Halloween Scene: Scream 4 (2011)

Let’s see, I’ve blogged about my history with the Scream franchise a bit when revisiting the first and third installments recently, so you can head over there for a little more backstory. Basically, much like the Mission: Impossible franchise, this one was huge when I was growing up and really getting to understand and love movies. You couldn’t be a teenager and avoid them and I was cool with that because they were right in my horror wheelhouse. When I heard that Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson were re-teaming for another sequel, I was curious but not intensely so. I tend not to get as excited about these things as I used to.

That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them, though. I actually had a great time watching this movie even if I had to break into three parts and only watch when the kid was sleeping. Craven and Williamson did a great job of using elements from the first film, commenting on them in this one and switching things up. In other words, it’s not a beat for beat remake along the lines of Hangover 2, but instead done in the same spirit and universe as the original.

This time around, the walking catnip for nutjobs Sidney Prescott returns home on a book tour only to find that a new person(s) running around killing people as Ghost Face. In this reality the Stab movies are almost up to double digit sequels and so people are very well versed in horror both real and fictional. Dewey and Gale, now married, are also involved though there’s trouble in their domestic paradise.

Things move along at a good clip with SPOILER a series of false openings starring pairs of stars talking about horror movies, usually before one kills the other. The kills were on par with what I wanted to see in something like this and I thought the cast, including all the younger kids brought in for the new generation, were really fun to watch. I like the kid that was supposed to be the new Randy, Emma Roberts did well and a friend and I both agree that Hayden Panettiere is mesmerizing. I was most surprised by how brutal some of the pre-kill fight scenes were. I didn’t watch a movie for Friday Fisticuffs last week, but I think this movie has plenty of good ones. I’d check and see if one in particular towards the end was on YouTube, but it’s a huge spoiler, so I’ll skip it.

I did have one problem with the film, but it’s not really the movie’s fault. I think I’m losing my taste for fiction that involves people going nuts for stupid reasons. I know it happens, but with the proliferation of procedurals, horror movies and real life news stories, it can be a little difficult to take so many reasons to kill. I had a hard time buying Stu’s motives in the original film and had equally hard time accepting that the killer this time was doing it just to be famous. Again, this stuff happens, people can be broken and damaged and do incredibly awful things to one another for no good reason, but seeing so many of these explanations gets a little tiring. The straw that really broke the camel’s back for me was an episode of Bones I caught recently where the killer did her thing because someone messed with her bushes. Seriously? While these things might make sense in their own little worlds, being a consumer of pop culture and being inundated with them can be a bit taxing.

However, I still liked this film and possibly more than the original. Scream is held up as this huge milestone in horror, the movie that not only made the genre’s films more self aware (whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen and lies in the eye of the beholder) but also gave my generation a horror movie that had a big budget and was also just plain good. On the other hand, I’m not sure how good it is on repeated viewings. I’m the type of person who definitely holds things in esteem because I was familiar with them when I was younger. So, I almost feel a little bad for not liking parts of Scream, but don’t have that connection with the newest one. That sounds like a bad thing, but it’s not. It’s an easier watch, it’s got a cast that’s equal to or better than the original and I think the creators really found a sweet spot in both of their crafts.

Halloween Scene: Planet Terror (2007)

In my post about the exceptionally disappointing Death Proof, I talked about how excited I was about Grindhouse, the combined efforts of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez to recreate the feeling of going to a 70s drive-in complete with double bill and even trailers for movies that didn’t–at the time–exist. What I forgot to mention was how inundated we were with Grindhouse stuff at the time for Wizard. I was working in the research department at the time, which meant it was my job to find images to go along with features and news stories. As you might expect, there was a good deal of Grindhouse coverage leading up to the movies, but not a lot of images released. While watching Planet Terror again last night I kept having these weird flashes when particular scenes came on. At first I thought I was just remembering the movie from the first time I watched it a few years ago, but then I realized that they were the stills we kept running over and over in the mag.

Anyway, I was flipping through my DVDs last night to see if there was anything I wanted to watch more than the intended night’s flick X2 and stopped as soon as I saw Planet Terror. I had completely forgotten that I had picked the movie up on one of my many trips through the sale racks of my nearby Blockbuster before it closed down. Bonus! Aside from the freeze frames I mentioned above, I didn’t remember much of the movie other than it had zombie-esque people attacking a girl with a gun leg and a guy who owns a barbecue joint.

Unlike Death Proof, I had a delightful time watching Planet Terror. I think the difference between those two movies is that Rodriguez had a much better understanding of what makes the kinds of movies he was paying homage to work than Tarantino did, which is strange because Quentin has made a whole career based on taking a genre and updating it while also making callbacks to other movies. As far as I’m concerned, Rodriguez completely nailed the zombie outbreak story. He dealt with elements we’ve seen since Night Of The Living Dead but also turned a lot of them on their ears (what happens to Dakota’s son, what happens to Naveen Andrew, etc.). He did a great job of presenting the characters and getting me interested in them–even if it is because of the very B-movie idea that they’re just cool looking so I want to know what happens to them–before getting into the zombie goodness.

And once we do get into the zombie goodness, it’s SOOO good. It looks like some of the blood might have been added with CGI, but for the most part it looks so real and good and gross and bloody that those little bits of computer generated saturation didn’t bother me. The gore is fantastic and something that I’ve missed a lot from most of the modern horror movies I’ve seen lately (maybe I’m just watching the wrong ones, but I felt like I hadn’t seen this kind of big budget feel in a gore-filled horror flick in a while). I also really loved the ending which didn’t just leave our heroes wondering what was happening with the rest of the world, but showing a bit of it. There was something very 70s feeling about it, which was the whole point.

While watching the movie, I came to the realization that Robert Rodriguez might be the most consistent of the directors I like. Quentin really faltered with Death Proof, but I also tried to watch Jackie Brown in the past year or two and was bored to tears. I like the rest of his movies, but those are two pretty big strikes. Meanwhile, Kevin Smith seems to have gone down in quality over the past few years, especially with Cop Out. However, I’m excited about Red State, so he’s in a little better shape in my book. Then you’ve got Rodriguez who has never disappointed me. I’ve watched El Mariachi, Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, The Faculty, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, Sin City, Planet Terror and Machete and have never once been less than impressed. I’m actually excited about delving into his kid friendly flicks like the Spy Kids movies, Shorts and Shark Boy & Lava Girl because I bet they have as much fun with the tropes of those genres as he does with the ones he’s played with in his more grown up flicks.