Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Scream to Scream, Scene by Scene: SCENE 1 of Scream 2 (0:00:00-0:10:31)

In this project I attempt to review the entire Scream trilogy scene by scene in chronological order. Heavy spoilers and gore throughout!

SCENE 1 of Scream 2
Length: 10mins 31secs
Primary Characters: Maureen Evans (Jada Pinkett), Phil Stevens (Omar Epps) & Ghostface
Pop Culture References:
  • Sandra Bullock (Maureen would rather see a Sandra Bullock movie)
  • Sister Soulja (Phil calls Maureen this)
  • Black Beat and Entertainment Weekly magazines (mentioned in where Maureen gets her movie info from)
  • The House on Haunted Hill (the Ghostface flying over the audience is the same trick used for screenings of this 1959 film)
  • "Stab-o-Vision" (an obvious gag to old film techniques for disaster movies)
  • Psycho (Stab featured an identical shower shot)

And so it begins with the cooing R&B grooves of D'Angelo's cover of Prince's "She's Always in My Hair". Perhaps a strange song to open up a horror movie with, but then Scream 2 isn't a regular horror movie.

I love how we're only seconds into the movie and it already feels grander than not only the original Scream, but also most horror films. Through the entire franchise, actually, the filmmakers have gone to a lot of trouble to distinguish it from most of the others. Everything looks deliberate and meticulous. Case in point an entire scene of people wearing Ghostface masks, an entire scene dedicated to referencing the earlier film (which can be tricky for horror movies since history shows the sequels do better than the original once more people have seen them on home video) and an entire scene wherein the whole point is to make the audience very much aware that they're watching a horror movie sequel. None of these sorta vague references to the earlier film that could fly over the head of many, but a clear, concerted effort to make it as unique and to create its own universe. Love it.

I like that brief pan through the crowd before the camera locks on Jada Pinkett and Omar Epps as "Maureen Evans" and "Phil Stevens", as if wondering "who is the roulette wheel going to land on". Cue jokes about Sandra Bullock! "Who'd pay $7.50 to see some Sandra Bullock shit? 'less she's naked..." Apparently people are willing to pay double $7.50 these days. Christ, ticket prices sure have gone up, haven't they?

"I'mma tell you what it is, okay; It's a dumbass white movie about some dumbass white girls gettin' their white asses cut the fuck up."

I used to really like Jada Pinkett. She doesn't do anything anymore (although when it's something like Collateral I will jump on board her train again), but like a lot of the trilogy's cast-members I have a soft spot for them due to their association. I think Jada has some great line readings in this opening scene, actually. Like the one above, and...

"Listen, I read by Entertainment Weekly, I.Know.My.Shit.

"What's this?"
"Stab souvenirs, the studio send them over."

*gasp* "And it's white!"


That usher is all "whatever, I don't care!" you know it.

This entire scene is a big geek out for a true Scream die hard such as myself. Filled with all these big references to Scream as well as all the satire that we've come to know and love, usually within the same shot. I like this as a gag at how many saw Scream as so original, and yet here we are watching a sequel and yet one that features a scene in which the original Scream has been turned into a watered down, unoriginal movie by Hollywood. Er, does that make sense? In the way that Stab is influenced by the real life murders and, from what we see, is nowhere near representative of them, so too were so many films influenced by Scream and yet were nowhere near the quality of it.

Wow, I ramble. Sorry.

I'm including this shot because the look on the usher's face is so... I dunno, terrifying? Like a clown out of makeup or something, he just has a sinister vibe about him. You can almost see him wanting to break out into a loud "mwahaha" type laugh like an old Dracula movie.

I kinda love that Heather Graham is in Scream 2 as the Casey Becker of Stab. She had just started the peak of her career playing "Roller Girl" in Boogie Nights in a string of movies that were either big hits (Austin Powers 2), very good (the aforementioned two, Bowfinger) or, if not, at least were marketed in the hope they would become big hits (Say It Isn't So) until From Hell in 2001 at which time it all went disastrously wrong for her.

"Bitch, hang the phone up and star 69 his ass!"

I'm not sure what that would do, exactly, but I love how they put characters that know what they would do in a situation and yet place them in a situation in which they can't do what they think they should do. Make sense?

Here are the moments that I think were used to mock those silly moments in the original where the killer just appeared in random spots. This Stab sequence wasn't directed by Wes Craven, but instead by Robert Rodriquez. Keeping it in the Miramax wheelhouse.

