Apr 14, 2011

Scream 4: Looking Back

Tomorrow marks the release of Scream 4, and to say that I am excited is a gross understatement. I am not particularly fond of scary movies (and especially not the torture-porn gross fests of recent years), but the Scream franchise is always a favorite of mine. Firstly, it’s incredibly meta and self-referencing. One of my least favorite things in scary movies is when characters act as though they’ve never heard of a scary movie before in their lives, and it’s exhausting. If anything, the characters in Scream know way too much about scary movies and talk about slasher movies as if everyone is watching them, all the time. They know the conventions of killers, yet they still fall into their traps. Death, it seems, is inevitable.   
Who will the killers be this time?
Scream movies are also a cut above the rest by being ball-droppingly hilarious. Half of the characters are in the films for comedic effect, and usually the jokes land (except for in the not funny, not good, but not terrible Scream 3).  Scream again succeeds by having very human killers. The stabbers in Scream don’t attack you in your nightmares or trap you in a room and force you to chop off your own limbs. No, they just run at you with a knife, occasionally tripping over an ottoman or falling prey to a well-aimed freezer door.  These aren’t the killers of dreams, these are just regular serial killers, which makes them all the more frightening.

What really makes these movies interesting is the characters, who are interesting, vital, and (though often ultimately dead) feel very much alive. So, in an effort to still my beating heart (beating in fear and anticipation), I will attempt to look back and rank all of the characters in the Scream franchise. It’s incredibly subjective, so I look forward to your dissension in the comments [Major Spoilers Ahead]:

41) John Milton (Lance Henriksen) Scream 3
Status: Deceased - Last victim in Scream 3
In a lot of ways, Milton sets the stage for all of the films. When Sidney’s mother Maureen is making it as a actress in Hollywood, he seduces and sleeps with her and she gives birth to Roman Bridger, who in turn films Maureen sleeping with Mr. Loomis, shows the tape to Billy Loomis, and sets the stage for the events in Scream 1. It’s another instance of Scream 3 being annoyingly complicated for no reason. The whole wraparound plotting feels sweaty.

40) Neil Prescott (Lawrence Hecht) Scream 1 and 3
Status: Alive, but Deceased at the beginning of Scream 4
While adults are usually well-rounded characters in the Scream franchise, Sidney’s father is just a little bit one-dimensional and boring.

39) Steven "Steve" Orth (Kevin Patrick Walls) Scream 1
Not much to say on this one. He is the first on-screen death in the Scream franchise, he is really an unnecessary victim (the real target was his maybe-girlfriend Casey)

38) Sheriff Burke (Joseph Whipp) Scream 1
Status: Alive
A non-entity, but the main investigator in the Woodsboro Murders (all of the events of Scream 1)

37) Christine (Kelly Rutherford) Scream 3
Status: Deceased
She’s pretty boring, and her death is surprisingly bloodless (a theme in the blood-light Scream 3), Christine is now just interesting, because occasionally someone will yell out “Hey, isn’t she in Gossip Girl?”

36) Mr. Loomis (C.W. Morgan) Scream 1. 3
Status: Alive
His infidelity with Sydney’s mother Maureen Roberts-Prescott sets the stage for the first Scream film and is heavily involved in Scream 2 and Scream 3, but he’s a pretty boring character. He doesn’t even get angry when his son is suspected of murder.

35) Roman Bridger (Scott Foley) Scream 3
Status: Deceased - Killed by Deputy Dewey
As noted above, Roman’s reasons for murder are confusing and strange (he’s Sidney’s half-brother and he has abandonment issues). His motivation requires a lot of back-pedaling to make it seem credible, and it doesn’t really work. Plus, at one point he is actually dead (Gale checks his pulse), so it’s weird that he makes it to the final confrontation. Perhaps he practices meditation to slow down his heart rate? Anyway, he moves up in ranking solely for being the only Scream killer to work alone.

34) Tyson Fox (Deon Richmond) Scream 3
Status: Deceased
Pretty boring, but he does pull a “Drew Barrymore” by making it onto the poster but barely being in the movie.

