Monday, October 17, 2011

Scream to Scream, Scene by Scene: SCENE 1 of Scream 3 (0:00:00-0:08:20)

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 3
Length: 8mins 20secs
Primary Characters: Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), Christine Hamilton (Kelly Rutherford), Ghostface (voice of Roger Jackson) & "Female Caller" (voice of Beth Toussaint)
Pop Culture References:
  • Are there any? Only broad stuff like a similarity to The Shining in the knife/door sequence. Where are they all?!?

For all the talk of Scream 3 not adhering to it's own "all bets are off" idealogy - and, in certain respects (mostly those regarding the three lead characters) that's true - this film did quite a bit that was unexpected. Beginning with this opening scene, for instance, we have a male central victim, the new voice dynamic and a huge location change. By changing the setting from the original "return to Woodsboro" idea (after the Columbine shootings, Scream 3's return to high school killing spree idea was mooted) to Hollywood the filmmakers gave themselves a much larger scale upon which they could work their magic. Some people think that "magic" was a load of ol' tosh, but I happen to love Scream 3. As we'll see, Scream 3 is beloved by me for, at times, being a sort of bizarro world comedy that just happens to have a few killings in it (a few?), but there are times when this film is just as good as it's predecessors. We're back in the saddle, folks!

Oh hai, Cotton! The way I remember the lead up to Scream 3's release panning out is that we'd all kinda figured out that Cotton Weary was going to die and that it'd be great if he were the opening victim. I think all just Scream obsessives eventually (wait for it) cottoned on to the fact that he was going to get the chop very early since, for obvious reasons, all the clips and images of him seen in the trailers and stills featured him wearing the same costume throughout. It's just science.

"You sound a lot like that guy on TV. Uh... Cotton Weary."

The introduction of this new voice curveball was, for a while, quite great. They never really came through with a big payoff with it (unless you count the bed sheet mother scene, which I don't), but for something like this it works well. The only major problem is that by the third film in this franchise we know that whatever's going on on the other end of the line isn't quite right. The moment the switch happens isn't so much a surprise as it is a "yup! i guessed that" sorta moment.

"So, why don't you tell me who you are?"
"You're a naughty boy, Cotton. Now what would your girlfriend say?"
"What makes you think I have a girlfriend?"
"I know you do. I'm right outside her bathroom door."

Scream 3 takes all of one minute and 52 seconds to get to the ominous, threatening tone. Ghostface is clearly not as interested in playing cat and mouse this time. It's an issue through the entire film, actually.

I do like the parallels to the Casey Becker/Ghostface chat from Scream's opening scene. "Do you have a boyfriend?" "No, why? You wanna ask me out on a date?" and so on. Speaking of Casey Becker... I'll sure we'll discuss it at some point in the future, but I remember I and many others were very disappointed that Casey's house (or, more to the point, the Stab set of Casey's house) wasn't used as the opening or closing scene of Scream 3. It would've been perfect!

And here is Kelly Rutherford. She was a disappointing name for the Scream 3 opening scene then, but I have definitely warmed to her as I'll discuss a little bit later in this piece. Nevertheless, I think she does a good job in making the secondary victim more of an identity than either Steven Orth of Phil Stevens were before. In other news: Why don't Americans use the god damn fan in their bathrooms?

I like how cheesy all the billboards are in this film, whether they're this for Cotton Weary's television chat show or those for Stab 3.

As you probably saw at towards the start of this entry, under the "references" title, Scream 3's opening sequence actually doesn't use any outright. Instead, it takes most of its cues from the first two Scream films. Whether it's the similarity to Casey Becker's dialogue or this shot that mirrors the Heather Graham shower sequence in Scream 2. Thereby making Scream 3 an even more meta; it's referencing its itself.

Oh Hollywood, what the hell is this?


Okay, that Stab 2 tagline is incredible. I'm surprised nobody thought of it sooner for an actual horror sequel. It's stuff like this that makes this project endlessly fascinating; I'd never seen that (the tagline) before! It's so golden that I feel like it's wasted on a brief one second cut away shot. Still, I see it there now!

"Cotton, is that you?"

