower level of gory death is understandable.

The poor characterisation isn't however. Some of the regulars get plenty of good material, in particular Dewey and Gale. Sid is sadly relegated to the sidelines, especially in the first half of the film (owing to Neve Campbell's filming commitments), and her presence is missed. Most of the supporting characters get a raw deal. Roman and Jennifer are about the only ones who have any vague depth to their characters. The others are either too bland (Kincaid), irritating (Wallace) or non-existent (Sarah, Angelina). A great actor such as Lance Henriksen maybe gets about five minutes of screen time throughout the whole film, which is crazy.

But there's still lots of good stuff on offer. Scott Foley and Parker Posey make the most of their roles – Foley makes for a good, creepy villain, while Posey steals the show with her amusing portrayal of Jennifer. The script is well written and makes a neat full circle back to the events of the first film, with more emphasis placed on Maureen's past. Talking of which, if the film doesn't have as much blood and guts, it does make up for it with a chilling ghostly air. The scenes in which Sid sees her 'dead' mother (especially when she's walking around the prop set of the house) are pretty spooky, and add a bit of backbone to the story. Altogether, it's not a bad instalment by any means, but it's a shame that the characterisation isn't quite as strong as before.

Oh, and one more thing – what's up with Courteney Cox's hair in this one?

Scream 4 (2011)

Scream 4 (2011)

Plot

Sid's back in Woodsboro – unfortunately so is Ghostface. Can't she even go on a book tour without old skull features coming back?

Notable Characters

Jill Roberts (Played by Emma Roberts)

Sid's cousin and, on the surface, promoted as Sidney: The Next Generation. She also has a badly behaved bloke called Trevor, who decides to cheat on her. In fact, she turns out to be Ghostface: The Next Generation after she's jealous of Sidney's fame and glory. Blimey, what is it with Sid's psycho family and their desire for fame? Couldn't they just go on America's Got Talent and play the spoons or something?

Jill teams up with new movie geek Charlie and together they embark on a new killing spree, but Jill stabs Charlie to death too, aiming to frame him and Trevor. What's more, she injures herself to make it look as though she is a victim, too, and a lone survivor. If only Sidney hadn't lived too, she might just have got away with it.

Charlie Walker (Played by Rory McCULKIN)

The next generation's Randy – this 21st century movie geek is a big fan of the Stab series and even runs a quaint movie club for fellow nerds. In lurve with Kirby Reed, although there's no love lost when he ends up stabbing her after he professes himself as Jill's co-killer (if only Kirby had taken a bit more notice of him earlier).

Could do with a haircut.

Kirby Reed (Played by Hayden Panettiere)

On the face of it, with her blonde tresses and big blue eyes, Kirby should be a cheerleader or the all-new Sister Lois or Murphy. In fact, she's a big horror film fan, and likes nothing more than hanging out with her buddies Jill and Olivia, as well as her new beau, hippy baby-face Charlie. Her knowledge of film trivia is sorely put to the test.

Trevor Sheldon (Played by Nico Tortorella)

Jill's ex, although he's attempting to claw his way back into her affections with limited results. Typically implicated as a suspect after his phone conveniently goes AWOL. Eventually ends up paying the price for his two-timing actions in the worst possible way that a bloke could ever experience.

Robbie Mercer (Played by Erik Knudsen)

Charlie's buddy and equally geeky film buff. Co-runner of a movie club. His friendship with Charlie evidently doesn't count for much, since he too becomes a victim.

Olivia Morris (Played by Marielle Jaffe)

Sprightly friend of Jill and Kirby and yet another example of why friendship with Jill counts for nothing.

Rebecca Walters (Played by Alison Brie)

Sidney's publicist and PA. Keen on the big bucks, but going all Gale Weathers by suggesting to Sidney that she should capitalise on the fresh batch of Woodsboro murders to promote her book was never going to go down well. Sidney then morphs into Alan Sugar and fires her. What a blaahhdy disaster – literally for poor Rebecca, who becomes a victim of Ghostface.

Judy Hicks (Played by Marley Shelton)

Deputy sheriff in town, and another acquaintance of Sid's (they used to go to school together). Naturally not a fan of Gale, since she's too buys being a fan of her boss, Dewey.

Kate Roberts (Played by Mary McDonnell)

Another relative of Sidney's, and amazingly, this one has no psychotic or slutty tendencies. She's Sid's aunt and Jill's mother, and learns the hard way never ever to lean against a door while hiding from a knife-totin' maniac.

Anthony Perkins and Ross Hoss (Played by Anthony Anderson and Adam Brody)

You couldn't make the names up really. Which are certainly more memorable than these two goons who find that even the law cannot help save them from Ghostface.

Jenny Randall and Marnie Cooper (Played by Aimee Teegarden and Brittany Robertson)

Woodsboro students and the first proper victims of Ghostface.

Body Count

After the gentler Scream 3, the next one bounced back with a vengeance with a higher quota of grisly deaths. So apart from the Stab killings, we have students Jenny, Marnie, Robbie, Olivia, as well as Perkins, Hoss, Rebecca and Kate. Poor old Trevor is shot in the misters before receiving a bullet in the head, while neither Charlie or Jill live to see their much-craved fame. Kirby is left for dead (if they do Scream 5, would she be back?), while again Sidney and Gale cheat death after narrow scrapes.

John's Verdict

Bringing back the Scream franchise after more than a decade was one hell of a risk. It's a decision that could have alienated long-term fans, while the newbies may dismiss this long-lost horror uncle as being a bit jaded. I suppose the box office figures weren't as high as was hoped, but in this day and age, both the DVD and the internet work against a good old-fashioned trip to the cinema.

Scream 4 itself though is actually very good indeed. It's interesting in that it goes right back to its roots, back to where we started in Woodsboro all those years ago. It's also nice that the franchise hasn't lost the ability to surprise or mislead the viewer. It's possible that Jill is being groomed as the next Scream heroine to take the place of Sid, but in fact, it turns out that she is this film's culprit. Ditto the new Randy, since Charlie turns out to be Jill's accomplice. And incidentally, both Emma Roberts and Rory McCulkin are excellent as the new terror tots.

The regulars have not lost their staying power either, with Neve, David and Courteney all turning in superb performances. It's nice to see that their characters have not been abandoned with third-rate lines – poor old Gale's writer's block and her determination to bring in the biggest, boldest headlines are particularly well handled.

The old team of Craven and Williamson doesn't disappoint. Craven's direction is pacy and stylish, and he clearly hasn't lost the power to stage a good set-piece. Williamson's script is both exciting and witty, with plenty of nods to the sabbatical years of Scream – a lot's happened since the year 2000, and while some may suggest that the film isn't as hip as its original, it's still fast, exciting and overall, great fun.


John BensalhiaJohn Bensalhia is a freelance journalist who has extensively written for more than 10 years on subjects such as franchising, ports, Italy, DIY, tractors, sports and arboriculture. Not to mention reviews for Blake's 7 and Doctor Who, which he's been a fan of ever since he was a little kid.

When not writing, John likes drumming, guitar strumming, cycling, cartoon drawing, pre-1990s music and animals. He lives with his lovely wife Alison and many guinea pigs. Catch some of John's work or get in contact through his website at www.johnbensalhia.co.uk.


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