33) Sorority Sister Lois (Rebecca Gayheart) Scream 2
Status: Alive
Again, pretty boring, but she does get in a good dis or two.

32) Phil Stevens (Omar Epps) Scream 2
Status: Deceased - First person killed in Scream 2
The rapid-fire, fun, smart conversation he has with his girlfriend (played by Jada Pinkett-Smith) is an example of the many things that set Scream movies apart from other scary movies. There is winking to the audience, real facts brought up, and a healthy dose of pop-cultury goodness. The fact that, minutes later, Phil is killed while listening to what he assumes are people getting some is just icing on the cake.

31) Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) Scream 1
Status: Deceased - Killed by Sidney
Billy really should be a more interesting character, but he’s so obviously a killer and therefore isn't as intriguing. I have been told that Skeet was something of a heartthrob at the time that the first movie came out, but his greasy Johnny Depp-ery does not hold up well over time.  He just seems like a rapey ne’er-do-well who is supremely effed up.
"What's Your Favorite Scary Movie?"
30) Joel the Cameraman (Duane Martin) Scream 2
Status: Alive
As Jada Pinkett Smith’s character Maureen points out, there are not many African Americans in scary movies, so Joel gets placed high on the list for being the only African American so far to survive in the Scream franchise. So, Yay! Plus, he is just as sassy as Gale, and their interplay, while brief, is quite fun.
29) Maureen Roberts-Prescott (Lynn McRee) Scream 1, 3
Status: Deceased - Killed by Billy Loomis and Stuart Macher (before the events of Scream 1)
Sidney’s mother Maureen sleeps with Cotton Weary and Mr. Loomis. She also sleeps with John Milton and then gives birth to Roman. She is raped and murdered by Billy Loomis and Stu Macher after the former finds out about Maureen’s affair with his father (which caused  Billy’s mother to leave). She is a complicated woman, but her lack of screen time (for obvious reasons) makes her slightly less interesting than the other characters on this list.

28) Tom Prinze (Matt Keeslar) Scream 3
Status: Deceased - Blown Up
So stupid. His death is almost painful to watch because of its obviousness. His character plays Deputy Dewey in the Stab films, so it makes sense that he isn’t the smartest cop in the station.

26-27) Officer Richards and Office Andrews (Chris Doyle and Philip Pavel) Scream 2
Status: Deceased - Killed (and HOW)
The car crash scene in Scream 2 doesn’t really make any sense, and the officers’ deaths are quick, but they are interesting side characters whose sole (and fruitless) role is to protect Sidney. They’re generally lovely characters.

25) Angelina Tyler (Emily Mortimer) Scream 3
Status: Deceased
She plays Sidney in Stab 3, but she is completely different than Sidney. She’s a bit weak and feeble as a person, so she is ultimately doomed. Still, Emily Mortimer is delightfully twee, and that’s enough to put her in the top twenty-five.

24) Principal Himbry (Henry Winkler) Scream 1
Status: Deceased
He’s so creepy that he almost seemed as guilty as Billy in the first Scream. He often lingers creepily over Sidney, he overreacts to school pranks, and he’s just that perfectly gross, handsy principal that you hear about on the news. So, his death is pretty interesting and a tad surprising (and it’s not really that upsetting). Plus, the Fonz!

21-23) The Characters in Stab ( Sidney - Tory Spelling, Casey - Heather Graham, Billy - Luke Wilson) Scream 2
Status: N/A
Wes Craven got to poke fun at himself and did so in a really fun way. The scenes of Stab aren’t even directed by him in the film but instead by Robert Rodriguez (that could be a lie). Sidney says in Scream that, if they ever made a movie of her life, Tori Spelling would probably play her, and it’s fun to see that played out. Plus, Luke Wilson with Fall Out Boy/Billy Loomis bangs is funny.

