This may be kind of a cheat, but too bad! Everything I have to say about the first Scream I already said on the latest episode of Strangers from the Internet, so I'm going to point you there to hear about both my history with the film and what I think of it now. As a bonus you also get to hear what Bethany thinks of it, and hear us discuss "Buffy vs Dracula" and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. Yay for content!
That said, doing the episode made me want to finally sit down and watch the sequels for the first time. When you see the spoiler warning under each film, I'll be revealing the identity of the killer(s), so if you haven't seen the films yet, those are the paragraphs you want to skip.
Unfortunately, I can't say I have as strong an impression of the second film as I do of the first. I never watched this one back when it came out, and it may be because of how scared I was of the first film at the time. It came out just one year later, and honestly it feels rushed. Once again Sidney's boyfriend seems a little off, and he has a creepy acting best friend. Randy's still in love with Sid, Gale is still trying to sell books and get the story for her TV show, etc. etc. The main thing added to the mix is Cotton Weary being released from jail. However he's not that different from Gale, being in all this for his 15 minutes of fame and cash. The characters argue about whether sequels can be better than the originals, and most of their arguments end in favor of the original. It feels like both Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson knew they couldn't top the first movie and therefore didn't even try.
I will say though that for the most part the actors are putting in some really good performances. I mostly know Liev Schrieber as Sabertooth in the Wolverine film, but I really liked him here too. It was also fun to see both Sarah Michelle Gellar and Laurie Metcalf appear. Neve Cambell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, and Jamie Kennedy all fit back into their roles easily (granted after a year that's not that hard to do) and I liked that we got to see a little more than the cookie cutter roles for Gale, Dewey and Randy this time around. I was also pretty upset to see Randy die, even though I knew it was coming. We were all secretly rooting for him, right? Especially since Jerry O'Connell was playing that boyfriend role about as bland as you could possibly make it. Singing on top of the tables in the cafeteria wasn't romantic - it was childish and annoying. But maybe that's just me.
I was really bothered by the soundtrack whenever Dewey and Gale were alone together. I don't know if they were trying to cash in on Courtney Cox and David Arquette's real life relationship, but I totally did not care about their romance at all and that sweeping cheesy music whenever they were together just made it so much worse. I was really hoping Dewey would die in this one, because he was kind of a useless joke.
SPOILERS: The worst of it though was the big reveal at the end. I was okay with the idea that Mickey was being a copycat killer and going to blame the movies for it. However it probably would have made a little more sense if he had waited until Stab had actually been out for awhile. I mean yes he knows what happened already since it was based on a true story, but that would mean hearing the story would have made him do it, and not the films like he wanted. It's a shame because it's a great topic to touch on, one that was heavily debated in the 90s, I just didn't think it was executed well. Billy's mom being so angry is what really didn't make any sense. She abandoned her husband and child. Why would she care? If Sidney's mother was the problem, then Ms. Loomis would have taken Billy with her when she left her husband. It doesn't help that I saw this coming, and I honestly didn't read any spoilers ahead of time. I could just tell that "Debbie Salt" was not quite who she appeared to be. She cared a little too much about what was going on all the time, and not like Gale did.
Fortunately, I felt a lot better about the third film. I'm kind of boggled as to why the second film seems highly regarded and this one not so much. According to Wikipedia they were both plagued by last minute script changes which leads to some aspects of the storyline not really going anywhere, but I still felt like this one brought something new to the table rather than just rehashing the first film.
The new additions to the cast are decent, with Jenny McCarthy doing about as well as expected (and honestly less annoying than most work I've seen her in) and Parker Posey clearly having a lot of fun as the actress who portrays Gale in the Stab films. The Jay and Silent Bob cameo felt random and weird, but the Carrie Fisher cameo was pretty fun. I also liked the way the original Scream sets were rebuilt and worked into the film.
I was once again annoyed to have to watch Gale and Dewey bicker and then fall in love again. It was as if they felt like simply having them be a happy couple simply wouldn't work. I will say for the most part it was better written this time, at least. The time does feel a bit wasted though, especially since we have a character like Detective Kinkaid, who seems to have an interesting back story yet is never truly explored. Also, if I'm not mistaken, Roman is taken in for questioning and yet we never get a clear reason for why they release him. Or at least if we do it happens so fast that I missed it.
SPOILERS: I actually liked the ending this time around. While we don't really have any clues leading up to the big reveal, that feels genuine, as there wouldn't be any real way to do so. And given the time Maureen was missing, it does make sense that she could have had a child. I also really liked the way Sidney reached out and held his hand when she thought he was dying for the first time, as I myself felt kind of bad for Roman in my own way. I'm not saying he was justified in his actions, but you do have to feel bad for a kid who was rejected by his own mother.
A lot of times a large gap between sequels can create a problem where the director or screenwriter may have lost their vision for the work, or the actors may have forgotten who those characters were. But sometimes, that time and distance is exactly what a franchise needs. This is definitely the case with Scream 4. While the first movie was fresh and exciting, the two sequels largely rehashed what had already been established, because there was only so much you could say about the state of the horror genre at that time. But now, more than ten years later, the horror genre has evolved once again giving them plenty to say on the whole thing.
I loved the commentary on both the torture porn films like Saw and Hostel as well as the fact that there are so many remakes out there these days. I also liked the fact that one of the main horror experts this time around was a female, a nice acknowledgement that there are so many of us girls who enjoy the genre.
There was little I didn't like, but that opening sequence was one of them. The individual scenes are good, but having so many repeated openings like that got really tedious. I suppose it was their way of messing with us and creating humor, but it just went on way too long. Though it did mean getting to see Anna Paquin and Kristin Bell, so I guess I shouldn't complain too much. The other thing I didn't care for too much was Gale. I appreciated the fact that they were trying to evolve her character a bit, but I just didn't like what they changed her into. Maybe I've just seen the "writer with no ideas" character so many times in fiction by now that I'm sick of seeing it.
There were lots of great additions to the cast this time around. Bringing in a younger generation was an iffy prospect, but I thought Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin, and Eric Knudsen were all great choices. I was also really excited to see Mary McDonnell show up, though she was sadly underused.
SPOILERS: I remember reading a lot of nonspoiler reviews back when the film came out, and they all mentioned a twist, and that a lot of people didn't like it. I just want to state for the record that I absolutely loved it! While we had technically already seen a female killer in this series, I loved seeing a young one this time around. I also really loved her motive. It is completely believable in the current state of the world today. Between the internet, the tabloids, and reality TV, it could happen. Watching her injure herself was also great, as I felt it really showed her dedication to the whole idea.
I do feel like I need to watch the film again though to see if there's any holes in the twist. More than anything, I felt like Ghostface looked really tall this time around, and neither killer really fit the build. These films are designed to keep you guessing the entire time, and I really did suspect just about everyone at any point so it's possible I was so focused on solving the mystery that I may have missed something.
While this was originally meant to be the start of a new trilogy, it doesn't look like that's going to happen. At least I haven't heard anything yet. Honestly, I don't know how you could, seeing as how they killed off the entirety of the new young cast. But I am glad that we at least got this one chance to revisit the characters.