Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Journey Through Horror Films

Way back in 1997 I was 13 years old and couldn't care less about horror films. I really disliked them and wanted nothing to do with them. This was early on in 1997 when a little film called "Scream" was still in theaters and it was a hit. As 1997 went on the film made it's way to VHS and everyone and their mother was talking about it in my school, finally I was the outcast who hadn't seen the film, so finally I just said "fuck it" and watched a copy my brother had.

Needless to say the movie had a MAJOR effect on me. After the film was over I just sat there and couldn't believe how great the film was. Remember this was in 1997 long before people would look down upon "Scream" as being another one of "those" horror films, with TV casts and just another rip off. "Scream" was something the slasher genre needed and it probably wouldn't have been reborn if not for it.

This was towards the end of 1997 and beginning of 1998 when "Scream 2" had hit theaters, so shortly after seeing the original I went with my brother to see "Scream 2" and loved every minute of it. I slowly began to realize that I was liking horror films. As 1998 went on I began to watch more and more horror films, spending my spring break renting tons of movies from a local video store. For Christmas 1998 I received "Scream 2" on VHS as a gift.

1999 was a HUGE year for me and horror movies watching every single "Friday the 13th" film during my spring break and many many other films as well, this was back when VHS was still readily available and I was able to take in many upon many classic horror films. By 2000 it was easy for me to say that I was a horror fan.

For the past 11 years my viewing of horror films has dwindled but every once in a while I still find something that I enjoy. I am very much looking forward to seeing "Scream 4" in April because "Scream" was the film that not only got me into horror films but it also got me into writing and filmmaking. "Scream" is a very important film in my life because it influenced me to do what I love to do the most.

April Fools Day (2008)

“April fool’s, bitch”

It’s so great seeing a remake of I Know What You Did Last Summer...wait, this was a remake of April Fool’s Day? Well you could have fooled me (pun intended). The reason I say this is because this movie is not anywhere close to being a remake of April Fool’s Day. Most remakes are close to being a remake, in fact most remakes actually follow the plot of the original, hence the term “remake”. But in 2008, the film studios decided to can that idea and simply use the title and just make up some random storyline, simply to cash in on the titles. The other film in 2008 that chose this path was the remake of Prom Night. My questioning behind this is why do this? Why not just make a sequel if you’re not going to follow the original plot. I loved the original April Fool’s Day, as you can see in the above review of the original 1986 film. But, this movie was a piece of shit and it is simple as that.

To see the original storyline check out the above review, what follows is the weak, made up storyline of the 2008 “remake” of April Fool’s Day. Basically, a party is going on and a group of friends decide to embarrass their friend Milan (Aldridge), by giving her a date rape pill (yeah, that sounds like fun), they videotape her making out with someone, but she loses her balance and somehow falls off a balcony, killing her. We then go into some pointless news show talking about the death and trial that follows. On this show they actually show the real footage of the girl’s death, which I’m pretty sure they would not allow that to be shown on national T.V., I think it would be considered evidence. So a year later, all the people who were involved in this girl’s death are being stalked and killed by “Milan”. Desiree (Cole), is the main person here playing detective trying to figure out what is going on.

As the original review, I am going to reveal the ending to you. Basically, it turns out to be an April fool’s joke again, this time by no surprise. However, the surprise here is that the group that supposedly died, is actually after Desiree, trying to coax a confession out of her. Her confession to killing Milan. She finally confesses. The dumbest ending follows. As they explain what they did and why they did it, Desiree is accidentally killed by Torrance (Taylor-Compton). She is showing her that the gun she used had blanks in it, she puts the gun to Desiree’s head, and kills her.