Oh, crap

20) Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) Scream 1, 2, and 3
Status: Deceased
Framed for the murder of Maureen Prescott, Cotton is an interesting character. Despite the fact that he isn’t a killer, he is still so unlikeable. In the second movie he is a fame-whore who puts decency and compassion aside to attain fame, and in the third movie he’s a shock-jock who oozes smarm and who dies without anyone really caring. He shows that, even if you’re not guilty, it doesn’t mean you are innocent.

19) Derek (Jerry O'Connell) Scream 2
Status: Deceased
In the original leaked script for Scream 2, Derek (along with Hallie and Mrs. Loomis) is the killer. However, because of the leak he was downgraded to well-meaning wet blanket boyfriend who tries and fails to protect Sidney. Of course, some of the ways he protects Sidney are suspicious, including leaving her alone in a house right after several murders have been committed. Still, he’s an alright guy who ends up getting killed by his best friend. Poor Derek.

18) Detective Mark Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey) Scream 3
Status: Alive, but not important enough to make it in Scream 4
Kincaid is kind of boring, but he’s a good example of one of the many competent adults in the Scream franchise. This is something that is very prevalent in Scream movies but lacking in almost all other films of the genre. Also, he survives (making him the only Sidney boyfriend who does) and he and Sidney have serious chemistry. Plus, it’s Patrick Dempsey, which is pretty cool.

17) Sorority Sister Murphy (Portia de Rossi) Scream 2
Status: Alive and Eyebrow-ful
Portia’s eyebrows act her off of the screen, but what glorious eyebrows they are. She would be in the top ten if she had had any sort if memorable death.

16) Kenny the Cameraman (W. Earl Brown) Scream 1
Status: Deceased
Kenny is really a non-character, but he does have some great interactions with resident bitch in heels, Gale Weathers.  While his life is not super memorable, his death is one of the big shockers of the first Scream movie.  Plus, his death allows Gale to shout the line “Oh, God, Kenny, I’m sorry, but get off my fucking windshield!” as she’s careening down a country road.

15) Steven Stone (Patrick Warburton) Scream 3
Status: Deceased
Again, one of the many secondary characters who is funny and has a somewhat memorable death, Steven Stone gets put high on the list for his fun, guffaw-ish relationship with Jennifer Jolie, and for his general Steven Seagal-esque appearance and demeanor. We hardly knew ye.

14) Casey "Cici" Cooper (Sarah Michelle Gellar) Scream 2
Status: Deceased - Thrown off a roof to her death
Cici is in many ways the Casey Becker of Scream 2, not solely because they share a name.  Sure, her death is mainly a way for the killer to mimic the killings of the Woodsboro murders - First a “Steven” and a “Maureen”, now a “Casey”. However, Cici also has one of the great, prolonged conversations and taunt-sessions with the killer about scary movies (which seems to be a returning theme in Scream 4!) and her death is particularly campy. She’s thrown off a porch on what appears to be the second or third floor of her sorority house, yet it takes her like twenty seconds to fall to her death. Classic!

13) Sarah Darling (Jenny McCarthy) Scream 3
Status: Deceased
Scream has never shied away from victims who fight back.  In fact, one of the ways that Scream is different from other slasher flicks is that the killers are always very human (though difficult to kill). In Scream 3, this is most evident with the killing of Sarah Darling. She hits, claws, and fights her way to an almost victory. Sure, she’s killed, but she tries really hard not to be, and that means something.

12) Hallie (Elise Neal) Scream 2
Status: Deceased
Along with Derek, Hallie was an original killer in Scream 2 who was replaced by Mickey when the script leaked online (partway through filming), which makes some of the jealous looks she shoots at Sidney all the more interesting. She is probably Sidney’s closest friend at college, where the spotlight always shines brightest on Sidney. Her Sorority jealousy bringing out murderous intentions would have been perfectly tongue-in-cheek for a Wes Craven movie.  Regardless of her original purpose, Hallie is still interesting for her wacky death that completely defies logic (really, the entire police car scene is unnecessarily implausible), and her death is indirectly caused by Sidney, who goes back to the police car to ‘unmask’ Ghostface and leaves poor Hallie alone.

