Scream

August 31, 2015

RIP Wes Craven 1939-2015

1939-2015
What can be said about a man that created nightmares….
We lost a legend on August 30st 2015 as Wes Craven was removed form this mortal coil, but he will live on in the minds and hearts of horror fans everywhere. We at Simplistic Reviews say this sucks and….well….it sucks.
While his filmography has had its series of ups-and-downs, there is no denying his influence on not just the horror genre, but film in general.
While this is just one man’s opinion, but of course it’s the right one, here is my Top Five List Wes Craven Films:
5.  The People Under the Stairs (1991)
An outlier in his filmography, but also one of his most out of the box horror efforts. Always one to make a social message, Craven chose “Stairs” to talk about income inequality and the failure of Reaganomics in the inner city. There are also tones of child abuse and the breakdown of the seemingly All-American Family in the suburbs. This also one of the first screen appearances by Ving Rhames and there are scenes of nice tension and of course gore. People think “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream” when they think of Craven, but “Stairs” is certainly one of his strongest efforts.
4. The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
Do you want a creepy voodoo story, look no further than “The Serpent and the Rainbow.” Filmed in the Dominican Republic due to political turmoil in Haiti, Craven weaves a tale about “real” zombies and includes the corruption and political strife that was gripping Haiti at the time into the storytelling. By no means is this film perfect, but it is perfectly unsettling and the trippy visuals add a lot of style.
3. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
I wrestled with this decision as I understand that normally its sacrilegious to not make “A Nightmare on Elm Street” the guaranteed number one on any Wes Craven list, but hey, its not my number one. The creation of Freddy Krueger is one of the most iconic in not just horror history, but in film itself. At the time the concept of a monster that you couldn’t hide from, even in your dreams, was revolutionary and all but perfected the slasher genre. My one big gripe, and this is only recently, and after watching “Never Sleep Again” is the way the ending was changed in order to create a create a series of films as opposed to just one great horror film. Mind you, just my opinion, but the sequels do play into my overall opinion of the film itself.
2. Scream 2 (1997)
Yes, it’s true, I prefer “Scream 2” to the original. While “Scream” reinvigorated the horror genre and pretty created a new wave in slasher cinema, “Scream 2” used the template used and made a sequel worthy of the original. There are old faces and new faces and a good twist that kept the “Scream” mythology going for two more sequels.
1. New Nightmare (1994)
The beginning of self-referential Craven was “New Nightmare” a love letter to all “Nightmare” fans. Much of the whole of the original cast shows up in cameos, and Heather Langenkamp shines in a role that made her a star 20 years before this film. You could see Craven took all he learned from his years as a horror director/writer and put his heart and soul into something that he held dear for so many years despite the sour taste I’m sure he had in his mouth in the years following the original film.
  
October 8, 2013

This Is Halloween: Scream 2

OUTLIER

Scream 2 – Outlier

Certain things sell me on a film, especially a horror film.  The main thing(s) is whether it keeps me interested, engaged, and I’m able to care about a few of the characters.  You wouldn’t normally say that a soundtrack for a film is what made you like the film even more.  However, “Scream 2” is that type of film, an outlier where the soundtrack is as good as the film itself.  But of course there is an excellent movie hidden behind the soundtrack.

“Scream 2” the first sequel in the popular “Scream” series is “The Godfather II” of the horror genre.  Not only is Wes Craven back, with Kevin Williamson penning the screenplay again, but Craven ups the ante and creates a sequel that provides more laughs, more tension, and an even hipper cast than the first film, including Raylan Givens.  Once again we start with a sequence that later in the series becomes standard protocol where a famous person(s) that you wouldn’t think would get killed, gets killed.  Meanwhile, Sidney Prescott, our heroine in the previous film, has gone off the college where she’s followed by Ghostface.  But wait, you might say, “Wait a minute, Ghostface is dead, that was Billy Loomis and his buddy Stu!”  I would rebuttal and say, “You know what would have been cool, if Ghostface Killah played Ghostface!”  I still say we get that petition signed and just cast “Scream 5” with everybody from the Wu-Tang Clan.

While Sidney is trying to adjust to college life, a new boyfriend, and playing Cassandra, her friends are killed one at a time by Ghostface, who just LOVES sequels; they’re bloodier, sillier, and have ridiculous plot twists.  While “Scream 2” is all of this and more, the fact that it’s self-aware without being fully self-aware works extremely well.  The characters never follow their own advice even though they try to justify their decisions for being the typical horror stereotypes.  Just like the first “Scream” the characters are likable and are typical of the slasher genre, but Craven and Williamson do a great job of expanding the world of Woodsboro from it’s small town beginnings in the first film, to a college campus where there is a larger group of suspects in a more condensed, claustrophobic area.