Overall this movie sucked big time. Not just for the fact that it doesn’t follow the original plot, but because the new plot is lame. As stated above it feels like a very cheap remake of I Know What You Did Last Summer or even a bad remake of Prom Night, this was more of a remake of Prom Night than the actual remake of Prom Night was. The acting is okay, the direction is also okay. The writing is stupid. The characters are flat and at no time do you feel sorry for any of these people in the movie. And when the “shock” ending comes along, you aren’t surprised at all. Throwing in that accidental killing seemed like a cheap way to shock the audience. It didn’t work, as soon as it happened I knew that whoever wrote this was probably all out of their dumbass ideas to even come up with a decent ending. And what the fuck is up with “The Butcher Brothers”? And how is this movie based on an original idea from them? And why is this movie credited as being based on an idea by Danilo Bach? Yes, Bach wrote the original film, but since this movie doesn’t follow one idea from the original, there is no reason to give him credit. All this movie does is tack on the title so people think it’s a remake when in actuality it is a lame, direct to video horror movie that tries too hard. In short, this movie is a piece of garbage!

April Fools Day (1986)

“That’s really funny, you guys. Really funny. Fuck you!”


Holiday movies were all over the place during the 1980s. Actually, horror in general was all over the place in the 1980s. Slasher films, especially were the big thing during that decade. And by first glancing at the video box that is exactly what you think and what you are meant to think April Fool’s Day is. I bought this movie without even viewing it first. On the video box, is a party and in the foreground is a girl raising a glass of champagne, but holding a rather large knife behind her back. That image alone sold me on the movie.

The movie follows a group of teenagers (as usual) as they have planned to spend their spring break with their friend Muffy St. John (Foreman) at her parent’s house on a secluded island (of course, right?). They all think they are going there for a week away from everything. A week that could easily be filled with sex, drugs and alcohol. Well, right from the beginning everything goes wrong, starting with a terrible accident on the ferry to the island. Everything seems to be going fine after that. They have a little celebration, the first night, but then Muffy starts acting weird starting with the second day, turning from a gorgeous young lady to what I can describe as a bag lady. People start turning up missing, and it’s up to our final girl to figure everything out and save the day.

Before you read the rest of this review, I suggest you see the movie first because I am going to give away the ending. You’ve been warned.

It turns out that Muffy has started her own business at this house, no one actually dies in this movie, and I think that is why a lot of people were turned off by this movie. I for one, think that is the reason why this movie is so great. In 1986, slasher films where one person after another is killed off for reason. But, April Fool’s Day fools us all (pun intended, totally!). Muffy has decided to create this whole weekend where guests at the house will go through what all these teenagers went through, wondering about their hostess and having people disappear and the interesting fact of the secret twin Buffy. Throughout the whole movie, the audience thinks that people are dying off. You see something happen to the character, but you don’t actually see them die. Then at the very end of the movie, we are thrown into a room along with the character on screen and we see everyone we thought had died are still alive. When I first saw this movie, without really thinking about it, I too thought I saw people dying. Because that is how the movie is directed and how it is meant to look. At the end I was confused as hell, probably just as much as people were when this was first viewed in 1986.

April Fool’s Day is one of my favorite horror movies because it simply tricks you into thinking you are seeing a basic 80s slasher film, when you are really not seeing that. It still is a horror movie, because a majority of the movie makes you think that people are dying, and the realness of horror is to scare people, not to kill people, somewhere along the line that became the norm for horror movies and that is not the case. Look at the Universal monster movies of the 1930s and 1940s, people aren’t killed off left and right, they simply scared people. And that is what this film has done.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Scream 3 (2000)

“All I know about movie trilogies, is that in the third one, all bets are off”

With the success of Scream in 1996 and Scream 2 in 1997, everyone out there knew part 3 was coming. But instead of it coming out the following year, the producers let this one rest for a few years. Part 3 came out 3 years after part 2 had come out. A wise choice, for 2 reasons, it gave them time to work on a good script and it built up so much hype. I remember going to see this the day it came out and the theater was completely packed. If you weren’t around for this you wouldn’t understand the major hype over the Scream films. They were the biggest and most successful slasher films out there. And there were only 3 of them!