I like this little tracking shot of Christine. Craven was definitely trying to go with a more voyeuristic look during Scream 3's opening, I think. Trying to get under the same skin that the original did with that brilliant moment when you know Drew Barrymore's Casey is being watched. As great as the Scream 2 opening is - and boy, it is! - it did miss this part of the equation. Meanwhile, the shot of Christine's feet as she walks down the corridor is a reference to something, I am positive of it... I just can't put my finger on it. Can you?

"Okay Cotton, you know I don't like your 'stab' games."

I kinda love this line because of the images it alludes to. The idea that Cotton Weary, a man whose story was morphed into the series of fake slasher flicks known as the Stab franchise uses those very stories for roleplay sex? Does Cotton wear a Ghostface mask? Does Christine pretend to be Maureen Prescott? The mind boggles.

Bam. Helllloooooo Ghostface! It really didn't take long, did it? And, of course, Ghostface's theme song - the one that seems to play whenever he arrives at parties - is that improbably shwing sound effect that happens whenever the knife cuts through air. I don't think knives make that noise outside of being sharpened. I swear that knife gets bigger with each passing instalment, too. By Scream 4 it was positively machete-esque!

Not even five minutes into the movie and we're given a shining example of Ghostface's unique brand of ineptitude when it comes to capturing his victim. Christine slips and slides around her apartment corridor and should've been easy pickings for Roman's blade of... bladiness(?) Alas, it turns out Kelly Rutherford has a hard foot and BAM.

The "ghostface" mask has changed with each film, if I am remembering correctly (it's all to do with the company that manufactures them), but this one looks particularly... hoody. I like this shot and how the mask is almost being drowned by its surrounding garment. It certainly looks like a man wearing a mask and now like some lithe teenager, that's for sure.

Heaving bosom.


"What the fuck are you doing?"

Ya know, that's one of the smartest things anybody in these films have said. And that's saying a lot! To be honest, I'd capped a different moment of this, but then accidentally freezed it on this moment and, well, I had to use it. The way her mouth is all wonky makes me chuckle (don't say I don't have simply pleasures in this life, okay?)

I do love the costuming of this opening scene. I love that they put Cotton in an all white suit. White pants, white shirt, white jacket. Even though you can't see it here, he's also wearing white shoes. All the better to get splattered in blood, I suppose.

Oh hai Liev's biceps. You know, by this stage of his career I wonder whether Schreiber specifically asked to be killed off or if that was the intention from the get go. I mean, he surely didn't want to be tied down to a horror franchise for much longer, not after just being Emmy and Golden Globe nominated (for RKO 281) and finally starting to win roles in bigger films (ya know, ones that aren't Phantoms, amiright?) Either way, it works wonderfully for the series by killing off a major character and a rising star. Well played.

Well that's a piss weak effort, but I guess he got interrupted so we'll cut Ghosty some slack.

In yet another parallel to the first two Screams, this moment features a boyfriend breaking into his girlfriend's bedroom and having her suspect he's the killer after being attacked. Right on down to the knife in the door bit. I think Scream 4 contains enough movie references for both it and Scream 3, which features only the barest of thin references. Perhaps that's another "all bets are off" sorta thing?

Meanwhile, the device of Ghostface using Cotton's voice proves itself a winner here because it makes Christine's death all the more tragic. She thought she was doing so well and had him cornered, but... well, we all know what happens next. It's just a shame the series' new writer, Ehren Kruger, couldn't really do anything else particularly strong with the newfound gizmo that Ghostface has at his disposal.

You know, I actually think Kelly Rutherford does a good job here. Despite having only the secondly opening victim role, she makes a red hot go of it. Her reading of "YOU'VE GONE CRAZY, THAT'S WHAT!" is very good and I really get the sense of fear and confusion mixing together. The shot of her being stabbed in the next picture set is rather sad, actually. I'm glad they made her an adult and not have Cotton dating some 20-year-old starlet, that's for sure.