"Gimme some money, I need to get popcorn."
"You got money."
"I got my money, I asked for your money."
"Cheap ass..."

Hah. More great screen bitchery from Maureen Evans.

"I don't even know you and I dislike you already."

True fact, I actually still to this very say say this "I don't even know you..." line. Such a good little line. Meanwhile, I love how the killer within Stab asks Casey "would you like [a boyfriend]" and she makes a big thing about not having one (just as Casey did in the original) and yet unlike the original the boyfriend doesn't appear tied up out the back. They just completely excised the Steven Orth character, which is hilarious since Stab is a mockery of the way Hollywood alters real life events.

Having said that, they get a lot of the dialogue here and in the Tori Spelling sequence awfully close, but we'll put that down to artistic license.

"Hi, can I have a medium popcorn, no butter, and a small Diet Pepsi."

that is a medium popcorn and small drink?

One of the great things they (Craven, Kevin Williamson and Pinkett) do with the character of Maureen is actually make her quite easily scared. She has the tough exterior, and tries to make it look as if she doesn't like "a movie called Stab" because of some moral issue as if they're beneath her, but really she's terrified of them. The way she flinches as she's watching Stab and something scary is happening, the way she jolts at the sight of some of the people in masks inside the cinema and the way she screams as her boyfriend plays a trick on her.

Okay, this last one is pretty mean.

One thing that always makes my eyes pop is Jada Pinkett's neck! It's so long! All the better for whipping her hair back and forth with her daughter, I suppose.

Amazing! Perhaps my favourite thing about Stab is that they kept in the jiffy pop. They deleted an entire real life character, but kept in the popcorn. I especially love that she was about to take a shower and yet when she's on the phone to the killer we see the popcorn on the stove as if she had put it on before she went to take the shower. Love it. So ridiculous!

Despite the fact that Phil Stevens is very unhygienic when he places his face against the wall of a toilet stall (!!!) I actually think this death scene is great. So quick and economical. The way the voice in the next stall is all "oh mommy mommy" and so forth, and how this death was probably even riskier than Maureen's since there's no reason to expect a publicity stunt death in the men's room, ya know?

And because I'm lazy I need to thank Jason at My New Plaid Pants for the caps.

Hah, Oh man I really do love Jada Pinkett in this scene. She's makes me chuckle. Maureen is so into the movie and she's got no idea what's about to happen. Poor girl. All she wanted was to see a Sandra Bullock movie.

Just as "Machete don't text", so to does Ghostface not eat popcorn. At least not while he's on the job with business to take care of.

And herein lies why this scene works as well as it does. With Phil now dispatched, the killer (one doesn't really need to work long to figure out it's Mickey - I don't think Debbie Salt could pass herself off as a black man who's over six feet and probably 200lbs) wearing a Ghostface mask he is free to do as he pleases under a) anonymity and b) publicity.

Firstly, I feel like that shot of Heather Graham towards the end is a big reference to something. Anybody?? Also, I like that they threw in a good in Stab! You can see the knife slide across Graham's upper chest despite the retractable blade already, apparently, going in. I like to think this is a reference to the bit in Scream where you can see the board under Drew Barrymore's body that she's been dragged along on.

Secondly, for such a loud woman, Maureen sure was quiet when she discovered a mysterious red liquid on her boyfriend's jacket. Hmmm. Nevertheless, I love this scene. So well handled and it's just like playing all the cards so perfectly. Unlike the original Scream where there was nobody to help her and, even when her parents came home Casey couldn't make a sound, here there are people everywhere and she is screaming loud as can be and yet nobody can help. Ying/Yang type situation, I guess.

Hey look, it's Carrot Top! This movie is kind of a cool little throwaway shot, but I like it.

American audiences are crazy, y'all! The only movie I've ever been to where the crowds are at all like this is The Room and for good reason (it's audience participation!) That's why this scene could never appear in an Australian horror movie because we're, I guess, just too placid. We don't cheer or clap, boo or hiss. Still, it's kinda funny to watch this scene because it's just so crazy. If you were in Maureen's shoes it would be like that scene in Carrie where everyone laughs at her at the prom and they all start spinning around in her mind. So many ghostfaces! All of them laughing and cheering!

Mickey is clearly have a ball. This move just feels excessive, even for him!

Jada's big scream. Love it! And against the backdrop of giant Ghostface on the cinema screen? Kind of a brilliant composition, don't you think? Might as well be saying "I'm baaaack!"