Scream 3 starts off by killing off another one of the “main” characters. Cotton (played one last time by Liev Schreiber), after that the movie is in full movement. We learn that Sidney (Neve Campbell) has now isolated herself off and is living a life under an assumed name. Her paranoia has taken over her life. Back in Hollywood we learn that the movie within a movie Stab from part 2 was obviously a big hit, because now they are making Stab 3. Dewey (Arquette) is working as a technical advisor and Gale (Cox) is still trying to get stories. We have a new character, Detective Kincaid (Dempsey) who asks both Dewey and Gale to help him when they discover a photo of Sidney’s mother at ever murder scene. After a few more killings, Sidney is found by the killer and she comes out of hiding to help the investigation.

Again the killer is not known, and many people are suspected to be the killer. But, this time around it is only one killer, that of Roman Bridger the director of Stab 3 who turns out to be Sidney’s half brother. Okay? Apparently Sidney’s mother was an actress long before Sidney was born, she had an illegitimate child, and gave him up for adoption and moved onto a different and better life. We also learn that Roman was the one behind Sidney’s mother’s murder. He showed Billy Loomis that his father was having an affair with her mother. So, his motive? Revenge, for the life he didn’t have.

This movie is okay, but it had gotten away from what part 1 had. The plot became too complicated in this one, with having lookalikes for everyone, since they were playing them in the movie. The other thing I wish they had done, was kill off one of the 3 main characters. There were so many rumors when this movie came out that Sidney was going to be killed off, and there is even a part in the movie when you think that Dewey is going to die when a knife comes flying right at his head, only to have the butt of the knife hit him in the forehead. A few years later, we had some bold writers with the Saw movies kill off their main characters. So, why not here?

Overall, a decent ending to a great series of slasher films. Collectively, the Scream films made over $290 million. Almost $100 million per film, that’s extremely impressive for slasher films. If you’re looking for a good series of slasher films to watch, watch all 3 Scream films, it’s a fun ride.

Scream 2 (1997)

“By definition alone, sequels are inferior films!”

After the major success of Scream the producers were quick to make a sequel. This time it was different, usually with horror movies if a movie does well, they want a sequel to cash in on the success. That is probably the half truth here. When Kevin Williamson wrote the first movie he had planned on making it a trilogy. So the sequel went through and it came out a year later, usually a mistake in the horror universe but it worked well this time around. Simply because I think Williamson actually cared enough to take some time with the script and not quickly do it for money.

Scream 2 follows Sidney Prescott (Campbell) again, in fact she’s the main character in all three films, which I love. All the survivors are back for this movie, and a new killer is out there. Now being accused of copying the original killer from the first movie. A movie has been made of the events in the first movie, called Stab. At the premiere a man dressed in the classic Ghostface costume kills 2 college students who attend the same college as (surprise! surprise!) Sidney! So, now the always paranoid, yet strong, Sidney is...well, paranoid about what is going on, thinking that this killer is after her. As always her friend Randy (Kennedy) is there to help her out and lay down the rules of sequels.

Not everyone from the first film makes it through the second film, and that is where controversy falls into place. Randy is killed off half way through the film, a bold move by the filmmakers, it’s always nice to see someone be bold like that by killing off one of the main characters. But, Randy was very loved in these movies, so much so that they decided to bring him back in part 3 (through a video he filmed before he died, cheesy? Yes). This movie develops Sidney much more, and even brings her face to face with the man she wrongfully accused of killing her mother. There are so many people you think are the killer in this movie it makes your head spin. But, one of the killers is kind of a twist, simply because you don’t even know the person’s real name. Interesting, no?

This movie lacks something that the first one had though. But I can’t quite put my finger on it. I think it has to do with some of the characters you don’t care about. Like the character Sarah Michelle Gellar plays, another bold move by the filmmakers bringing in another star from TV (in this case Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Her character of Cici is seen once, in the beginning in the film class Randy is taken, and then not seen again until she is killed. So, you don’t really give a shit when she is killed, because you don’t really know her. You know that she loves movies, and took control of the conversation in the film class, but that is it. She also plays the stereotypical dumb girl in distress. (Also, a side note, when she stops flipping through the channels in her sorority, it lands on Nosferatu which I find odd, what channel was playing that? Also, it’s interesting to note that Wes Craven was obviously inspired by that film when he made Wes Craven’s New Nightmare in 1994, probably a little nod of his own added in there).