Now, we absolutely must discuss the issue of Scream 3's gore, or - to be more precise - its lack thereof. Much has been made of this, and we'll continue to do so throughout this project, but I think the film's place in "history" would be far less reviled if it had gone to town with the gore and the violence like it had done in the past two films. Characters endure chase sequences and then die with a simple stab wound to the back? In the first two they got gutted or butchered or thrown of buildings. I remember the rumour mill going around for Scream 3's opening scene during production saying that fellow Miramax stablemates Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were actually going to be the victims and that they'd be gutted from the Hollywood sign Casey Becker style. While it was as obvious then as it is now that that was never going to happen (Alicia Silverstone's involvement, on the other hand, seemed very possible, but never came to pass), that was at least a big old heaping of blood and guts to open your first film in four years with.

Instead, Rutherford's Christine gets a stab to the back and thrown to the ground with no struggle whatsoever. We could perhaps theorise that Ghostface went back to her later to do his worst, but it doesn't really count if we don't see it, ya know (like the old chestnut "they're not dead unless you see a corpse")? Hmmm.

Oh the hilarity! The bars to stop people getting in only served to stop Cotton from escaping.


My, what a charming blood-splattered mask you have!

Now, this shot comes and goes so fast that it's hard to tell what is actually happening, but that's Cotton getting his skull stabbed. Lovely. Scream 4 re-used this idea of final stab becoming the title card (below), which was a bit disappointing since all three had such different pre-title grabs - the zoom, the pause, the stab. At just over 8 minutes, I definitely think Scream 3 could have stood to have had a bit of a longer opening (and shortened elsewhere) to play up the cat and mouse angle that was so under-utilised here. Nevertheless, my feelings on this opening definitely swerved to the positive after a few years of unhappiness. Mostly thanks to the Rutherford and the fact that no other major franchise character dies. I still think Schreiber should've followed the path of Barrymore and Pinkett by finding himself on the movie poster, rather than that dud Deon Richmond guy, which is something we'll discuss later.

I like the red!

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

Scream 2
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, End Credits


Mierzwiak said...

I can't even describe how much I hate that opening. It's boring, flat and simply bad, especially compared with STUNNING openings of Scream and Scream 2.

Anonymous said...

Thank God that u r back on track with this dissection, great fun! Can´t wait for the Posey:)

thebutcher said...

WHoohoo! Glad to see you're back in the game!

Interesting to note that in the deleted scenes from the opening, we actually get some horror references AND some more gore.

Ghostface asks Cotton the name of the Stephen King adaptation which had a car for a killer. Cotton mentions "Carrie", "Cujo" and finally "Christine".

As for the gore, there's a very effective bit bit where the killer stabs Cotton in the leg to prevent him from escaping through the skylight (is that what its called?).

Chad Walters said...

Thanks for the update, I've been waiting for this for months!

Jasper said...

I'm a new reader of your blog, and I sorta can't wait to go back and check out all these Scream breakdowns. As many times as I've seen these movies, you're pointing out things I've totally missed (like the tagline for Stab 2)!

I will say, though, that the thing about Scream 3 that I hate the most is the new voice gizmo the killer uses. It's lazy, cheap, and totally ridiculous pertaining to (at least) one of the voices he's able to ape.

Weathers said...

Glad you're back!

I like "Scream 3," but it definitely has many flaws. And the opening is one of them. It's too short and the build-up is disappointing. And I remember always being a little confused about where Cotton was stabbed as they cut away to the title. When I finally was able to see he was stabbed in the head, I remember thinking how brutal that was.

And then they went on to use it again to lame comedic (non) effect in "Scream 4," which made for the worst scene in the entire franchise.

I never noticed the "Stab 2" tagline, either. It is pretty amazing.

I hope you're considering doing this with "Scream 4" now. :)

I can't wait to read more!

Tony said...

So glad this is back! :)

Over the years, (actually, over the months passing the pretty shitty Scream 4), I have learned to like/appreciate this one a lot more than I previously had.

Anonymous said...

I've read that Kate Winslet and Charisma Carpenter both auditioned for Rutherford's role. While both are intriguing, I would've loved to have seen Winslet in a horror movie (especially as the secondary opening kill). Ah well

Drew Mackie said...

The weird dinosaur structure is the roof to the Hollywood Ripley's Believe It or Not, a place I've never actually gone to since I'm not a know-nothing tourist. It's kind of a weird inclusion, as far as "racing by LA landmarks" goes.

movieman said...

Don't you think it is a bit boring when you have too many of the same sort of films like scream 1-2-3-4-5-6 and God knows how many more .......