I like how the camera just lingers for several seconds longer than it should. Casey's intestines got a big ol' zoom in, but here the camera just sits patiently as silence fills the theatre. And thus ends the opening scene of Scream. Setting the tone for the movie to come by being - as Randy would say - bigger and much more elaborate. Taking everything that came before, twisting it, and yet keeping the very essence of what Scream is all about.

Cue brand new title card that marked the first big difference between the visual style of Scream and Scream 2.

Intro, Scene 1 Scene 2, Scene 3, Scene 4, Scene 5, Scene 6, Scene 7, Scene 8, Scene 9, Scene 10, Scene 11, Scene 12, Scene 13, Scene 14, Scene 15, Scene 16, Scene 17, Scene 18, Scene 19, Scene 20, Scene 21, Scene 22, Scene 23, Scene 24, Scene 25, Scene 26, Scene 27, Scene 28, Scene 29, Scene 30, Scene 31 Scene 32, Scene 33, End Credits


Dame James said...

Jada Pinkett Smith was amazing for a brief amount of time. She should have won the Oscar for Bamboozled in 2000. And she was so funny in this opening scene. It's a shame she threw away her career to be Mrs. Will Smith when she's clearly more talented than he'll ever be.

Do you think that shot of the "medium" popcorn and "small" pop is a sly commentary on how fat Americans are?

Glenn Dunks said...

Oh most definitely, yes. I was gonna write that actually, but it just works so wonderfully well as it is.

And, yeah, she was really great for that period of time where she making unexpected films like Scream 2 and Bamboozled, quality TV films like If These Walls Could Talk and very fine mainstream fare such as Set it Off. And I love the cropped 'do on her (same for Halle Berry). Such a shame she ditched it and primarily became Will Smith's wife. Of course, she's on TV now (Hawthorne), but it's hard to argue that she wouldn't be there at the moment anyway judging from the careers of similar actresses (namely Kyra Sedgwick who, for a brief amount of time, looked like she was set to break out and then... didn't.)

Anonymous said...

As far as potential pop culture references go, I've always thought that the "mommy mommy" whispering heard through the wall of the bathroom stall was a nod to Billy in the original "Black Christmas". Plus you get the added connection of Billy (Loomis) and his mommy and the role she plays here. Then again, I just love the hell out of "Black Christmas"

Drew said...

Woo hoo! Scream 2!

Two quick questions you may know the answer to:

The "whatever" usher -- she's the girl who won a contest to make a cameo in Scream 2, yes? I think I read this on IMDb back in the day and never figured out if it was accurate or not.

Also, when Maureen is up on the stage, there's this horrible, overdone moaning scream. Is that Maureen? Or is it Heather Graham, in character as a terrible actress, giving the kind of overdone moaning scream you'd expect in a horror movie?

MattyD. said...

You two are obviously not Americans because the whole 'medium popcorn/small drink' being obscenely large is no exaggeration! That's how large the portions in cinemas are over here! It's ridiculous. The prices are pretty obscene as well.

So glad 'Scream 2' is underway, Glenn. I'm gonna watch it this week to refresh.

Fernando Moss said...

Woohoo! "StS, SbS" is back! Love it... And I love, love, love Jada Pinkett in this scene...

Tom said...

I always read Rose McGowan makes a cameo during this scene, but have never seen proof. Also Phil makes a pop culture reference to the Black Eyed Peas.

Anthony said...

Epic scene. Made my day seeing that the new scene critique was up.

Also, never realized the song at the beginning was a cover of Prince's song. Learn something new about Scream everyday. Well maybe no EVERYDAY, but you get the point.

Glenn Dunks said...

Thanks guys! Glad to know people are still very much following.

Smashley said...

So happy to see you've kicked off Scream 2! I tend to pick this movie & scene apart too much, but you reminded me of all the positive and great things about it. It was neat how it's such an exact flip of the first movie's opening scene.

I am 99.99999% sure that that Robert Rodriguez thing is false. If you listen to the commentary, Wes & co. say that the originally the Stab opening titles had said RR directed it, but they had to remove that for legal reasons. Somehow this got misunderstood by someone and then the rumor took off.

Anonymous said...

I think the shot of Heather-as-Casey getting back-stabbed that you think is a reference to something, along with the Maureen collpasing on stage (carnage in front of the screen, as well as carnage being projected on it) is taken from the '86 Euro horror movie DEMONS. That was set in a movie theater showing a horror movie.