The ending is good and odd at the same time. The killers are revealed to be Mickey, a film student who is obsessed with killing and getting away with it. His motive? He’s going to blame the movies. In my opinion, I don’t think they really need Mickey. The second killer is Billy Loomis’ mother, who goes throughout the movie as Debbie Salt. This killer makes so much more sense. She is avenging her son’s death from the first film, by trying to kill Sidney. But, this raises an eyebrow, why did she kill all the others? Did Mickey kill everyone else? Anyway, that’s not really important.

Sidney proves to be a strong final girl for a second time around when she survives this film. She has one more time to face the Ghostface killer, but in the next and so far final installment, she has become so paranoid as to lock herself away. Scream 2 is a decent follow up to an amazing film, but part 3 falls into that lets make it and cash in, attitude of the late 1990s.

Scream (1996)

“No, you listen you little bitch, you hang up on me again I’ll gut you like a fish, understand?”

In 1996, the horror genre had really been dead for a while. They were still releasing horror films, but they were in no way as popular as in the previous decade. But with one script that would change things for a very long time. The slasher film was waiting for it’s chance to rise from the ashes and this film would be it (sorry for that cheesy dialogue, it felt right to me).

Wes Craven, who had all ready proven himself a horror director with many horror films since the early 1970s. This is the man who wrote and directed A Nightmare on Elm Street and had brought Freddy Krueger into the popular culture. Since that film he hadn’t had very many hits. In fact since 1984, the only decent movie he directed was The People Under the Stairs in 1991. He was chosen to direct Scream, a movie written by a nobody, that was getting every studio in a bidding war over it.

Scream follows Sidney Prescott (Campbell) and her high school friends through their own slasher nightmare. Sidney is constantly haunted by the death of her mother a year prior. Now her friends are being offed left and right, and she is under suspicion that her boyfriend Billy (Ulrich) is behind it all. Everyone is confused as to what is going on, everyone is scared for their lives, except for the teenagers. Even Sidney, who was attacked by the killer in the school, doesn’t seem to give a shit about what is going on.

What is so interesting and what makes Scream such a great film is that it makes fun of the genre that it is in. No other film had really done that, and not been a parody. Scream is not at all a parody film, it is a full out slasher film, but it makes fun of itself. The character of Randy (brilliantly by Jamie Kennedy) acts as the main character to make fun of the horror genre. He is the “horror geek”, which I can sadly say that I am that person in my group of friends now. He knows all the horror films and acts like everything that is going on in the movie is just that, a movie. He suggests that the police watch Prom Night to save themselves time on trying to figure out who the killer is. They even establish the “rules” of a horror film in the this movie, then break them all. Mainly the rule of if you have sex you die, which Sidney breaks at the end of the movie.

This movie also established something we haven’t seen in a slasher film since the first slasher film, Psycho, did it 36 years prior. We see a big star, in this case Drew Barrymore, credited as the star of the movie and killed off in the first ten minutes of the movie. We also see something not seen before at all, we have big name TV stars filling up the entire cast. Courtney Cox (Friends), Neve Campbell (Party of Five), the list goes on. This is a trend that would continue on for a while in the late 1990s slasher films. Scream also offers some real character development with Sidney’s internal struggle over the death of her mother (we this develop even more through the film’s 2 sequels).

This movie is excellent with a capital ‘E’. It has some real good action sequences, and is obviously well thought out and well planned out. It’s a shame most people look at this film today and say it is a carbon copy of every other horror film. When in reality, this movie was very different and ahead of it’s time at it’s time of release. Slasher films hadn’t been this deep or well thought out before. Slasher films always followed the same formula, killer stalks teenagers, kills them. It didn’t matter what the plot was, or even if the killer had a motive (Slumber Party Massacre). But, Scream changed that, having a deeper story and the killer had a deeper motive then just, “Hey! Lets kill people”. Every movie that followed Scream tried doing this and failed miserably. But, since so many movies after Scream tried this, everyone looks back at it now and says it was just a copy of those movies.