Now, let me get back to the real reason to like this film; the soundtrack.  If you haven’t enjoyed the “Scream 2” soundtrack, do yourself a favor and give it a listen.  The tracks range from Master P to Dave Matthews Band, but I still think there should have been some Wu-Tang on the soundtrack, it just seems like a lost opportunity.

Overall, “Scream 2” would have been a great way to end the series, but what would a horror series be without a few more sequels, which we got with the underwhelming “Scream 3” and the underrated “Scream 4.”  However, “Scream 2” stands alone as a horror sequel that not only meets a fan’s expectations but was so much more than a cooker-cutter sequel to make more money.  While Wes Craven’s record as a horror director had been spotty since “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” the “Scream” franchise gave him a second lease on life, and “Scream 2” stands as one of his best efforts in a career that spans over 40 years.  An outlier indeed, “Scream 2” gives you what you want, but it gives it in a way where excess isn’t required.

Fun Fact:  As if there wasn’t enough to like about “Scream 2,” Danny Elfman, composer of “Batman,” “Spider-man,” and former lead singer of Oingo Boingo, took the time to compose the Cassandra theme heard HERE for the film.

October 30, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, Scream

Scream – Smart

After the horror and slasher movie boom in the mid-to-late 1980s there was a definite lull.  I mean, name me one horror movie that came out between 1985-1995 that really mattered and changed the genre for the better (okay, I’ll give you a few of those).  But the genre was so bogged down in the same cliched plot device (teens isolated and stalked by an unstoppable force) but studios continued to insist on putting these movies out since they were a sure fire money maker.  Everyone knew that these movies were getting worse and worse, and it was the elephant in the room for the genre.  It wasn’t until 1996 that Wes Craven, who had recently fallen on hard times himself (ever seen “Vampire in Brooklyn“) got together with future “Dawson Creek” creator Kevin Williamson, and told everyone “Hey, these slasher movies are ridiculous.”  Thus, “Scream” was created.

“Scream” follows the exploits of a group of teens in Woodsboro, CA who are terrorized by a masked killer who we now know in horror lexicon as “Ghostface” (see above).  Sidney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, becomes the prime target of not only the killer, but of newscaster, Gale Weathers, who wrote a tell-all book about the murder of Sidney’s mother and the possible conspiracy revolved around her convicted killer, Cotton Weary.

The film follows all the standard horror tropes, but they are smart about it.  Williamson weaves a decent story with smart writing and a pretty hip cast (for the time of course, I’m mean have you seen “Chill Factor“).  Before “Scream” there weren’t any other films that would have characters addressing their current situation and comparing it to something they’d seen in a movie.  In a way it was breaking the 4th wall without talking to the audience directly.  As a horror film fan it was awesome to see nerds like me on the screen telling themselves what they needed to do to survive in a horror movie, when in fact they were in one.  It was not only smart but extremely self-aware and it knowingly made fun of how stupid horror movies had gotten.  There was also the fact Craven killed off one of his main stars within the first ten minutes, which I always appreciate.

During his post-Nightmare on Elm Street era, Wes Craven tried his hands at everything from Bush-era poverty to voodoo, but it wasn’t until he returned to the slasher genre where his career took back off, I mean he got to work with Gloria Estefan* for God sakes….Miami Sound Machine man!  Anyway, what I always found ironic is the fact that Craven created a new series that was poking fun at the ridiculousness of slasher films and all of their sequels, and “Scream,” to a degree, became something it was making fun of in first place three sequels later.  I do, however, find “Scream 2” to be a sequel that surpassed it’s predecessor in many ways.

Craven has always been a trendsetting director; from “The Last House on the Left” to “Scream 4” and everything in-between (remember…..”Vampire in Brooklyn”**).  He’s adapted to the times, for the good and bad, but when you’re a director that has created two of the most well known horror figures in the past 25 years (Freddy too of course) it’s easy to forgive some of the mistakes.  If you haven’t seen “Scream,” be smart, don’t be dumb, check it out.

Fun Fact:  Craven had a cameo as the janitor “Freddy” in the same iconic red and green sweater.  Check it out.

* “Music of the Heart” which also starred Academy Award winner, Meryl Streep.

**For the record, I really don’t mind “Vampire in Brooklyn.”  It was last decent movie Eddie Murphy made.

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