11) Judy Jurgenstern AKA Jennifer Jolie (Parker Posey) Scream 3
Status: Deceased
Scream 3 is full of characters whose names are combinations of famous people, and no name is more prescient a pairing then Jennifer Jolie, a combination of Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie who, according to Gale, recently had a falling out with Brad Pitt. This was before the Aniston-Pitt-Jolie controversy, so she’s pretty great by name alone. Plus, Parker Posey really throws herself into the bitchy role, embodying a Gale Weathers spirit of adventure, doggedness, and unwillingness to change who she is. She’s really one of the only deaths in Scream 3 where the audience is sad and laughing, a mix that is too-often forgotten in the third film.

Who is Going to Die?
10) Maureen Evans (Jada Pinkett) Scream 2
Status: Deceased - Killed during a screening of Stab
As mentioned earlier, Maureen Evans is one long, winking nod at the conventions of scary films. She’s a tough woman who is also completely freaked out by scary movies. She laughs at the stupidity of characters in scary movies and their inability to escape the killers only to fall victim to the killer herself. She notes that there aren’t enough African Americans in scary movies while being an African American in a scary movie (albeit one that is killed in the first ten minutes). Wes Craven probably should have actually listened to his own argument and added some characters of color in Scream 4 other than barely-there Anthony Edwards.

9) Debbie Salt/Mrs. Loomis (Laurie Metcalf) Scream 2
Status: Deceased - Killed by Cotton Weary
Laurie Metcalf is comedy gold, and her killer, angry mother-persona is scary but still really funny. When she chases Sidney around the stage and through the theater, she almost embarks on her own movie, full of slapstick humor and physical comedy (try not to laugh as the set comes crashing down on her). Also, she has the monologue with the most jokes, and her shooting of Mickey is one of the best things in Scream 2. And she’s the only female killer so far in the franchise.

8) Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) Scream 1
Status: Deceased - Second On-Screen victim of Ghostface. Gutted and Strung-Up
Drew Barrymore famously turned down the role of Sidney and was added into the script as Casey Becker, ex-girlfriend of Stu Macher and fan of scary movies. Before the release of Scream, Drew Barrymore was heavily touted as the lead of the film, which made her death (in the surprisingly long first scene) all the more memorable.  Her conversation with Ghostface over the phone sets up the formula for all of the deaths that followed: Phone call, witty banter, taunting, reveal that the killer can see the victim, demonstration of power, fight, death. It’s a remarkable and gruesome scene, and Casey’s body strung up outside her house is still one of the more haunting images from the Scream films. The murders in Scream 4 are apparently going to mimic those of Scream, and I do not look forward to seeing who gets strung up in the first act.

7) Stuart "Stu" Macher (Matthew Lillard) Scream 1
Status: Deceased - Killed by both Billy and Sidney
Stu is really the more interesting killer in Scream because his motivations for killing are so unknown. He helps rape and murder Maureen Roberts, taunt and kill his ex-girlfriend Casey, and murder of his girlfriend Tatum. Randy says that in scary movies the killers no longer need a motivation, and Stu is certainly the example of that. Plus, he’s incredibly an incredibly sad and funny character who doesn’t really know what he’s getting into. And since I will probably die by being crushed by a television set, I can commiserate.

6) Mickey Altieri (Timothy Olyphant) Scream 2
Status: Deceased - Killed by Mrs. Loomis, Sidney, and Gale
Mickey is conniving and smarmy, the Billy Loomis of Scream 2. Not originally the killer (damn that leaked script), Mickey is interesting because his character is so 90s. When parents were decrying the dangers of video games and the violent tendencies they could create in our nation’s children, Mickey realized that he could use video games as an excuse to murder. As Mrs. Loomis notes right before shooting him in the chest, it’s a pretty stupid defense.

5) Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) Scream 1, 2, and 3
Status: Alive
Sidney is Scream’s “final girl,” the virginal character who is meant to survive to prove that wickedness can’t triumph over goodness and purity. And Sidney is, for all intents a purposes, a good girl. What makes her special, though, is the intricacy of her character. She is not just the helpless victim, running away in terror from the terrors of the night, she is a strong and independently-minded person who confronts danger. And she has been through some stuff. Before the first movie even begins, she’s lost her mother and her father has become emotionally distant (it really only gets worse for her from there). Still, she perseveres, and she’s a more interesting character because of it. Audiences actually want Sidney to survive, which, after three films, is saying something. If only she was a tad less vanilla or a tad more present in the third movie.

4) Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) Scream 1, 2, and 3
Status: Deceased - Killed in News Van
Randy is the clearest form of an audience stand-in, commenting on the events of the film as if he knows he is in a film. He also sets up the rules of each of the films, conveying information about scary movies, sequels, and trilogies. His vast knowledge of scary movies makes him the perfect victim who is too smart for his own good - his taunting of Billy is ultimately his undoing. It may be Jamie Kennedy’s only likeable role, and that is achieved by making him a bit of a boob (love-struck and bumbling). He’s a fan favorite, which explains why, even after he dies in the second film, he comes back in Scream 3 (in a pre-death recording) to warn people, and in particular Sidney.

3) Tatum Riley (Rose McGowan) Scream 1
Status: Deceased - Killed while trying to escape through a Cat Flap in a Garage Door
Tatum is probably the greatest character in the first Scream. She’s Sidney’s best friend, Stu’s girlfriend, and Dewey’s sister, and she is ballsy, overtly sexual (nobody licks a lollipop like Tatum), and generally fearless. She is the character with the most meaningful connection to Sidney - they feel like genuine best friends - and that’s why it’s so sad to see her go when she finally kicks the bucket. Still, nobody in the Scream universe has ever died quite as brilliantly as Tatum. First, thinking the killer is Randy dressed up, she taunts him a little, but things get serious. Again, Tatum continues the long tradition of fighting back, and she actually would have survived if, in an attempt to get away from the passed out killer, she hadn’t tried to escape out of a Cat Flap. She falls victim to her large chest and curvy hips! Sure, in real life the sensors on the garage door would recognize her and stop opening, but she lives in Woodsboro, where things don’t always make sense. So long, Tatum. We’ll always have lollipops.

2) Deputy Dwight “Dewey” Riley (David Arquette) Scream 1, 2, and 3
Status: Alive
Dewey is such a loveable doofus, and his ham-fisted wooing/hatred of Gale is just incredibly adorable.  Like my number one character in the Scream franchise, audience’s Dewey devotion probably hinges on their feelings about the person playing him. David Arquette can be a little polarizing, but, like many of the actors in the series, his personal persona is worked into his character. Rather than reminding people of their drunken idiot cousin who ruined their graduation parties, Dewey is stupid in the best ways. Sure, his buffoonery can be disconcerting at times, but when he’s paired with Gale he becomes an actual force against evil (cliché alert). Also, poor Dewey has to deal with the death of his sister, to whom he was very close. It’s easy to discount characters in other slasher movies as just that: characters in a movie. In Scream, though, they all feel so real.

1) Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) Scream 1, 2, and 3.
Status: Alive
Clearly the greatest character in all of the Scream films, Gale is capable, conniving, loyal, and just generally amazing person. She enters into the films on a sour note. She wrote a best-selling book about the murder of Maureen Prescott, which doesn’t sit well with the town of Woodsboro in general and Sidney in particular.  In the second movie, she’s bitchy for all the right reasons, meaning that she’s trying to throw Sidney and newly exonerated Cotton Weary together to get an exclusive interview in order to boost exposure of the Stab movies that are based off one of her bestsellers (one question: are the Woodsboro murders the only thing Gale ever reports on or writes about?).  At the end of the third movie, Dewey proposes to Gale and they start their happily ever after together (though they are divorced by the start of Scream 4). Cox can be a bit grating on screen, but while some turn away from we here at Tableau dig in, ready for more.  She’s just so perfect.

So, who is your favorite Scream character? Give a shout below:
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